Canadiens News & Rumors: Hughes, Monahan, Slafkovsky, More

In this edition of Montreal Canadiens news and rumors, recapping a quiet trade deadline for general manager Kent Hughes, an update on Sean Monahan’s health status, the Laval Rocket will get some reinforcements if they qualify for the American Hockey League playoffs and a look at what’s ahead in the coming weeks.

A Quiet Trade Deadline

Hughes met the media on Friday somewhat disappointed with the work he had managed to accomplish leading up to the trade deadline. He completed three deals during this year’s frenzy, most notably acquiring Denis Gurianov from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Evgenii Dadonov. However, injuries and other factors out of his control prevented him from moving his other pending unrestricted free agents: Jonathan Drouin and Sean Monahan.

Kent Hughes, Montreal Canadiens GM
Kent Hughes, Montreal Canadiens general manager (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

After weeks of speculation, Joel Edmundson also wasn’t traded because the offers just weren’t there and overall, Hughes just couldn’t find deals that would have helped advance the rebuild. He was never going to give away his veteran defenceman just for the sake of making a trade and there are still opportunities to move Edmundson over the next year if he can remain healthier than he was during the 2022-23 campaign.

While these past few weeks can be viewed as a failure, they also proved that Hughes’ challenge of trying to trade damaged assets with diminishing value was indeed an impossible task. The lack of activity sets up what promises to be an even busier offseason than initially anticipated.

Monahan’s Health

Ongoing injury issues made Monahan, the Habs’ best trade chip, impossible to move ahead of the deadline and it’s not certain he’ll be able to play again this season. Hughes indicated that the 28-year-old centreman suffered a second injury while rehabbing the foot ailment that has kept him out of the lineup since Dec. 5. It’s not the same injury, but it is taking considerable time to heal.

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While a decision about his future in Montreal has yet to be made, don’t be surprised if Monahan is brought back on a one-year contract and he once again becomes the Canadiens’ prime trade candidate in 2024. His impact on the team over a short period was significant and they could use his presence as the roster transformation progresses. The good news is that no matter what happens this summer, Monahan has already given the Habs a first-round pick.

Playoff Reinforcements for Laval

The Laval Rocket are in the midst of a tight playoff race in the AHL and if they earn a postseason berth, they’ll get some extra help in the form of Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Jesse Ylönen. Both players were sent down to Laval through paper transactions ahead of the trade deadline making them eligible to suit up for the Rocket in the playoffs. Both players were immediately recalled by the Canadiens, giving them two more permitted regular call-ups from now until the end of the regular season.

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During his post-trade deadline press conference, Hughes explained that Justin Barron would have also been papered to Laval had he not been injured during last week’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. Meanwhile, Alex Belzile and Rem Pitlick would have required waivers before being sent down which means they also won’t be permitted to return to the Rocket for the postseason.

Newcomer Frédéric Allard, who was acquired from the Kings on Friday, was recalled on an emergency basis to face the Vegas Golden Knights on Mar. 5 after Kaiden Guhle was injured against the Anaheim Ducks.

Looking Ahead

In addition to discussing the trade deadline, Hughes also offered a glimpse at what’s on the horizon for the Habs in the coming weeks and months.

Despite his struggles with Dallas this season, the plan is to keep Gurianov, a pending restricted free agent, beyond this year. The hope is that a fresh start in Montreal will help him rediscover the form that propelled him to a 20-goal season in 2019-20. His first goal as a Hab was certainly an impressive one.

Denis Gurianov Montreal Canadiens
Denis Gurianov, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The general manager also indicated that Juraj Slafkovsky, who has been sidelined with a lower-body injury since January, will not represent Slovakia at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in May and will instead focus on being healthy for training camp in September. With their injury luck lately, management wanted to be extra careful with their no. overall pick.

With the trade deadline now in the rearview mirror, the focus for Hughes and company now shifts to the 2023 NHL Entry Draft in Nashville where the Canadiens will have 11 picks, including two first-round selections. Members of the Habs’ brass will be attending the U18 IIHF World Championship in Switzerland next month and Hughes already made several scouting trips this season.

On the ice, the Canadiens wrapped up their four-game Western Conference road trip on Mar. 5 with a 1-3 record following a loss to the Golden Knights. They return to the Bell Centre this week for a four-game homestand beginning Mar. 7 against Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the Carolina Hurricanes.