In this week’s Montreal Canadiens news and rumors, Brendan Gallagher signs a long term contract extension to stay with the Habs, Tyler Toffoli speaks to the Montreal media for the first time since inking a four-year deal and Jesperi Kotkaniemi is loaned to the Finnish Liiga for the start of the 2020-21 season.
Plus, goaltender Jake Allen signs a two-year contract extension before even playing a game for the Canadiens, Charles Hudon is already making a name for himself for the Lausanne Hockey Club in Switzerland and the Boston Bruins are showing interest in Karl Alzner.
Brendan Gallagher Will Be a Hab for Life
On Wednesday, the Canadiens made sure that the heart and soul of the team would likely retire a Hab when general manager Marc Bergevin signed Gallagher, who has spent his entire eight-year NHL career in Montreal, to a six-year contract extension that runs through the end of 2026-27 season.
The negotiations were challenging at times and 24 hours before the extension announcement, it was revealed that talks had broken off between the two parties, sending the Habs faithful into a frenzy and the rumor mill into overdrive. Thankfully, the rift was short-lived and Bergevin was able to check off another crucial item from his to-do list.
“Honestly, it’s unbelievable to see the additions we’ve been able to make,” Gallagher said about Bergevin’s offseason acquisitions. “So when I’m sitting there and you’re thinking about where you want to be and you add those pieces on top of what we had as a group and what we were building… You talk about the young centermen coming up. It’s pretty exciting right now for anyone around the Montreal Canadiens organization.”
Let’s face it, Bergevin was never going to put in all this work to make the team better only to lose Gallagher, the engine that makes everything go. Some will say that the six-year term is too long for a player who sacrifices his body the way Gallagher does, but it’s nearly impossible to attach a numerical value to everything he brings both on and off the ice. He’s that important to the organization and the Montreal community. Just ask Bergevin who got emotional several times while speaking to the media about the impact of no.11.
Gallagher even received a congratulatory message from Joe Mixon, running back for his beloved Cincinnati Bengals. WHO DEY indeed!
Tyler Toffoli Introduces Himself to Montreal
Before signing Gallagher, Bergevin was able to attract one of the top free agents to Montreal in Toffoli.
The 28-year-old winger, who scored 24 goals and 44 points with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks this season, said he’s impressed with the moves the Canadiens have made in the offseason. He’s also excited about the prospect of lining up next to one of the Habs’ top three centremen in Phillip Danault, Kotkaniemi or Nick Suzuki.
“I think I’ll fit in great with any of them. The skill they all showed, especially throughout the playoffs, was impressive. And that was definitely one of the deciding factors of why I wanted to be in Montreal, because I would have the opportunity to be playing with one of those guys,” Toffoli explained.
Toffoli is a great addition to the Canadiens’ forward group and will bring some much-needed scoring while also helping their woeful power play.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi is Loaned to HC Ässät Pori Oy
The Canadiens announced Friday that Jesperi Kotkaniemi has been loaned to HC Ässät Pori Oy in the Finnish Liiga for the start of the 2020-21 season. He is expected to training camp for the start of the new NHL season.
The native of Pori, Finland struggled during his sophomore campaign with the Habs, but rebounded nicely in the postseason, scoring four goals in 10 games while in the Toronto bubble.
Kotkaniemi is expected to make his debut for Ässät next weekend. The extra playing time will be beneficial for him as he looks to build on his impressive playoffs and carry the momentum into 2020-21 with the Canadiens.
Jake Allen Signs an Extension
Bergevin also signed his new backup goalie to a two-year extension this week even before Allen suited up for his first game with the Canadiens.
Allen is now eligible to be exposed in the upcoming expansion draft. Although the Canadiens would probably rather not lose him to the Seattle Kraken, Allen’s new contract with an average annual value of $2.875 million could make him an attractive option. Not to mention that he’s a reliable, veteran netminder.
If Allen isn’t selected, it gives Cayden Primeau, Montreal’s best goaltending prospect, more time to develop his game in the AHL with the Laval Rocket before eventually becoming Carey Price’s backup. It will also give the Canadiens arguably the goaltending duo in the league for two more years.
Charles Hudon Starts Strong in Lausanne
Hudon signed a deal with the Lausanne Hockey Club earlier this week and put up a goal and an assist in his first game in the Swiss League on Friday, helping Lausanne to a 3-0 win over Zug.
Although Hudon will be spending the season in Switzerland, his NHL rights still belong to the Canadiens since the restricted free agent received a qualifying offer from the team. He could return to Montreal after his season in Lausanne.
This a fresh start for Hudon who has scored 41 points in 125 career games with the Habs but who has been unable to establish himself as a full-time NHL player despite scoring 27 goals in 46 games with the Rocket last year. He already seems to be making the most of the new opportunity.
Karl Alzner to the Bruins?
Joe Haggerty of Boston Hockey Now cites a couple of sources who say that the Boston Bruins might be interested in former Hab Karl Alzner as a depth defenseman for the upcoming season.
The Bruins lost Torey Krug to the St. Louis Blues during free agency and are unsure if Zdeno Chara will return for the 2020-21 campaign, so it makes sense that they are looking to add bodies to their blue line. Alzner is a natural leader and he could serve as a mentor to their young defenders like Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.
Alzner had his contract bought out by Canadiens earlier in the offseason, putting an end to a difficult tenure in Montreal. Still, it would be weird to see him lineup with the Habs’ archrivals.
What’s Next for the Canadiens
It has been an eventful offseason for the Habs, to say the least. Bergevin deserves a ton of credit for the moves he has made and he’s getting it from many people around the league. He saw opportunities to use his leverage in the NHL’s new flat cap reality and took advantage of them. Now it’s up to the players perform on the ice because, on paper, their GM has put together the best Canadiens team that Montreal has seen in a decade or more.
It’s no wonder that the fans, and even owner Geoff Molson, can’t wait for the season to start.
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.