Quick Takes On The First Round

By JAG – That’s it, the first round is over, the dust is settled, the deed is done.

First pick

The upside is displayed in plain sight. A giant, physical, skillful winger, with speed, moves and hands reminiscent of Jagr or Ovie, and he plays both wings! His body is NHL ready and he has played against men most of last season. He should play in Montreal this upcoming season.

Juraj Slafkovsky

My take on this. Dwarfs no more! The Habs are slowly turning into a steam roller. With the likes of Kayden Guhle and Arber Xhekaj just around the corner, playing Montreal will no longer be a walk in the park!

I advocated for trading the first pick and getting a young number one or number two center already in the NHL, preferably a big one that can put the puck in the net. I hoped for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed. No matter, Juraj Slafkovsky brings to the table something that the Habs have been in dire need for almost a decade.

It’s a great pick! Without hesitation, I give it a big A!

Trades

Long story short, Mr. Hughes traded Alex Romanov, one of my favorite player, plus a high third round and a high fourth round for the 2019 third overall in one of the best draft years in a long time.

I was surprised. I didn’t think Chicago would ever part with Kirby Dach. He would have made my list instantly. I can see him becoming a Ryan O’Reilly type of player. This will give Montreal a very solid one-two punch at center. I can’t recall a time when Montreal had such a winning combination at center (potentially).

Kirby Dach

Losing Romanov is a bit of a drag but left side of the defense is probably the deepest position on the roster. So, good luck Romie, we loved you! But we finally got the big center we’ve wished for. All is good!

BTW, if you’re curious, as I was, look for the list of the top ten drafted along Kirby Dach that year. Once you’ve seen it, ask yourself this question. If Kirby had been in this year’s draft, what are the chances that he would have gone number one? You’ll probably say yes …. As I did!

In the end, I got my wish! I just had the wrong trade. And knowing now that Mr. Hughes had that ace up his sleeve the whole time (I can only presume), I now give him an A+ on the first pick …. And I give him an A+ on the trade.

I have to admit, he made a better deal that the one I proposed in  ‘’The Wright question – Montreal in a pickle’’. Not bad for a rookie GM!

Second pick

In this new era, Montreal seems to favor two types of players. What I already called the ‘’Dwarfs no more’’ type of players, Kirby Dach being the latest addition to that list and the ‘’Shifty, speedy, scory’’ type of players. Filip Mesar being a good example of the style. You can also list the names of Emil Heineman, Riley Kidney, Joshua Roy and Jan Mysak under this banner.

This pick also gets an A!

Takeaway

So, Montreal added skills, speed and size and, most importantly, one, maybe even two of the players acquired will play in the NHL this Fall.

That is what I call a jump start!

I’m starting to like these guys!

Last thoughts.

  • Big center, big winger, Hughes delivers!
  • Getting Kirby Dach makes room for a Dvorak trade tomorrow to start the day.
  • Jeff Petry may also come into play.
  • There are still some very good players to be had in the top half of the second round. Arizona has 3 picks in the second but have empty cupboards and are below the minimum Cap spending. Montreal has prospects – Farrell, Biondi, Tuch – and NHL players – Dvorak, Drouin, Hoffman – that could be packaged for a mutually profitable deal. I’d like to get Lawson Crouse in the return. Dwarfs no more I say!
  • Don’t be surprised to see some Quebecers and some right Ds on the menu for the Habs tomorrow.
  • My wish list includes Lucas Del Bel Belluz, Tristan Luneau, Rieger Lorenz, Noah Warren, Ryan Chesley, Ty Nelson, Elias Salomonsson and David Goyette.

Thanks for reading.

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Disappointing Season Brings Changes

By JD Lagrange – All teams have expectations at the start of a season and those vary based on several factors. Injuries and a bad season by key players are only a couple of examples of that. With the parity in the league now, it doesn’t take much to derail the hopes and dreams of a team and its fan base. Here’s a look at seven teams who didn’t live up to their hopes and the changes they’re facing.

1- Montreal Canadiens

After reaching the Stanley Cup finals last season, the Canadiens have lost Phillip Danault, Corey Perry and Eric Staal to free agency. They have also lost Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer-sheet and Shea Weber’s career might be over, he who hasn’t played a game since the finals. Carey Price, Joel Edmundson and Paul Byron missed most of the season and the team has shattered a record for man-games lost in a season. While they did sign free agents David Savard, Mike Hoffman, Mathieu Perreault, Cédric Paquette and Chris Wideman, the team had lost too much leadership in the off-season and to injuries to make up for the losses.

As a result, a team that was thought to be in the playoffs by most people has failed miserably, leading to the firing of General Manager Marc Bergevin and one of his assistants and long time amateur scouting expert Trevor Timmins. This firing led to the resignation of another assistant-GM Scott Melanby and eventually, the firing of head coach Dominique Ducharme.

Changes: By trade deadline, the Canadiens had traded four players: Tyler Toffoli is in Calgary, Ben Chiarot is in Florida, Artturi Lehkonen is helping Colorado while Brett Kulak is trying to earn a contract in Edmonton. Jeff Petry has been unhappy and has requested a trade a while ago, and new GM Kent Hughes will try to accommodate his request.

Off the current roster, Perreault, Paquette, Wideman, Tyler Pitlick and William Laggeson are pending UFAs. Rem Pitlick, Michael Pezzetta, Alexander Romanov, Kale Clague, Corey Schueneman and Samuel Montembeault are pending RFAs who will be needing a contract. Hughes still needs to shed some serious salary cap as the Canadiens have a projected $81.5 million cap with a roster of 17 players for next season.

