A First Missed Opportunity For Hughes

By JD Lagrange – You have all kinds of people following their favourite hockey team. You have the ones who will cheer every move their team makes, and find excuses when things go wrong. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll have the ones who will criticize everything, almost all the time, even turning wine into vinegar. We know a few of them and they’re draining to read. But the sign of an unbiased, level headed hockey fan is having the ability to cheer and recognize the good, but also to find the guts and integrity to acknowledge mistakes.

Opportunistic time

When your team is in the bottom of the NHL standings, your job as a NHL General Manager is to acquire assets for the upcoming NHL Draft and years to come. GMs can accomplish that by unloading pending UFAs that they don’t plan on re-signing in the summer, and other veteran players they’re not planning on building around. They also must use this opportunity to make roster moves, allowing them to gauge their current prospects.

Kent Hughes

You have to remember that this is the time of year when NHL GMs of contending teams are the most desperate and make the biggest mistakes of the season. A few, like Kyle Dubas in Toronto, know that it’s their last chance to make some noise in the playoffs and they’re playing their jobs. Most contenders will enter into bidding wars to get the player(s) they feel their team needs most. It’s an incredible opportunity for sellers to cash in.

Well, Kent Hughes did not do that. At least not this year. He did very well last season but to give him free pass today would not be fair. If we gave him credit last season after inheriting a bottom dweller halfway through the season, this year is all on him… or almost. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t pick and choose when we can judge the work of the GM or not.


As it turns out, Hughes’ biggest trade happened five days before trade deadline, when he managed to convince the Dallas Stars to take pending UFA Evgenii Dadonov off his hands, and acquire 25 year-old Denis Gurianov in return.

On trade deadline day, Hughes managed to be part of two very minor deals. One as a third-party broker, taking on salary in a three-way deal. The other trade he made was a minor deal for AHL players.

When the dust settled, the Canadiens still have pending UFAs Jonathan Drouin and Sean Monahan on their roster. And the team still has a clutter of left-handed defensemen since veteran Joel Edmundson is still here. The Canadiens’ GM was also incapable to convince anyone to take on Mike Hoffman.

Here’s what Hughes did manage to acquire:

On trade deadline day, for a team well out of the playoffs picture, it’s very, very minimal.


I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it’s all on Hughes. That would be rather unfair. There were factors that made his job extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Jonathan Drouin

Pending UFAs Dadonov and Drouin, both playing for a contract next year, had a very sub-par season and both with a cap hit of over $5 million, it just wasn’t enough to convince contenders that they were worth a high price or, in Drouin’s case, even worth the gamble.

Sean Monahan was having a good bounce-back season up until he was shut down. He hasn’t played a game since December 5th and has suffered setbacks each time he tried to skate. With a cap hit of over $6 million, who is going to take that chance?

Edmundson has been missing time regularly due to a bad back ever since the Canadiens got eliminated in the Stanley Cup finals in the summer of 2021. Although he did come back the night before trade deadline, teams were reluctant taking him and his one year remaining on his contract.

While it was a few fans’ wet dream to see Josh Anderson, Jake Allen, David Savard and/or even Mike Matheson being traded, it was just not going to happen as we’ve explained in an earlier article. Those guys are key veterans to build around, at positions of needs.


So admittedly, we can’t put all of the blame on Hughes. But because some of the factors were out of his hands doesn’t mean that we have to give him a passing grade either. If, as a student, I have a mid-term exam and I’m under the weather, struggling to study for one reason or another, and I flop my exam, the failing grade will stand. The professor or teacher won’t be saying “oh but he was sick“. It sucks and might come as a surprise for this entitled generation, but that’s life.

So Hughes failed to capitalize on a poor season, at this year’s trade deadline. This once proud franchise can’t afford to finish in the NHL basement year in, year out. It’s the Montreal Canadiens we’re talking about. So when they find themselves in that awful position, it is crucial to capitalize on every opportunity to improve. They didn’t do it. Period.

For that, Kent Hughes gets a “D” from yours truly. And because of this failure, he now has his work cut out this upcoming off-season. It is now up to him, as he must find a way to redeem himself this upcoming summer… not to fail the year! Woulda, coulda, shoulda just doesn’t cut it in professional hockey, particularly not in a hot bed like Montreal.

What Have They Done?

By JD Lagrange – It’s been a record-breaking year for this trade deadline when it comes to the number of trades. Not because of trade deadline day itself, but most big trades have happened int he 14-days window leading up to the deadline.

I don’t know about you but when there is that much player-movement, I find difficult to keep track of who is where. Even more difficult is to attempt judging which teams have improved the most, as all give up assets in order to get the new players. And that’s particularly true when every team is so tight against the salary cap.

Let’s have a look at what contenders (and pretenders) have done in an attempt to gain an edge for the upcoming NHL Playoffs. Those are teams that are either in a playoffs’ position or are still within reach for a playoffs’ spot.


