In this week’s edition of Montreal Canadiens news and rumors, Jonathan Drouin is back on the ice in Brossard getting ready for the 2021-22 season, re-signing restricted free agent Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a priority for general manager Marc Bergevin and Tomas Tatar has signed a new two-year deal with the New Jersey Devils.
Plus, Michael McNiven and Michael Pezzetta sign new two-way contracts and are the Habs interested in bringing back Alex Galchenyuk?
Jonathan Drouin Is Skating in Brossard
Nearly four months after taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team due to personal reasons and missing Montreal’s improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final, Drouin is skating at the Canadiens’ facility in Brossard getting ready for next season. He’s even taking the time to pose for photos with fans outside the rink.
After leaving Drouin exposed for the Seattle Expansion Draft, Bergevin confirmed that he expects the 26-year-old to be present for the first day of training camp next month, welcome news after all the uncertainty and turmoil surrounding the former no. 3 overall draft pick.
Drouin put up 23 points in 44 games this season before stepping away. He will be a welcome addition to the Habs’ top-six forward group if he indeed does return.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s New Contract a Priority
In an interview on TSN 690 in Montreal this weekend, David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period mentioned that while all is quiet on the trade front for Bergevin and the Habs for the moment, the GM’s top priority is to re-sign Kotkaniemi, Montreal’s no. 3 overall selection in 2018, after inking his fellows Finns Arturri Lehkonen and Joel Armia to new deals earlier in the offseason.
A three-year NHL veteran at just 21, Kotkaniemi is most likely to sign a two or three-year bridge deal after completing his entry-level contract.
While his regular season output has been modest so far in his young career, Kotkaniemi has already posted nine goals and 12 points in 29 playoff games. With Phillip Danault leaving for Los Angeles, he’ll be given additional responsibilities this season and have the chance to be the team’s no. 2 center on a full-time basis.
Tomas Tatar Joins the Devils
It took a bit longer than many expected, but after three years with the Canadiens, Tatar has found a new home, signing a two-year, $9 million contract with the Devils last week.
The Slovak potted 57 goals and added 149 points during his time in Montreal and was the team’s leading scorer in two of his three campaigns. Prior to last season, Tatar scored at least 20 goals in six straight seasons.
This means that of the three players who made up the Canadiens’ best forward line over the past few seasons, Tatar, Danault, and Brendan Gallagher, only Gallagher remains.
New Contracts for Two Laval Rocket Players
McNiven and Pezzetta will be returning to the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate in Laval next season after inking one-year deals this week.
McNiven, who is slotted to be Cayden Primeau’s backup in net this season with the Rocket, avoided his August 11 arbitration hearing by agreeing to a one-year, two-way contract extension.
He appeared in 13 games in 2020-21, posting a 7-3-3 record while earning one shutout. He posted a 2.59 goals-against average and a save percentage of .895 in his fourth year with Laval. McNiven joined the organization as a free agent in 2015.
Meanwhile, Pezzetta will also be back thanks to a new one-year, two-way extension. The gritty forward skated in 20 games with Laval last season and put up five points. He was selected in the sixth round by the Canadiens at the 2016 NHL Draft.
Canadiens Interested in an Alex Galchenyuk Reunion?
According to Luke Fox of Sportsnet, the Habs have some level of interest in a reunion with Galchenyuk, their no. 3 overall draft pick in 2012.
The 27-year-old spent the first six years of his career in Montreal and enjoyed considerable success, including a 30-goal season, before being traded to the Arizona Coyotes in 2018 in exchange for Max Domi. Since then, he has bounced around the league, suiting up for five different teams. He finished the 2020-21 campaign with the Toronto Maple Leafs and played well alongside John Tavares and William Nylander.
The idea of Galchenyuk returning to the Canadiens seems far-fetched, especially considering that the team needs a center and it is well-known across the league that Bergevin doesn’t consider him to be one. But crazier things have happened so never say never.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
Even though we are headed towards the end of the offseason, it feels like Bergevin still has one or two tricks left up his sleeve to improve the Habs’ roster before the start of training camp in September. Let’s see if he can pull the trigger on a trade in the coming weeks.
He also has a few restricted free agents left to sign in Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling. He’ll probably take a crack at extending Nick Suzuki to a new long-term deal before summer’s end too so stay tuned.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media Community Manager and a 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.