When The Math Doesn’t Add Up

By JD Lagrange – If there’s one thing that this rookie tournament is doing, it’s opening the eyes of Habs’ fans everywhere about how effective the reset started in 2018 is starting to be. You see, it takes time for young players to develop and only a few of them can have an immediate impact. Of course, the continued work by current management, following in the footsteps of Marc Bergevin and his group, has added to that prospect pool.

There is another potential issue it’s raising as well. As it currently stands, the Montreal Canadiens have little to no room on their roster to allow for these young players, particularly at forward, to remotely hope making the team. The same cannot be said on defense where, as we’re speaking, there are three spots available for these young men. Even in net, there will be a battle between two young goalies to be Jake Allen’s backup. But let’s look at the breakdown.


Give or take, there are about 20 forwards who have a legitimate claim at being of NHL caliber. Some definitely are, others are ready to prove that they belong. The issue is that too many are on NHL contracts, some with substantial contracts. Saying that Kent Hughes must move some forwards would be stating the obvious, but something has got to give.

Juraj Slafkovsky, Jesse Ylönen, Emil Heineman, and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard all seem to be ready to prove that they belong. Unfortunately for them, they have 16 other forwards “ahead” of them. When you consider that teams usually carry 13, sometimes 14 forwards on their club, it leaves zero room for them. And when you’re talking young guys, you’re also talking cheap cap hit and players motivated to earn and keep their spot in the line-up…

Nick SuzukiCR235’11”205
Sean MonahanCL276’2″200
Christian DvorakCL266’1″200
Kirby DachCR216’4″197
Jake EvansCR266’0″176
Jan MysakCL206’0″182
Brendan GallagherWR305’9″184
Josh AndersonWR286’3″227
Jonathan DrouinWL276’0″203
Evgenii DadonovWL335’11”185
Mike HoffmanWL326’0″184
Joel ArmiaWR296’3″218
Paul ByronWL335’9″158
Rem PitlickWL255’11”196
Juraj SlafkovskyWL186’3″238
Cole CaufieldWR215’7″166
Michael PezzettaWL246’1″216
Jesse YlönenWR226’0″167
Emil HeinemanWL206’1″185
Rafaël Harvey-PinardWL235’9″182


As mentioned, the situation is slightly different on defense. Four players are guaranteed their spot: Joel Edmundson, Mike Matheson, David Savard and Chris Wideman. In total, there are about 14 players who are either NHL-caliber or close to being NHL-ready. Once again, teams usually keep seven, sometimes eight defensemen on the team.

Due to the lack of right-handed defensemen, Justin Barron starts with an advantage. But he’s only 20 years old and he may (or not) benefit from some development time in Laval. Corey Schueneman did well when called upon last year and many felt like he could replace departing Brent Kulak.

Then, you have a group of quality young players in a bunch: Jordan Harris, Kaiden Guhle, Mattias Norlinder and Arber Xhekaj all have a legitimate shot at making the big club. Young veterans Otto Leskinen, who is returning to North America, and Madison Bowey will ensure to make the Canadiens’ decision difficult. It is important to note that this list doesn’t include quality young prospects That list doesn’t include Logan Mailloux, Lane Hutson, Jayden Struble and Peter Nurmi.

Joel EdmundsonL296’5″224
Mike MathesonL286’2″188
David SavardR316’1″234
Chris WidemanR325’10”180
Corey SchuenemanL276’0″196
Justin BarronR206’2″195
Jordan HarrisL225’11”179
Kaiden GuhleL206’2″199
Mattias NorlinderL226’0″185
Otto LeskinenL255’11”187
Arber XhekajL216’4″238
Madison BoweyR266’2″202
Gianni FairbrotherL215’11”202
William TrudeauL196’0″190


Right now, the Canadiens have three goaltenders who can be considered of NHL caliber. It’s not saying that the team lacks depth, but the others simply aren’t ready yet. With the news that Carey Price is likely out for the season, Jake Allen becomes the number one by default. Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau both signed one-way deals and will be battling for the backup position.

