In this week’s Montreal Canadiens News & Rumors rundown, we’ll break down the week that was for the Habs. Josh Anderson has become a hot commodity on the trade market and publication trade boards. Jeff Petry rumors continue to swirl and the focus for the Canadiens is the offseason plan. That and much more below.
Kulak Willing to Return to Montreal
According to Jonathan Bernier of le Journal de Montreal, Brett Kulak is open to rejoining the Canadiens this summer as a free agent. Kulak was quoted as saying (translated from French), “There is certainly a chance that I can return to Montreal. I loved my time there. I was treated with class from day one. It was a special feeling to be part of that organization.”
No pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) would say anything derogatory and cut their chances at a contract offer or at least a bidding war for their services. That being said, Kulak was a good depth fit in the Canadiens lineup.
However, as an Alberta native who grew up an Edmonton Oilers fan, anyone could see the appeal of staying put, especially as the Oilers are a playoff team while Montreal will be looking at another difficult season in 2022-23. Also, Kulak was given more responsibilities and showed he could handle them by saying (translated from French), “I just spoke to the coaches and general manager. I thanked them for giving me a chance here. They gave me more responsibilities than I have ever had in my career.”
The chances Kulak returns to Montreal are low. With several veteran defencemen already under contract to help mentor the young defencemen ready to make the leap to the NHL, a team with a salary cap crunch and another difficult season ahead, his return doesn’t seem to fit into the current plans, but that can always change after the NHL Draft in July.
Canadiens Add a New Assistant Equipment Manager
Francis St-Pierre has joined the Canadiens as their new assistant equipment manager. St-Pierre is no stranger to the Canadiens organization, as he was the assistant equipment manager for the Habs’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliates from 2013 to 2019. After his time in Hamilton, St-John’s and Laval, he joined the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2020 and held that post until taking on his new role in Montreal.
Many might say that this isn’t all that important, however, equipment management is a vital role in a professional locker room. They cater to the exacting needs of a player’s stick care, special sizing and specific skate blade sharpenings among many other things. One look at how the players treated Pierre Gervais this summer when he retired after 35 years as the team’s equipment manager, and you can tell that these people are more than just team support staff, as they become a daily part of the player’s lives and part of the team itself.
Richardson Interviewed by the Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks have received permission from the Canadiens to interview current Habs assistant coach Luke Richardson for the vacant head coaching job in Chicago.
Richardson auditioned himself as a head coach in last year’s playoffs when he stepped up after Dominique Ducharme fell ill with COVID during the Semi-Final series with the Vegas Golden Knights, which the Canadiens won in six games. Martin St. Louis said he was keeping the current assistants (from ‘HockeyIO, Canadiens coach St. Louis goes to bat for assistants | HI/O Bonus,’ Montreal Gazette, 07 May 2022)
during his media availability after signing his new three-year deal. Despite that, the Habs won’t stand in the way of Richardson’s career choices if he decides to take a head coaching job in the NHL. If he was fluently bilingual, perhaps he would have been the one to take over after Ducharme was fired.
Canadiens’ Anderson a Hot Trade Commodity
Josh Anderson is a rare commodity in the NHL, a power forward with speed who can add 20 goals a season. Because of this, several teams are interested in the services of the 6-foot-3 right-winger. This was confirmed by Elliotte Friedman on TSN 1260.
“Yes, I do absolutely think teams were sniffing around there, but I think the problem was the Canadiens were asking a lot,” said Friedman while on the Oilers Now show. “He’s a good player, he’s signed for a while and they’re not just going to give him away.”Elliotte Friedman
This led Bob Stauffer of AM690 to wonder out loud if a trade involving Anderson to the Oilers could be completed if the return to Montreal would be Tyson Barrie, for the salary cap reasons, and possibly a draft pick.
While the Canadiens do need a puck-moving right-handed defenceman to quarterback their power play, for now, Jeff Petry is still on the roster. Also, the concern would be that Barrie’s offensive production would fall off a cliff in Montreal as there are no superstar forwards for him to feed the puck to. The package mentioned wouldn’t likely entice general manager (GM) Kent Hughes enough as the Habs have likely turned down better offers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the demand for Anderson is a first-round pick, a top prospect and a roster player on a short term contract. Barring that type of “offer they can’t refuse” it is unlikely to see Anderson in a different uniform at the start of the 2022-23 season.
Qualities the Canadiens Are Looking For in a Prospect
In a recent question and answer session with the fans, the Canadiens made their co-director of amateur scouting, Nick Bobrov, available for questioning. One fan asked about the qualities they are looking for in the draft this summer, and he responded with,
“We are looking for resiliency and character, hockey sense and a competitive spirit. It’s really important for players and for the Canadiens.”Nick Bobrov
While this doesn’t tell fans if Juraj Slafkovsky or Shane Wright will be their top pick, there are clues as Hughes was asked about the interviews he conducted at the Draft Combine in Buffalo, NY and he spoke about Wright saying: “It gave us a chance to see what kind of person he is. I was very impressed. He is a very mature and intelligent person” (from ‘Pat Hickey, Canadiens GM Kent Hughes ‘very impressed’ with Shane Wright’, Montreal Gazette, May 31, 2022).
This definitely wasn’t a telltale giveaway, but it could be seen as a hint on who they are leaning towards at the draft this July.
Dallas Stars Will be Hunting for Right Defencemen
The Dallas Stars are in an interesting position this summer. They have a solid core of veteran players headlined by an ageless Joe Pavelski and a now-healthy Tyler Seguin, along with a group of core young players such as Miro Heiskanen, Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson. To continue on the path GM Jim Nill has set to return the team to Stanley Cup contender status, they will need to address their blue line.
When asked about John Klingberg and if he will return, Nill stated, “That’s something that we look at. I’ve always been a big lefty-righty guy. Unfortunately, with Stephen Johns, we thought he’d be a part of this but you lose him and his career is over. Klingberg’s been a big part of that and now he’s set for free agency. We know that and we’re looking to address that in the offseason, whether that’s via free agency or trades. That’s something we’re going to look at” (from ‘Saad Yousef, Dallas Stars GM Nill on coach-search mindset, prospects and a balanced system’, The Athletic, