In this edition of the Montreal Canadiens News & Rumors, the Canadiens cut ties with a defenseman. General manager (GM) Kent Hughes has his work cut out for him as the rebuild continues. The return of Alex Newhook brings some rare, good news to Montreal; rumors still swirl around the availability of veterans and the search for more offense.
Injuries and lack of depth continue to plague the team, causing Montreal to begin their slide away from the final playoff spot. This will lead to inconsistent play for the remainder of the season but also cause management to make some hard decisions as the trade deadline approaches for keeping the remaining veterans or trading them off for more futures.
Canadiens Welcome Newhook Back!
Alex Newhook is returning to the lineup against the Dallas Stars. Newhook has been out since early December 2023 following a high ankle sprain he suffered in a game against the Florida Panthers. He fell and slid feet-first into the side of the net at top speed, with his left leg twisting awkwardly as he collided. The 22-year-old had scored seven goals and 13 points in 23 games this season and prior to his injury when he was ranked fourth among Canadiens skaters.
His return comes at an opportune time, as the club needs help at center after trading Sean Monahan and being without Kirby Dach and Christian Dvorak, who are out for the season with injuries. While Newhook is better suited to play wing, his ability to play center will help take some offensive responsibilities away from Suzuki and allow for Jake Evans to slide back into a bottom-six role where he will be more effective.
Jordan Harris On the Block
Sportsnet has added a name to their trade bait board that could come as a surprise to some Canadiens fans: Jordan Harris.
With the return of Arber Xhekaj and the emergence of Jayden Struble, the already crowded Canadiens blueline has become even more so. Add in the possibility of the signing of offensive defenseman Lane Hutson to the laundry list of left-handed defenders, and it is clear that not all of these young defenders will be able to reach their potential playing in Montreal, as there is simply not enough ice time or roster spots to keep them all.
The list has the Calgary Flames looking at adding Harris. His reliable defensive play, his ability to transition play quickly, and his very reasonable $1.4 million against the cap next season make him a valuable commodity on the open market. While on his own, he could fetch the Canadiens a decent return, his value would be more useful if added into a package to allow Hughes to fill a need in Montreal by adding an offensively gifted young forward.
Canadiens Aren’t Shopping David Savard
NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun has stated that the Canadiens are listening to offers on David Savard, but they aren’t actively bringing up his name in trade discussions.
“The reality is: I don’t believe that the Montreal Canadiens want to trade David Savard. I think they value him for all kinds of reasons within the organization. But, they are a retooling team and they’re on listening-mode on a lot of players. So, if someone really sends them an offer that makes them really think, then yeah, he could be dealt.”– Pierre LeBrun
NHL teams all require veteran players for mentorship. The Canadiens would like to do that with Savard. The 33-year-old right-handed defenseman has 13 years of experience in the NHL, has extensive playoff experience, and has won a Stanley Cup. Currently, he is signed to a reasonable contract earning him $3.5 million through next season. However, at the trade deadline, that amount of cap space is not easy to find, so the chances are that Hughes would need to use this season’s final cap retention slot on him if he were to trade him. That isn’t highly likely, but if a team offers a first-round pick for Savard, he would most likely be dealt away immediately, but it is unlikely if that offer comes before the March 8th deadline.
Montreal Could Make “A Significant Addition”
Frank Serevalli reports that Trevor Zegras is available on the trade block and there is no doubt that Canadiens fans would like to see Hughes add a skilled player with some flash like Zegras. With Montreal already having solid two-way forwards like Nick Suzuki and a young blueline led by Kaiden Guhle, there may be room to add a skilled offensive talent to a lineup who can be surrounded by players who can cover for defensive lapses. Montreal received a 2024 first-round pick from the Winnipeg Jets in the Monahan trade. They also have an additional first-rounder in the 2025 draft from the Flames in the Tyler Toffoli trade. With a large pool of prospects and draft picks, the Canadiens possess the leverage necessary to make a substantial roster upgrade.
At only 22 years old, Zegras fits with the Canadiens’ core group’s age, he is also a former teammate and close friend of top-line winger Cole Caufield as well. He has impressive offensive skills and with a contract paying him $5.75 million until 2026, is on a reasonable bridge contract that can buy Hughes time to balance the team’s cap structure. While Zegras has the offensive skill the team needs, he will need time to round out his game to become defensively responsible enough to be a key piece on a contending team. However, the Canadiens and their core have a few years before that time comes, which would provide him the time to reach that stage and do so at the same time as the rest of the young players on the Habs’ roster.
But if Zegras truly is available for trade, Montreal would not be the only team interested. Also, the price would be very high, possibly even as high as a top 10 pick. While Montreal does have that asset, is that something Hughes would entertain? Is the option of two mid-level first-round picks and prospects enough to have Ducks GM Pat Verbeek make that type of deal?
Going into the 2024 Trade deadline, Hughes still has the assets contenders need, such as a solid goaltender and veteran defensemen. He is known as a GM who sets a price for his players and won’t make a transaction unless that price is met. The next few weeks will be an important one for the Canadiens. With the NHL playoffs progressing and the NHL Draft fast approaching, the Canadiens’ roster will be facing significant change over the offseason. Keep an eye on our THW Podcast Network for all your hockey needs, as well as THW’s affiliated podcast, Habs Unfiltered, for the latest Canadiens news, notes, and rumors.