Canadiens 2022-23 Training Camp Predictions 

Rookie training camp is coming up, and the main camps are not far behind. For the Montreal Canadiens, a team in transition, there will be several jobs available for newcomers to compete for and win. Despite a very busy year for general manager (GM) Kent Hughes, his work is far from over.

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Here’s a fun look ahead, using a crystal ball or maybe reading some tea leaves, to predict the drama that could unfold at training camp.

Canadiens Camp Prediction #1 – Waiver Wire Claim

After finishing 32nd last season, the Canadiens hold an advantage over the waiver wire: they have top priority on any waiver claim, and given what happens every fall, by the end of training camp, several players should be available on the waiver wire. Some younger players who are no longer waiver exempt and couldn’t crack the roster of a contending team might become available, or an aging veteran who no longer has a role with the team that holds their rights.

That is a field ripe for Hughes to pick from and why this first prediction may be the most obvious.

The Canadiens are thin on right-handed defencemen. The shortlist of NHL calibre players includes David Savard, Chris Wideman, and rookie Justin Barron. If management decides they would prefer to shelter Barron by leaving him in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Laval Rocket for a period, that would leave a hole on the blue line. Hughes could call up a veteran from the minors to fill in but signing Madison Bowey points to that insurance policy.

If we can find, and we believe that there will be, either via trade or the waiver process, right-shot D that become available to us, then we’re going to continue to study that.

Kent Hughes   

However, if the Habs want to be a little more competitive, they could choose to claim a defenceman, one with an expiring contract, if possible, and with a low or manageable cap hit. Two defenders in danger of becoming waived and who meet those requirements are Dallas Stars defender Joel Hanley, earning $750,000 for one more season, and Minnesota Wild defender Dmitri Kulikov, earning $2 million for one season. Both would provide depth and mobility, fitting in with the Canadiens’ new defensive philosophy to play with more speed.

Canadiens Camp Prediction #2 – Signing Player to PTO 

In keeping with the need for a right-handed defenceman, this prediction could be coupled with the first one, and that’s signing a right-handed defender to a professional try-out (PTO) contract. Doing this would heighten the competition at training camp by forcing young players to fight to ensure their role or position in the organization.

Related: Canadiens’ Defensive Improvement Will Rely on Goaltending 

It would also push veterans to step up their games as well in an effort to outwork the newcomers, and when it comes to the Canadiens, two names seem to fit the need of a veteran puck-moving defender.

PK Subban 

PK Subban is still an unrestricted free agent (UFA) coming off a contract worth $9 million per season. That will drop significantly if he earns a new contract since in the last few years, his play has declined. He’s also now 33 years old with a history of injury, which has led to a sharp drop in offensive production and defensive abilities. However, he is capable of playing a complementary role on a bottom pairing at five-on-five and adding some power-play (PP) skills with his big shot. 

P.K. Subban, New Jersey Devils
P.K. Subban, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Subban has a history with Montreal, and, in many ways, it is a positive one. He was a fan favourite, won the Norris Trophy as a Hab and is still active in the community. If signed for this season, it will likely be for no more than $2.5 million.

Anton Stralman 

Anton Stralman is a UFA coming off a deal worth $5.5 million per season. That will drop significantly if he eans a new contract. He spent last season with the Arizona Coyotes, so he has experience playing for a rebuilding team. Adding him would add to the leadership group, and he could set an example of perseverance for the youth on the roster.

Last season, he averaged over 21 minutes per game on a bad Coyotes team. His lack of physicality and age (35 years old) is a detriment, but for a rebuilding team, those imperfections are excusable. His defensive reliability, along with his mobility and transitional abilities, fit into the Canadiens’ mould for a more mobile blue line. If he earns a contract, he would be useful as a placeholder until young players develop enough to fill the role. If signed for this season, it likely wouldn’t be above $2 million.

Canadiens Camp Prediction #3 – Drouin Steps Up

For the final prediction, veteran forward Jonathan Drouin will reach his potential. Every summer and with every change to the coaching staff, the refrain has been that he will finally show what he can do. Yet, every season, he runs into injury trouble or some other issue that derails him. What we will likely see in camp is a fully healthy and motivated Drouin playing against weaker competition in exhibition games.

Montreal Canadiens Jonathan Drouin
Montreal Canadiens Jonathan Drouin (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

With Paul Byron and Sean Monahan likely to start the season on the long-term injured reserve list (LTIR), there will be an opening for someone to step up and play a larger role. Drouin still needs to prove himself as a consistent top-six forward as he enters the last season of his deal worth $5.5 million. With his inconsistencies in a Canadiens uniform and on an expiring contract, he is likely to become a trade chip by the deadline. That being said, a good start in training camp will only help him start the season off on the right foot.

Competition at training camp will be more intense than in recent seasons, with several positions open for young players to step up and earn their spot. Yet, as a rebuilding team, there are still holes to fill, and these predictions point to that fact. This season’s training camp will be a positive first step in a much-needed fresh start for the team and the fanbase.

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