Pittsburgh Penguins
Mikael GranlundTeddy Blueger
Peter DiliberatoreBrock McGinn
Nick Bonino2023 2nd (PIT)
Dmitry Kulikov2023 5th (PIT)
2024 3rd (VEG)2023 7th (PIT – Cond)
2024 3rd (PIT)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tanner JeannotVladislav Namestnikov
Michael EyssimontCal Foote
2023 3rd (TBL)
2023 4th (TBL)
2023 5th (TBL)
2024 2nd (TBL)
2025 1st (TBL – Cond)
Ottawa Senators
Jakob ChychrunNikita Zaitsev
Julien GauthierTyler Motte
Patrick Brown2023 1st (OTT – Cond)
2023 7th (NYR – Cond)2023 2nd (OTT)
Future considerations (CHI)2023 6th (OTT)
2024 2nd (WAS – Cond)
2026 2nd (OTT)
2026 4th (OTT)
Carolina Hurricanes
Shayne GostisbeherePatrik Puistola
Jesse Puljujarvi2026 3rd (CAR)
New York Rangers
Vladimir TarasenkoVitali Kravtsov
Patrick KaneJulien Gauthier
Tyler MotteSamuel Blais
Cooper ZechAndy Wellinski
William LockwoodAustin Rueschhoff
Niko MikkolaHunter Skinner
2026 7th (VAN)2023 1st (NYR – Cond)
Future Consid. (NAS)2023 2nd (NYR – Cond)
2023 7th (NYR)
2024 4th (NYR – Cond)
2025 3rd (NYR – Cond)
2025 4th (NYR)
Washington Capitals
Craig SmithDmitry Orlov
Andrei SvetlakovLars Eller
2024 3rd (BOS)Garnet Hathaway
2025 2nd (BOS)
2025 2nd (COL)
Toronto Maple Leafs
Ryan O’ReillyPierre Engvall
Noel AcciariRasmus Sandin
Luke SchennJoey Anderson
Erik GustafssonPavel Gogolev
Jake McCabeAdam Gaudette
Sam LaffertyMikhail Abramov
Josh Pillar2023 1st (TOR)
2023 1st (BOS)2023 3rd (TOR)
2024 3rd (NYI)2023 3rd (OTT)
2024 5th (CHI – Cond)2024 2nd (TOR)
2025 5th (CHI – Cond)2025 1st (TOR – Cond)
2025 4th (TOR)
2026 2nd (TOR)
New Jersey Devils
Timo MeierAndreas Johnsson
Scott HarringtonFabian Zetterlund
Zachary EmondNikita Okhotiuk
Santeri HatakkaShakir Mukhamadullin
Timur Ibragimov2023 1st (NJD – Cond)
Curtis Lazar2024 2nd (NJD Cond)
2024 5th (COL)2024 4th (NJD)
2024 7th (NJD)
Boston Bruins
Dmitry OrlovCraig Smith
Garnet Hathaway2023 1st (BOS)
Andrei Svetlakov2023 5th (BOS)
Tyler Bertuzzi2024 1st (BOS – Cond)
2024 3rd (BOS)
2025 2nd (BOS)
2025 4th (BOS)
New York Islanders
Bo HorvatAnthony Beauvillier
Aatu Raty
2023 1st (NYI – Cond)


Vegas Golden Knights
Teddy BluegerPeter Diliberatore
Ivan BarbashevZach Dean
Jonathan QuickMichael Hutchinson
2024 3rd (VEG)
2025 7th (VEG)
Colorado Avalanche
Lars EllerAndreas Englund
Jack Johnson2025 2nd (COL)
Los Angeles Kings
Joonas KorpisaloJonathan Quick
Vladislav GavrikovBrendan Lemieux
Zack MacEwen2023 1st (LAK – Cond)
2023 2nd (LAK)
2024 2nd (LAK)
2024 5th (LAK)
Minnesota Wild
Gustav NyquistAndrei Svetlakov
Marcus JohanssonJosh Pillar
Oskar SundqvistAndrej Sustr
John KlingbergNikita Nesterenko
2025 4th (TOR)2023 4th (DET)
2023 5th (BOS)
2024 3rd (MIN)
2025 4th (MIN)
Edmonton Oilers
Mattias EkholmTyson Barrie
Patrik PuistolaReid Shaefer
Nick BjugstadJesse Puljujarvi
2024 6th (NASMichael Kesselring
2023 1st (EDM)
2023 3rd (EDM)
2024 4th (EDM)
Dallas Stars
Evgenii DadonovDenis Gurianov
Max DomiAnton Khudobin
Dylan WellsJacob Peterson
Scott Reedy2025 2nd (DAL)
Winnipeg Jets
Nino Neiderreiter2024 2n (WIN)
Vladislav Namestnikov2025 4th (WIN)
Seattle Kraken
Jaycob Megna2023 4th (SEA – Cond)
Dryden HuntRadim Zohorna
Nick RitchieBrett Ritchie
Troy StecherConnor Mackey

The first thing to notice is that the Eastern Conference teams were a lot more agressive on the trade market this year. So many teams have loaded up yet, only one of them will make it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. That will make for several teams disappointed and having invested a lot… for nothing. 

The Toronto Maple Leafs may appear to have added a lot, but they have also given quite a bit. They have reinforced their bottom-six forward group and bottom pairing defensemen, with more experience. But aside from Ryan O’Reilly, not much will help bring grit to their top lines. Time will tell if adding Tarasenko and Kane will pay off for the Rangers…

I like what the Penguins have done and the Bruins will be a force to recon with. The Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche were modest but added a couple of experienced elements, and they should have Gabriel Landeskog back on time for the playoffs. But I quite like what the Edmonton Oilers have done, bringing in Mattias Ekholm and Nick Bjugstad. 

Which team has improved the most in your opinion?