In this week’s edition of Montreal Canadiens news and rumors, it was a memorable weekend for Cole Caufield, general manager Marc Bergevin has acquired Jon Merrill from the Detroit Red Wings and placed Victor Mete on waivers ahead of the Trade Deadline and Montreal’s injured players are inching closer to a return.
Plus, Jan Mysak signs his entry-level contract, and former Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin suffers a serious health scare.
Cole Caufield Wins Hobey Baker Award and Shines In Pro Debut
It was a weekend to remember for Cole Caufield. On Friday, the 20-year-old was named the winner of the prestigious Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top player in recognition of his stellar sophomore season with the Wisconsin Badgers.
Caufield, the Canadiens’ first-round draft pick in 2019, joins a list of winners that includes Paul Kariya, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel and Cale Makar. He led the nation in scoring with 52 points and 30 goals in 31 games. He becomes just the second Habs prospect after Tom Kurvers in 1984 to win the award.
A few hours after the Hobey Baker ceremony, Caufield made an impressive professional debut with the Laval Rocket, scoring two goals and a highlight reel stick handle that led to an assist. On Saturday, he scored the game-winner after deflecting a shot from the point. To recap, that’s three goals, one assist, four points and two game-winning goals in his first two AHL games. Not to mention that the weekend series sweep over the Toronto Marlies catapulted the Rocket back into first place in the league.
With Laval only playing three games from now until the end of April, might the Canadiens be tempted to call up Caufield to give him a look in the NHL? Their forward group could certainly use a jolt.
Marc Bergevin Acquires Jon Merrill, Waives Victor Mete
On Sunday, less than two hours after surprising some by placing Victor Mete on waivers, Bergevin acquired defenseman Jon Merrill from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2021 (previously acquired from Ottawa) and forward Hayden Verbeek. The 29-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
It was anticipated that Bergevin would attempt to bolster his defensive depth at the deadline and this move accomplishes just that. Merrill has been playing top-four minutes in Detroit, can play both sides and would be a solidifying presence with rookie Alexander Romanov on the third pair. He may even get a look next to Shea Weber.
It was previously reported that the Habs were reluctant to waive Mete because they assumed he would be claimed. But it’s become clear that his future is elsewhere so this decision seemed inevitable, and it would be very surprising if he clears. A claim would give Montreal additional cap flexibility.
We’ll see if Bergevin has anything else up his sleeve from now until Monday at 3 p.m.
Some good news from the Canadiens’ infirmary as Joel Armia practiced with the team on Sunday for the first time since recovering from a bout with COVID-19. He should see game action sometime this week.
In other injury news, Ben Chiarot is skating again after suffering a broken hand several weeks ago against the Vancouver Canucks. Head coach Dominique Ducharme expects Carey Price to be back on the ice in the coming days and we’ll soon find out if Brendan Gallagher’s fractured thumb will require surgery.
Gallagher was placed on long-term injured reserve last week which allows the Canadiens to exceed the cap by $3.75 million, the equivalent of his annual salary. He is expected to be back for the playoffs and the additional money allows the possibility to bring in more pieces like Merrill at the deadline.
Jan Mysak Signs Entry-Level Deal
The Canadiens have signed forward Jan Mysak to a three-year entry-level contract beginning next season.
The 18-year-old, selected in the second round of the 2020 NHL Draft, has scored two goals in 13 games with the Rocket in 2020-21. Last year, he put up 25 points in 22 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL and he also suited up for HC Litvinov in his native Czech Republic.
Alexei Emelin Suffers Health Scare
Former Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin was transported to hospital last week after collapsing following a playoff game with Avangard Omsk in the KHL.
Several Russian media outlets indicated that Emelin required a transplant after being diagnosed with acute liver failure, but the team refuted those reports. He is in stable condition and he continues to be evaluated.
Emelin was drafted by the Canadiens in 2004 and spent six seasons with the franchise from 2011-2017. He has spent the last three seasons playing for Avangard Omsk, two of those as the team’s captain. Wishing him and his family all the best during this ordeal.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
Beyond the Trade Deadline, the Habs need to right the ship after three straight losses beginning tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They also have two crucial games against the Calgary Flames later this week. A couple of wins against the team just below them in the standings could go a long way to clinching a playoff spot.
It will be interesting to see how Ducharme manages his lineup to include any new additions and to get his squad going again.