Decision Time On Slafkovsky… Or Is It?

By JD Lagrange – Well, there it is. Juraj Slafkovsky has played his ninth game of the season last night against the Vegas Golden Knights. And he took the opportunity to score his third goal of the season. Along with Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Kirby Dach, he was one of the bright spots for Canadiens in that game.

Yet, he finished the night with 11:34 of ice time, with no power play time once again. He had three shots on goal, one blocked shot and one takeaway in the game. But more than that, the young Slovak was very effective on the forecheck and generated scoring chances for his line.

Slafkovsky’s three goals are tied for third best on the Canadiens this season with Josh Anderson and Christian Dvorak (who scored them all in the same game including an empty net goal). Only Anderson has more hits than him amongst forwards.

You have a bunch of expansive dead wood getting ice time, time on the ice that is not deserved and that would be more beneficial to the development of the first overall pick at the last NHL Draft. Evgenii Dadonov is “injured” but was extremely ineffective. Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Drouin are just as ineffective, although we can see a bit of effort from the later. Last night, Hoffman was particularly horrific, with bad decisions and poor execution and that, coming back from being a healthy scratch. Can you believe that he even played a minute short-handed against Vegas?!?

Contract year

Mike Hoffman

But let’s return to Slafkovsky. It seems like there are some Canadiens’ fans who feel like the team’s brass should concern themselves with “losing a year” eligibility by keeping him in the NHL. You see, Kent Hughes has the option of having a year “slide” if he sends the young prospect to the American Hockey League (AHL). They feel like that is what’s best for the young man’s development. It is debatable, but certainly defendable.

However, the Canadiens are NOT concerned about losing a year. Whether he’s sent down to Laval prior to the next game or not, Slafkovsky will play too many games in the NHL this season. Even if they send him to the AHL, he will most certainly be called up from time to time. So folks, let’s allow management to deal with the situation. They have a plan and they will follow it.

In my personal opinion, the issue is his ice time and Hughes’ focus must be to unload some dead wood from the wings’ position. We have learned that the Canadiens have had discussions with the Capitals, amongst other teams. But nothing is apparently imminent. Even more so now that the Caps have picked up Nicolas Aubé-Kubel off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Something has to give and the sooner, the better both for the development of Slafkovsky, but also for team spirit as the atmosphere cannot be at its best in the dressing room with those three players being unhappy. More than what’s happening on the ice, this cannot be an easy situation for young captain Suzuki.

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Dadonov Could Seek Contract Termination

By JD Lagrange – There is something fishy in this whole Evgenii Dadonov situation. For one thing, it is doubtful that the Canadiens wanted the Russian winger but that was the price to pay when they traded Shea Weber’s contract to the Vegas Golden Knights in the off-season. From the start, it didn’t seem to be a good fit as Dadonov had already nipped a trade to Anaheim at trade deadline last season, since the Ducks were on his no-trade list. Seeing Vegas trade him again, to a team that had finished dead last, was unlikely to sit well with him.

The 33 year-old winger has played eight games so far this season and has yet to get a single point. He averages 13:29 of ice time per game. Only Jake Evans, Rem Pitlick, Michael Pezzetta and Juraj Slafkovsky average less ice time amongst forwards on the Canadiens. His minus -3 is third worse on the team (amongst forwards) but Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Drouin (-4) have points.

Dadonov played anywhere in the line-up from top-6 to third and fourth line, where he was before being made a healthy scratch for the game in St. Louis on October 29th. The next day, he wasn’t at practice, reportedly by the team as a “therapy day”, and the next day for the same reason. Pushed to know more from reporters, head coach Martin St-Louis lost patience with the questions, visibly irritated by the situation.

St-Louis loses patience at the 2:30 mark

Then, TVA Sports reporter Marc-André Perreault learned that the day before being a healthy scratch (Friday), Dadonov’s agent spoke to Kent Hughes about his client’s ice time. There were rumours circulating to the effect that the Russian player went over St-Louis’ head and complained of his utilization to Hughes directly. Perreault bumped into the Canadiens’ GM and got some clarifications. We learned that Hughes is the one who went and spoke to Dadonov, and not the other way around. According to Hughes (through Perreault), Dadonov never pouted, suffered from a virus which his son had and so do several people. It was apparently the “perfect storm”. Then comes the news that he is placed on the injured reserve…

Potential solution

No matter what the organization releases to the media, it is evident that the Canadiens have a problem. The perfect storm might just include the not-so perfect cover job in a less than perfect situation. Call it gut feeling, or experience, more often than not, where there is smoke, there is fire… at least from my five decades of life experience.

The Canadiens have too many forwards, and they will need to make a decision about Juraj Slafkovsky, who averages only 11:02 minutes per game and only played 8:08 in the last game in Winnipeg. But that’s for another article.

In order to accommodate a disgruntled player and a team with too many forwards, tight against the salary cap, the CBA might just have a solution that would be good for both parties. There is a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which allows teams and players to terminate their contract. Two conditions must be met in order to accomplish that.

  1. It has to be a mutual decision between the player and the team, and
  2. The player must clear unconditional waivers

According to Pierre LeBrun, Kent Hughes has contacted many teams around the NHL to address his surplus of forwards. But how do you trade a Dadonov with no points? Or unproductive Jonathan Drouin or Mike Hoffman? Teams don’t want unproductive, overpaid players and when they do, they expect to receive a premium to take them on. That’s how Dadonov got to Montreal in the first place.

So time will tell what happens in this case but if I were a betting man, I’d say that Dadonov’s time with the Habs will have been very short lived. Expect him gone, one way or another, in the next few days, perhaps hours. And the waiver wire might be the next news we get on him.

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