Considering his untapped potential and the role he is slated to play with the Montreal Canadiens beginning this season, Kirby Dach stands as general manager Kent Hughes’ most significant offseason acquisition to date.
The 21-year-old restricted free agent still needs a contract and after announcing that Carey Price will be placed on long-term injured reserve and could miss the entire 2022-23 season, Hughes now has the cap space to get one signed, in addition to bringing Sean Monahan into the fold. Once the dust settles heading into training camp and a new deal is struck, the former third-overall pick should be a great fit with his new team for a multitude of reasons.
The Martin St. Louis Effect
It was evident by the end of last season that a fresh start would be beneficial for Dach on the heels of a tough stretch with the Chicago Blackhawks and he’ll get just that as part of Montreal’s young core. He’ll have the chance to grow alongside the likes of Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Juraj Slafkovsky, and Kaiden Guhle while also learning from head coach Martin St. Louis.
He represents the perfect combination of size and skill that the Habs have been lacking down the middle for what seems like forever. If St. Louis can refine his raw talent and help him hit his rather high ceiling, he will quickly become an important piece of Montreal’s present and future.
Plus, Dach’s injury issues appear to be a thing of the past and he’s going to be put in a position to flourish which means his offensive production should increase, certainly at a higher rate than his 26-point output in 70 games last year. He is exactly the type of player that St. Louis was brought in to coach and who the Habs’ new player development group led by Adam Nicholas was hired to develop. Someone with a full toolbox who hasn’t been able to put it all together just yet, a player who needs a confidence boost which the Canadiens’ bench boss has already proven that he can provide.
He’ll Be Well-Surrounded
It’s an odd observation for a franchise that is destined for the draft lottery come spring, but within a matter of a few weeks, Hughes has managed to improve his center depth in a big way by adding both Dach and now Monahan. Unless a trade happens from now until September, the Habs will have five capable NHL centers on their roster in training camp even if Monahan has often played on the wing over the past two seasons. It won’t be surprising if Montreal’s newest acquisition becomes somewhat of a mentor for Dach given their similar skill set and physical build.
This means that Dach won’t be pressured to play a role on the second line right out of the gate until he’s hit his stride since he and Christian Dvorak can share top-6 duties. The Canadiens have given themselves the flexibility to continue his development at a spot in the lineup that is best suited for him, which only increases his chances for success.
He’ll also have his choice of gifted linemates given Montreal’s strength on the wings. Whether it’s Evgeny Dadonov, Mike Hoffman, Brendan Gallagher, Josh Anderson, or even Rem Pitlick, he’ll have lots of help and chances to be creative in the offensive zone.
Dach needed a change of scenery almost as much as the Habs needed a centre matching his profile which makes their new partnership a potential slam dunk. Montreal gets a key member for their ongoing youth movement and on a rebuilding team while Dach gets the luxury of an opportunity to thrive without the pressure that comes with the expectations of winning on a nightly basis.