The Montreal Canadiens had a busy week: they made a few moves at the deadline, lost a fan favorite, and had a few of their key veterans return from injuries. With the condensed schedule going forward and the Calgary Flames nipping at their heels, the Canadiens will need all hands on deck playing at the top of their game to secure their playoff spot.
Caufield Has Success in Laval, Gets Called up to the Canadiens
Cole Caufield started his pro career with Laval, playing two games against the Toronto Marlies and scoring four points. Caufield scored two goals in game one – including the game-winner – and collected three points; he followed that game by scoring the game-winner in the second game to give Laval back-to-back wins.
Soon after, the Marlies had players test positive for COVID-19 and the team’s next two games were cancelled for precautionary reasons, which means Laval won’t be able to play until April 21. Instead of having their star prospect sitting around waiting to play, the Canadiens decided to move him to the taxi squad to practice with the Habs. Due to cap issues, the Canadiens have yet to get him into a game, but he will be travelling with the team out west, and with Cayden Primeau being sent to the taxi squad, there is now enough free cap space to put another player on the main roster. The Canadiens only have one call-up left and must use it wisely, so it’s unsure if Caufield will see any game time unless someone gets injured.
Canadiens Add Defence at the Trade Deadline
Even though GM Marc Bergevin stated that he had very little room to make moves at the deadline, he would manage to make two of them, and both would be for left-handed defensemen. Bergevin acquired John Merrill from the Detroit Red Wings for a fifth-round draft choice in 2021 and prospect Hayden Verbeek. Before the day’s end, he acquired Erik Gustafsson from the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2021 seventh-rounder.
Merrill will be the most effective acquisition for the Canadiens, and he is a solid defender who will help the Habs on the penalty kill (PK) as well as playing hard in front of the net; Merrill also is a good puck mover with a good first pass. On the other hand, Gustafsson is a puck-moving defenseman that the Canadiens desperately need; however, he is a liability on the defensive side. Although Gustafsson is only two seasons removed from a 60-point season, he isn’t good enough in the defensive end to be a consistent player in the Canadiens lineup.
Ottawa Claims Mete Off Waivers
Victor Mete was put on waivers just before the trade deadline, and by noon the next day, he was claimed by the Ottawa Senators. It was no secret that someone would claim Mete, and many believed it would be Ottawa, considering they traded several of their defensemen leading up to the trade deadline.
Mete played 182 games over three and a half seasons with the Canadiens; he scored four goals and had 34 points as a solid bottom-pairing defenseman with excellent transitional skills. Mete started with the Canadiens in the 2017-18 season as a top-pairing D-man with captain Shea Weber but quickly fell down the depth chart and became expendable. Although he had great analytical numbers, the organization didn’t seem to find a way to fit him into their system, and it didn’t help that he requested a trade earlier in the season due to lack of playing time.
Canadiens’ Injuries Update
The Canadiens got some good news this week when Ben Chiarot returned to the lineup; he had been out with a hand injury since March 10. Chiarot had surgery to repair a fracture in his hand and was expected to be out for six to eight weeks but returned in five. Chiarot was third on the team in ice time with just over 22 minutes per game. This could create issues when Merrill and Gustafsson are ready to play on who the Canadiens play on defence.
Carey Price also returned to the Canadiens lineup this weekend after being out with a lower-body injury which caused him to miss the last six games. Price returned Saturday and played in a 4-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators; he didn’t look bad in the lacklustre game but did allow 3 goals on 17 shots. Price will be a key figure in the remaining games for the Canadiens as they try to secure their playoff position.
That was the Canadiens news for the week, and it will be interesting to see if Caufield can get into the lineup and whether or not he can fit in nicely with the club going into the playoffs. The playoffs for the Habs are not guaranteed, but it would take a major slide by the Canadiens to miss out; as long as nothing disastrous happens, everything should be okay.
Trege Wilson lives in Nova Scotia and is a member of the RCN. He is a life long Habs fan and is creator and co-host of the popular Canadiens podcast Habs Unfiltered.