Posted at 5:00 a.m.
1. The repechage: settled
It seems obvious at this point, but it was no small feat not so long ago. The Canadian was under high pressure (to put it mildly) after picking up the very first draft pick. After long weeks of suspense, the team selected the Slovak Juraj Slafkovsky. The big winger makes scouts dream, but leaves advanced statistics specialists dubious. The CH took advantage of the repechage to add 10 other players to its bank of hopes. Filip Mesar, another Slovak chosen in the first round, is already under contract. And tiny second-round defenseman Lane Hutson turned heads in development camp.
2. The coaching staff: settled
One file was pressing and another was added along the way. Both are now closed. Martin St-Louis, hired on an interim basis last winter, is now tied to the Canadiens for three seasons. It does not seem that the negotiations to reach this agreement were very complex, after St-Louis had explicitly expressed its intention to continue the work begun with the team. At the end of June, Luke Richardson, assistant coach in charge of defensemen, was named manager of the Chicago Blackhawks. To replace him, the Habs named Stéphane Robidas, a veteran of nearly 1,000 NHL games who later worked in player development with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Barring a surprise announcement, the coaching staff seems complete to start the 2022-2023 season.
3. Shea Weber: settled
It was no secret that Kent Hughes was looking to get rid of Shea Weber’s contract. It’s done. The GM sent the defenseman, who is unlikely to play in the NHL again, to the Vegas Golden Knights in return for winger Evgenii Dadonov. The maneuver is impressive, considering that in the recent past, teams have had to pay extra to convince others to take in their long-term injured players. The CH has erased 7.8 million from its payroll and acquired a striker who can give it a hand in the fall, and even serve as a bargaining chip at the next transaction deadline.
4. Jeff Petry: Set
This soap opera, too, well documented. Defender Jeff Petry had wanted to change his address for several months, mainly for family reasons. Kent Hughes has repeatedly repeated that he refused to conclude an exchange in which he himself would not find his account. Petry finally made his way to Pittsburgh with center Ryan Poehling, whose spot on the roster next fall was far from certain, against Montreal defenseman Michael Matheson and a fourth-round pick. The transaction, for the CH, is especially advantageous on the financial level, since it finds itself in deficit of an offensive defender. That said, Matheson is coming off the best season of his career (31 points) and is six years younger than Petry.
5. From the reinforcement to the center: fixed
We could write “settled” in quotation marks, because it is not as if the CH constituted a power in the center. However, with Nick Suzuki, Kirby Dach, Christian Dvorak and Jake Evans, the hierarchy is clear, unlike last season. It is good to remember that after the successive departures of Phillip Danault and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, during the summer of 2021, Evans momentarily found himself second center of the team. And that in training camp, the battle for the pivot of the fourth line opposed Poehling and Cédric Paquette. The improvement is evident, although Dach has yet to demonstrate that he can be an effective and consistent offensive player in the NHL.
6. Reduce payroll: in progress
There were so many bad contracts on the books of the Canadiens that liquidating them all was mission impossible. However, casually, Hughes was released from two of the five highest earners of his team in Weber and Petry. The pharaonic contract of Carey Price (10.5 million annually until 2025-2026) and, to a lesser extent, that of Brendan Gallagher (6.5 million until 2026-2027) would be much more difficult to pass on to d other clubs, if that was CH’s intention, of course. In an ideal world, the CEO would relieve himself of another big salary, since he has no more room under the salary cap. Hughes, by the way, is a constant reminder that Josh Anderson is in high demand. Using the long-term injured list, with Price or Paul Byron, for example, could be another solution to balance the budget before mid-October.
7. Reinforcement in defense: in progress
At the end of April, Kent Hughes admitted that he was not keen on the idea of starting the 2022-2023 season with three rookies on the blue line. It should therefore not be surprising if a veteran was added to the training by the start of the school year. The void is particularly abysmal on the right flank since the departure of Petry. As The Press pointed out last week, Anton Stralman would be an interesting option and allow Martin St-Louis to give Chris Wideman and Justin Barron evenings off. Alternatively, Calgary Flames alum Michael Stone could prove a low-cost backstop.
8. Unrestricted Free Agents: Almost Fixed
Apart from perhaps an experienced defender, we can probably consider that the CH’s shopping is over on the side of free agents without compensation. Kent Hughes has settled for defenseman Madison Bowey and forwards Mitchell Stephens and Anthony Richard, who will likely join the Laval Rocket. The management was dealing with a tight budget as possible, and Montreal was, in any case, not a very attractive destination in the current state of things.
9. Restricted Free Agents: Ongoing
Rem Pitlick ($1.1 million), Samuel Montembeault ($1 million) and Michael Pezzetta ($750,000) having signed new agreements, only Kirby Dach is still without a contract. The striker, ex-choice of the first round of the Chicago Blackhawks, does not have many arguments to convince the CH to guarantee him a fortune independence until the end of his days. A transition contract of one or two seasons, below the 2 million mark on average, would make a lot of sense.
10. Carey Price: ongoing
We save the trickiest case for last. It’s an infinitely complex case for Kent Hughes, since he has virtually no power to settle it until he knows if Carey Price can return to the game for good – not for a few games, but “full-time in the NHL,” insisted Hughes in his final media appearance on July 14. At that time, the DG hoped to have a “better idea” of the state of health of his goalkeeper “by October”. This still leaves a lot of uncertainty. Price received an injection of platelet-rich plasma in June, a procedure believed to help her knee heal. However, the real test will come during exercises on the ice. We can’t stop repeating it: a clear picture of the state of health of number 31 will finally allow the CH staff to draw up a short, medium or long-term plan. For now, the wait continues. Still.