Kent Hughes’ first offseason as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens was a successful one for multiple reasons. It started with a strong 2022 NHL Draft, which included selecting Juraj Slafkovsky first overall and making ten subsequent picks. Their newest draft class was largely praised by prospect experts and awarded very high marks across the board.
As for the current roster, Hughes made some important changes thanks to some shrewd moves that improve the team for the 2022-23 campaign all while ensuring a brighter future as well. Here are three of his best moves this summer.
Trading Shea Weber’s Contract
If the only trade the Canadiens completed was sending the remaining four years of Shea Weber’s contract to the Vegas Golden Knights, this offseason still would have been considered a win. It was Hughes’ top priority, and he did so without having to give up a future asset. Plus, he managed to acquire Evgenii Dadonov, a useful veteran player who can be flipped at the Trade Deadline for more pieces to the rebuild.
Moving Weber’s contract was crucial, especially now that Carey Price’s status for the 2022-23 season and possibly beyond has been determined. With the goaltender’s $10.5 million annual salary now on long term injured reserve (LTIR) for the foreseeable future, having Weber’s contract on LTIR at the same time would have made for a nearly impossible salary cap situation to deal with which would certainly not have been optimal in the midst of a major roster transformation.
Dadonov is a nice addition to Montreal’s top-nine group of forwards. The four-time 20-goal scorer has the offensive creativity and the finishing touch around the net to be a good complement playing alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. If he excels in that role, his trade value will only increase.
The Sean Monahan Deal
Acquiring Sean Monahan and a first-round pick from the Calgary Flames came a bit out of left field only because it was unclear at the time of the trade how the Habs would fit Monahan’s $6.375 million cap hit under their existing structure. Price going on LTIR gave them the needed flexibility to execute the deal which allowed them to add two valuable assets for free. It was yet another creative move by Hughes utilizing every dollar at his disposal.
Given their numerous pending unrestricted free agents, the Canadiens will be getting significant cap relief beginning in 2023-24 so it makes sense to maximize the space this year when they’ll need all of Price’s $10.5 million to make the numbers work anyway and adopt a different strategy starting next season.
As for Monahan, a talented player with something to prove following surgery on both hips over the last two years is determined to make the most of his fresh start with the Canadiens to prolong his NHL career. Like Dadonov, he can be shipped out at the deadline, but if all goes well in this new chapter, it’s conceivable that he could be re-signed. His leadership and skill, not to mention that he’s a centre, might make him someone management wants to keep in the fold. Even if his tenure in Montreal only lasts a few months, it was still a low-risk trade that was worth making.
Hiring Marie-Philip Poulin and Stéphane Robidas
It’s been made clear that the priority for the Habs this season and going forward will be player development. That’s why adding Marie-Philip Poulin and Stéphane Robidas to the coaching staff this summer was so important to complete their revamped hockey operations team built to focus on this area of the game.
Poulin’s stellar credentials speak for themselves. Her wealth of knowledge and champion’s mentality will greatly benefit Montreal’s prospects. Some may have preferred a more seasoned assistant coach behind the bench to support Martin St. Louis, but Robidas’ vast experience in player development makes his mandate with the Canadiens pretty obvious and that’s why he just might be the perfect candidate to mentor the many young defensemen he’ll have under his wing in the coming years.
In the eight months since he’s been hired, the consensus is that Hughes has barely put a foot wrong, at least not yet, and this offseason provided further proof that he has a concrete plan that will lead the Habs down a path toward sustainable success, and he’s going to stick to it.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as 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.