Canadiens Mailbag: Preseason Edition

The Montreal Canadiens start the season this week against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even though the two teams are going in totally different directions, it will still be an exciting opener. So far, during the preseason, there has been a lot of talk about which players will or won’t make the team, who will be traded and what to expect this season. The Hockey Writers has some of the answers to your questions in the preseason mailbag.

Do You Think Allen Is the Man, or Are We in Need of Another Goaltender?

Lionel Starnes, Facebook

The Canadiens will be without Carey Price this season, and he probably won’t be back for the rest of his career. Montreal does have a few goalies in their system that look like they will be NHLers in the future, but for now, they are not ready to take that step. Cayden Primeau is the closest, and he still needs an entire season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Laval Rocket before it can be determined whether he can play regularly in the NHL. Jakub Dobes and Fredrik Dichow are playing in the NCAA, and Swedish Hockey League (SHL), respectively, and are two or maybe three seasons away from sniffing the NHL. So without Price or an heir apparent coming anytime soon, the Habs have minimal options.

Jake Allen Montreal Canadiens
Jake Allen, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jake Allen would have been a free agent at the end of the season, but the Canadiens decided to re-sign him to a two-year contract extension worth $3.85 million. This tells me that general manager (GM) Kent Hughes is either waiting for his young goalies to be ready or feels he can acquire a better goalie in a couple of years as opposed to now – free agent (FA) goalies for next season are pretty thin. So yes, Allen will be the man for the next couple of seasons, which is okay because the Habs are not looking to win much in that time, and as they get better, he is good enough to keep them in games and keep them competitive over the next few seasons.

If We Can’t Make a Trade to Reduce Roster Size, Do You See Slafkovsky Being Sent to Laval or Putting Someone Like Hoffman on Waivers?

Ben Seney, Facebook

The Canadiens have quite a few forwards signed this season, 16 in total, so getting a young player on the roster will be difficult without making some moves. The question is, what type of move do you make? Hughes will want to make a trade to clear up roster space and acquire assets. He will not want to give up one, which could make a trade more complex depending on the player he intends to move. Juraj Slafkovsky will probably make the team: he had a slow start to the preseason but got stronger every game he played, which means he will need to be one of the 14 forwards that should make the team this season.

Juraj Slafkovsky Montreal Canadiens 2022 Draft
Juraj Slafkovsky, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

So what happens to the other two forwards? Michael Pezzetta will probably be the one that gets waived to go to the Laval and that will take care of one player. Hughes has been looking to make another move before the season starts for a few weeks now and could still make a trade, but time is running out if he wants to do it before the season begins. I don’t see a veteran like Mike Hoffman getting waived, but with Sean Monahan and Jonathan Drouin more than likely coming off injured reserve (IR) when the season starts, they still need one space to free up for Slafkovsky.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Canadiens’ 2022-23 Training Camp

Fortunately, the Habs have several players injured who could miss the start of the season, Joel Armia and Hoffman being among them. If they miss a few games, this will give coach Martin St. Louis a chance to see how well Slafkovsky can handle real NHL games, and then he and Hughes will have to decide what to do as players come back from injury.

What Do You Think Caufield & Beck’s Ceilings Are?


Cole Caufield is the closest player the Canadiens have to a bonafide superstar. He scored 23 goals in his rookie year last season and got all but one of them in the last 37 games. If he plays the same under St. Louis this season as he did last season, mathematically, he will be a 50-goal scorer, but let’s not get too excited because we all know he probably won’t keep the same pace for the entire season. I would say his ceiling is 45-50 goals, but I expect him to gradually get there and not hit that this season – or maybe not! but 40-45 is realistic for his future. He will be an annual 30-goal scorer, and I expect 30 or more goals this season, with a lot coming on the power play (PP).

Cole Caufield Montreal Canadiens
Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Canadiens drafted Owen Beck in the 2022 Draft, 33rd overall and signed him to an entry-level contract; he led the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in faceoff percentage and is a highly skilled and talented center. He is a powerful skater who uses his speed to create plays and set up his teammates all over the offensive zone. Beck had a great preseason with the Habs, hitting the post three times and was one of the top faceoff men for the team. However, his age and size are why he was sent back to the OHL for this season, but don’t expect him to be there after that, he is talented enough to be in Laval this year after his junior season is over. His ceiling will be high, but I’ll play it safe and say he will be an excellent second-line center with tremendous first-line skill.

What Will Carey Price’s Next Role Be With the Canadiens, or Does He Ride Off Into the Sunset?


This is going to be a quick, simple answer: Price is more than likely done for his career, and he will still be involved with the team for the next few seasons but just as an injured player. After his career, he will probably become an ambassador for the Canadiens, but that will likely be it. I don’t see him taking on any other role with the organization, so I guess you can say he will ride off into the sunset.

What’s Worse in the Habs Organization: Scouting or Player Development?


With the new management taking over, I don’t think scouting or development is an issue anymore. Still, under the old GM Marc Bergevin, I believe that player development was the issue, not scouting. They didn’t seem to know what to do with their draft picks and either rushed them to the NHL too fast or left them in the minors too long.

Well, there you go. Sorry, I didn’t get everyone’s questions in, but I’ll try to get more in another time. I hope I answered them satisfactorily. Enjoy the upcoming season and remember, it’s a rebuild, so be patient, and good things will come.