In this week’s edition of Montreal Canadiens news and rumors, Cole Caufield is headed to the Laval Rocket in the American Hockey League (AHL), captain Shea Weber pays a visit to the Habs in Seattle, goaltender Michael McNiven voices his displeasure about his role within the organization, and Guy Lafleur’s number 4 is retired across the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
Plus, general manager Marc Bergevin addresses his team, and a players-only meeting is held during Montreal’s difficult western road trip. Speaking of Bergevin, could he be interested in acquiring goaltender Joonas Korpisalo?
Caufield Sent Down to Laval
The Canadiens sent shockwaves across the NHL on Monday morning when the team announced that Caufield has been assigned to the AHL with the Rocket. The move is not all that surprising considering that the 20-year-old has just one assist in ten games with the Habs and has seen a decrease in ice time over the past few games.
This will be Caufield’s second stint in Laval after putting up three goals and four points in two games last season after completing his NCAA career with Wisconsin and before joining the Habs for their playoff race and subsequent run to the Stanley Cup Final. It will be a good opportunity for him to rebuild his confidence before returning to the NHL.
Meanwhile, Michael Pezzetta has been recalled by the Canadiens. The 23-year-old has six points in eight games with Laval and had a strong training camp. He is set to make his NHL regular season debut on Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings and is proof that hard work does pay off.
Players Discuss Weber’s Future in Seattle
The Canadiens had a special guest join them for their inaugural game at Climate Pledge Arena against the Seattle Kraken last week when captain Weber decided to make the trip.
In addition to watching practices and Monday night’s contest, he also spent time with the guys at a Seattle Seahawks game on Sunday.
Speaking to the media, Jonathan Drouin indicated that his teammate, although not officially retired, has moved on to other projects, including doing some scouting for Bergevin. Weber’s absence has left a huge void that cannot be understated, both on and off the ice. If this is indeed the end for him, he certainly went out on a high note, leading the Habs on an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final while playing some of his best hockey.
McNiven Lets Out His Frustration
McNiven, the longest-tenured Rocket, had a lot to get off his chest during a media availability last week. First, the netminder accused the team of keeping him in a game even though he was cramping, an accusation which head coach Jean-François Houle denied.
McNiven went on to express his frustration about his place in the Canadiens’ goaltending hierarchy, a position that hasn’t changed since he joined the organization in 2017-18 despite putting up solid numbers. This season, he was once again pushed down the depth chart when the Habs claimed Samuel Montembeault off waivers to backup Jake Allen in Montreal. McNiven has appeared in three games with the Rocket this year and holds a 1-1-1 record. It will be interesting to see if his outburst further complicates an already strained relationship.
Bergevin Addresses His Team
A few days after meeting the media to calm the waters amid an 0-4 start, Bergevin found himself addressing his players after another tough loss to the Los Angeles Kings. The GM’s pep talk was followed by a players-only meeting behind closed doors.
Neither had the desired effect, at least not right away, as the Habs fell to 2-8 on the season, their worst start since 1941-42, thanks to 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
Not only did the Canadiens finish their western road trip with a 1-3 record, but they also lost Brendan Gallagher and Mathieu Perreault to injury. Plus, Jeff Petry is playing banged up and Cédric Paquette was suspended for two games on Monday by NHL Player Safety for boarding Ducks forward Trevor Zegras. He was also given a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play.
Needless to say, this team could use a dose of positivity right now.
Montreal a Possible Destination for Korpisalo?
In his latest column for The Athletic, Aaron Portzline indicated that trade talks are heating up around netminder Joonas Korpisalo. He was on the market this offseason, but the Columbus Blue Jackets were unable to strike a deal.
With the season underway, goaltending needs have arisen for several teams, including the Habs considering that Carey Price’s immediate future is unclear, and Jake Allen has struggled at times out of the gate.
“We poked around with three NHL front-office types. Arizona, Buffalo and Montreal were seen as the most likely destinations for Korpisalo, who has one year remaining on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent,” (from ‘Blue Jackets Sunday Gathering: A chat with Gary Bettman, and Joonas Korpisalo trade chatter intensifies’, The AthleticNHL – 10/31/21).
Portzline believes that Korpisalo could fetch a mid-to-late round draft pick or a secondary prospect.
Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports also thinks that a goaltending upgrade is the Canadiens’ most urgent need right now. We’ll find out soon if Bergevin agrees.
Lafleur’s Number Retired Across the QMJHL
With his number 10 already retired by the Canadiens, Lafleur saw his number 4 raised to the rafters across the QMJHL during a ceremony last week at Videotron Centre in Quebec City.
He spent two seasons with the Quebec Remparts from 1969 to 1971 and was named the QMJHL’s greatest player of all time during the league’s 50th-anniversary celebrations. He put up 233 goals and 146 assists in 118 games and led the Remparts to a Memorial Cup championship in 1971. That same year, he became the first player from the QMJHL to be selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft.
Although Lafleur continues his battle with cancer, he insisted on being present for the ceremony and was showered with love and tributes from the likes of Patrick Roy and André Savard.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
Montreal begins a five-game homestand Tuesday night against the Red Wings, one of two teams they have beaten this year. This will be a crucial set of games if the Habs hope to reverse their early-season slump in the face of even more adversity because soon, the hole will be too deep to climb out of.
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.