Montreal Canadiens News & Rumors: Ekholm, Caufield, Staal, Ducharme & More

In this week’s Montreal Canadiens news and rumors rundown, we’ll break down trade rumors, Canadiens roster updates, and much more.

Adding a Left-Handed Defender?

In a recent mailbag article, Eric Engels of Sportsnet was asked if it was time for Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin to add a big name defenceman at the trade deadline. Namely, Mathias Ekholm of the Nashville Predators, something that’s been tackled here at The Hockey Writers. Here is what Mr. Engels had to say: 

“The Canadiens have lots of picks at their disposal, and they have an exceptionally deep prospect pool — especially at left defence. They can compete with just about any offer the Predators get for Ekholm, if he becomes available and if they’re willing to trade for him.”

-Eric Engels, Canadiens Mailbag: A top D-man a want, not a need ahead of trade deadline, Sportsnet, 3 Apr 2021

He’s correct; adding a defender, even a high-end one with term remaining such as Ekholm, is something Bergevin can do. Yet, as the title of his piece suggests, adding a top defender isn’t a real need, as the Habs aren’t true Cup Contenders yet. With that said, the time to take that step forward is coming up very soon, especially as the windows of opportunity for team captain Shea Weber and star goaltender Carey Price will be coming to an end in the near future.

Caufield Has Arrived

The Habs 2019 first-round pick, Cole Caufield, has finally signed with the Canadiens. He will begin his pro career with the Laval Rocket this week once he completes his 7-day quarantine. Laval has provided a teaser for fans, showing them that he will wear 44 in his professional debut.

There has been much fanfare for the Canadiens’ top prospect’s arrival, and there are some high expectations, even some expecting him in a scoring role before the end of this season. While the Hobey Baker finalist has lived up to expectations during his amateur career, patience will be key in allowing the 5-foot-7 right winger to adjust to the speed and intensity of the professional game.

Ducharme’s System

Jake Allen has experience in the impact a coaching change can have on a team. He was a member of the St.Louis Blues in the 2018-2019 season when Craig Berube arrived, took over a last-place club, and installed a new system which then led them to a Stanley Cup Championship. Allen spoke about interim head coach Dominique Ducharme’s new system.

Jake Allen Montreal Canadiens
Jake Allen, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

“I think it’s obviously taken some time to buy into a system that Dom’s put into place, I’ve been through coaching changes. It takes a couple of weeks, a month. I think that things are starting to click and everyone’s really buying in. If we can do that consistently we’ll have a good chance to win most nights.”

– Jake Allen, Canadiens Game Day: Coach Dominique Ducharme’s system working for Habs, Stu Cowen, Montreal Gazette, 2 Apr 2021

While the system that is now in place looks highly effective, it can only be as good as the level of execution the players can provide. As seen in the Habs 6-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on 3 April, the system can’t mask a lack of effort or execution. It falls on the coaching staff to find methods to ensure the lineup in place consistently executes that new system to ensure team success.

No More Staal-ing

Newly acquired center Eric Staal has completed his 7-day quarantine and has joined his teammates at the training facility in Brossard, Quebec.

Staal will now be available to suit up as of Monday, 5 April, versus the Edmonton Oilers. The expectations for him are to provide veteran depth support in the Habs’ bottom six. His arrival comes at the perfect time for a lineup that will be playing 22 games in 42 days. Adding a veteran presence to share the workload will be a welcomed sight for a roster that is looking to ensure the best possible seeding prior to a playoff push.

Chiarot Returns to the Ice

Canadiens’ defenceman Ben Chiarot has returned to the ice for conditioning.

While Chiarot is no longer wearing a cast on his hand after breaking it in a fight versus JT Miller of the Vancouver Canucks on 11 March, he has still not fully recovered. The original timeline given was six to eight weeks, which puts his return near the end of the regular season. Any return to play during the regular season has salary cap implications, as his cap hit will make adding the cap hit of any roster player acquired in a trade more difficult. However, if the need for the team is a top-four capable defender, Chiarot’s return would be able to fill that need. 

As the NHL season continues, keep an eye on The Hockey Writers and our new THW Podcast Network for the latest Canadiens news, notes and rumors.

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