Montembeault seems to have the edge simply due to the fact that he must clear waivers, but don’t count Primeau out just yet. In fact, the Canadiens have a couple of options for him but in either case, he must play.

Jake Allen326’2″190
Sam Montembeault256’3″199
Cayden Primeau236’3″203

So as you can see, training camp should be more competitive than ever and decisions will have to be made. The most pressing issue, however, remains at the forward position and the coaching staff needs help from their General Manager to create at least some room up front. Hughes has done pretty well so far, but he still have work to do before the season begins.

More reading…

A Surplus That Must Be Addressed

By JD Lagrange – Unless management knows something that we don’t know (which is an obvious possibility), there seems to be a bit of a clutter at the forwards’ position on the Montreal Canadiens. With training camp less than a month away, it appears as though team General Manager Kent Hughes still has some work to do in order to bring his roster down to a respectable number.

Capfriendly is showing that the Canadiens are currently sitting at $6.1 million over the cap with a roster of 21 players, the league minimum. Ironically, that’s almost the salary of newly acquired center Sean Monahan ($6.375 million). But the cap isn’t as big of a deal as it may seem. With the news that Carey Price is unlikely to be playing this upcoming season, that will allow the Canadiens to place his $10.5 million contract on LTIR. Also, it seems like Paul Byron ($3.4 million) might also be missing some substantial time at the start of the season.

Log jam

The trade of Shea Weber’s contract forcing the addition of Evgenii Dadonov adds a forward to the group. The acquisition of Kirby Dach at the Draft, and the trade for Sean Monahan, have added some much needed depth at center for the Canadiens. While both come with question marks, it also adds to the number of forwards as well. So here’s what we’re looking at right now:

Cole CaufieldNick SuzukiBrendan Gallagher
Jonathan DrouinSean MonahanJosh Anderson
Mike HoffmanChristian DvorakEvgenii Dadonov
Paul Byron (?)Kirby DachJoel Armia
Rem PitlickJake Evans
Juraj Slafkovsky
Michael Pezzetta

We’re talking about 16 forwards (15 if you don’t count Byron). Seemingly and arguably, only Armia ($3.4 million), Evans ($1.7 million), Pezzetta ($750,000) and maybe Pitlick ($1.1 million) could be considered fourth line players. All but perhaps Pezzetta have shown to be good third line players.

Further, who do you move from center to the wing? Suzuki? No way. Monahan? Nah, too good on faceoffs and he and Dvorak are the best centers not named Suzuki. It leaves Dach or Evans. Dach is definitely not a fourth line player so that leaves Evans centring that line. Logically, Dach is the most likely to make the switch to the wing. But they acquired him as a center. The acquisition of Monahan threw a wrench in that idea. No doubt that the mid to long term plan is for Dach to play center but he could have to start the season on the wing, pending trades or injuries.


In order to cut on forwards, there are a couple of options available. You can try sending Pezzetta down to Laval but he must clear waivers. He may clear, but he may not and he’s a rare mix of speed and grit for a fourth line, an energy guy.

Christian Dvorak

Another option is to start Slafkovsky in Laval. That’s a strong possibility but all will depend on how he does at camp and in pre-season games. If he proves to be NHL-ready, I can see him on the third line with Dvorak and Gallagher, two great veterans to help him out.

The last option would be to complete a trade. Rumours have been circling around Dvorak but that would be a huge risk for the Canadiens. We don’t know how Monahan’s hips will react and he’s a pending UFA, meaning that he could be gone by trade deadline or in the summer. We also don’t know, at this time, if Dach will pan out as a good center in this league or not, and if he can stay healthy. Dvorak is a good insurance policy and he produced 0.70 points per game under Martin St-Louis, third most after Caufield and Suzuki.

Trading Mike Hoffman would be the logical solution and my colleague Bob Trask recently published a few potential destinations for him. Ideally, trading him for a right-handed defenseman with experience would kill two birds with one stone.

As you can see, there are some unanswered questions and there is still some work to do in order to prepare for this upcoming season. The good news? Rookie camp is a couple of weeks away!

More reading…