In this week’s edition of Canadiens news and rumors, the Habs set their 23-man roster for opening night, Carey Price has entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, Jake Evans has signed an extension, will Nick Suzuki be next? Plus, general manager Marc Bergevin won’t ink a new contract before season’s end.
Canadiens Set Opening Night Roster
Head coach Dominique Ducharme finalized his 23-man roster on Monday ahead of the team’s 2021-22 season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
On Monday, Bergevin claimed Adam Brooks off waivers from the Maple Leafs, giving Montreal 15 forwards and six defensemen to start with Ryan Poehling and Alex Belzile also making the big club. The roster was built to maximize the amount of long-term injured reserve (LTIR) space available to them with Price, Shea Weber, Paul Byron, Joel Edmundson, Mike Hoffman, and Sami Niku all beginning on the sidelines. Brooks is a depth pickup. He had five points in 11 games with Toronto last season and has appeared in 18 NHL contests. The 25-year-old could be an option to fill the fourth line centre role once he gets adjusted to his new team.
Kaiden Guhle, who impressed during training camp, was returned to his junior team, the Prince Albert Raiders in the Western Hockey League (WHL). He is expected to lead Team Canada at the World Juniors in December. Meanwhile, Cayden Primeau was sent down to American Hockey League (AHL) where he will be the no. 1 goaltender for the Laval Rocket while newly acquired Samuel Montembeault will backup Jake Allen with the Habs.
Price Enters NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program
It was announced late last week that Price will be away from the Canadiens for an indefinite period while voluntarily taking part in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.
His wife, Angela, posted a touching message about the importance of looking after one’s mental health which might be an indication of the motivation for his absence. Since the announcement, the star netminder has received an outpouring of support from around the NHL, fans around the world, and especially from his general manager.
Price’s courageous decision will hopefully inspire others to ask for assistance if they feel the need to.
Bergevin Contract Talks on Hold
The Habs also indicated last week that Bergevin will spend the 2021-22 season on an expiring contract and that there will be no further updates on his status as general manager until the end of the year.
He is currently in the final year of a five-year deal that he signed in 2015. He has been at the helm for the Canadiens since the spring of 2012. This is certainly not an ideal situation, especially in a market like Montreal, and it has already been the source of much speculation from various sources.
Perhaps talks will pick up again during the season, but right now it’s looking like a real possibility that the Habs will be looking for a new general manager in the offseason for the first time in a decade.
Suzuki Extension a Priority?
The Canadiens locked up one of their young centres for the next four seasons last week, signing Jake Evans to a three-year contract extension carrying an average annual value of $1.7 million beginning in 2022-23.
Evans, a seventh-round pick of the Habs in 2014, put up 13 points in his first full NHL campaign last year. His story is one of perseverance and his contract could end up becoming a real bargain, especially if he can establish himself as the team’s new third-line centre which is where he is slotted to start this season.
Meanwhile, Bergevin has a major core piece that he needs to worry about extending with Suzuki set to be a restricted free agent this summer.
In his latest “32 Thoughts” article, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman predicts that the Habs will attempt to sign their no. 1 centre sooner rather than later to avoid the threat of another offer sheet after losing Jesperi Kotkaniemi to the Carolina Hurricanes. Getting Suzuki signed needs to be at the top of Bergevin’s to-do list.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
The Canadiens open the season with three games in four nights against the Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, and their home opener on Saturday against the New York Rangers. It will be interesting to see how Ducharme manages the roster through the first few weeks with players slowly returning from injury.
The odds may be against them out of the gate, but if we learned anything from their run to the Stanley Cup Final it’s to never underestimate this team.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media Community Manager and a co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.