2- New York Islanders

The Islanders had a .634 winning percentage a year ago, only losing four games all season on home ice. Them dropping to barely playing .500 hockey and missing the playoffs has to be a big disappointment for the organisation.

Noah Dobson

Their offense this season was led by two men for the most part: Brock Nelson had 36 goals and team captain Anders Lee managed 26. Nelson led the team with 58 points, followed by Mathew Barzal with 53 points. The Islanders need more offense as they finished the season 25th with 2.74 goals per game. They are one of the league’s best defensive teams, allowing 2.77 goals per game. Noah Dobson was a pleasant surprise on defense. The 22 year-old had a breakout season with 45 points while playing over 21 minutes a game.

Changes: Defensemen Zdeno Chara, Andy Greene and Sebastian Aho are the team’s only pending UFAs, while Dobson, Kieffer Bellows and Otto Koivula are pending RFAs. The Islanders have cap space and many feel like they’re not far off returning to the playoffs. Expect them to be players in the UFA market this summer.

3- Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers’ organization will be the first to say that them missing the playoffs was unexpected to say the least. So dropping into the bottom five teams in the entire NHL does not sit well with them. Flyers’ GM Chuck Fletcher raised some eyebrows not long ago saying that he wanted to retool and get back to the playoffs next season.

Cam Atkinson and Travis Konecny are the only two Flyers barely reaching the 50 points plateau. They have one of the worst offense and defense in the entire NHL and missing Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis long term has not helped. Linus Högberg, Zack MacEwen, Morgan Frost and newly acquired Owen Tippett are pending RFAs while Martin Jones, Keith Yandle, Kevin Connauton, Nick Seller and Nate Thompson are pending UFAs.

Changes: It will be difficult to predict what Fletcher will do this summer. Many felt he would go with youth but you don’t get to the playoffs’ fast by doing it that way. Expect a few trades and for the Flyers to be aggressive on the UFA market this summer.

4- Vegas Golden Knights

Raise your hand if you thought that the Vegas Golden Knights would be missing the playoffs… (crickets). What a disappointment it must be for Sin City and their fans. For the rest of us, who feel like the NHL overdid it by tipping the scale so far, that an expansion team made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals in its first year, we smile. We smile thinking of Gary Bettman’s face, imagining steam coming out of his ears…

Robin Lehner

According to capfriendly.com, the Golden Knights have a projected cap hit of $83 million on 18 players next season. Disgruntled goaltender Robin Lehner still has three years remaining at a $5M cap hit. Defenseman Zach Whitecloud is starting his new contract next season, going from $725,000 to $2.75M.

Changes: The only key pending UFA they have from their roster are Reilly Smith ($5M) Mattias Janmark ($2M). GM Kelly McCrimmon will have to be very creative shedding some salary as he has no less than eight players on his team with some sort of no-trade clauses.

5- Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks were up to a surprisingly good start. In fact, by the end of December, they were ninth overall in the standing with a .603 points percentage. But 2022 came around and everything changed. Since January 1st, Anaheim is the second worse team in the NHL with a .359 points percentage. Only the Philadelphia Flyers have a worse record (.296) in 2022.

The Ducks have a few great young players to build around. Troy Terry and his 36 goals is a prime example, as are Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale.

Changes: Captain Ryan Getzlaf has announced that this was his final season. Thankfully for them, they have plenty of cap space to work with. According to capfriendly.com, the Ducks have just over $42 million invested in 12 players for next season. Ryan Kesler’s $6.875 million will also come off the LTIR books. Maxime Comtois has had a rough year and his name has been in rumours all season.

6- San Jose Sharks

Earlier this month, Sharks long time GM Doug Wilson announced his resignation after 19 years in San Jose. He is leaving his team in cap hell, with several heavy and long term contracts. If Habs’ fans are mad at Marc Bergevin for the few contracts he signed, they should look in San Jose.

CAP HITUNTIL
Erik Karlsson$11.5M2026-27
Tomas Hertl$8.138M2029-30
Logan Couture$8M2026-27
Brent Burns$8M2024-25
Marc-Édouard Vlasic$7M2025-26
Timo Meier$6M2022-23

They are also still paying $2.4 million next season and $2.9 million the following season for the Martin Jones buyout.

Changes: The Sharks’ new GM will have his work cut out for him. It is difficult to know what they will do exactly until a permanent GM is in place. It is not impossible to see one or two of the above-mentioned contracts being traded, although it won’t be an easy thing to do for some of them. They do have some cap flexibility next season.

7- Winnipeg Jets

The Jets have had this core for a while now and they just can’t seem to get over the hump. After being swept on four consecutive games at the hands of the Canadiens in last year’s playoffs, they were not close to making the playoffs this season.

Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrisey, Nate Schmidt, Neal Pionk and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck all make over $5.8 million and Pierre-Luc Dubois ($5 million) is a pending RFA with arbitration rights. Then they have Adam Lowry ($3.25M), Brenden Dillon ($3.9M) and Dylan Demelo ($3M) all taking substantial cap space.

Changes: In his post-season meeting with the press, team captain Mark Scheifele was very non-comital to the organization, saying that he needs to know the direction management will be taking. I wouldn’t call them rumours yet, but there are rumblings that the Jets may not be able to afford Dubois’ new contract. Just last week, the Jets signed GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to a 3-year extension so the workload will be on his plate.

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As history has shown, more teams will join the seven mentioned above, as premature playoffs’ exits are bound to happen. This being the first “normal” off-season since COVID started in 2020, teams will have more time to assess and address their needs. We are pretty much back to regular programming.

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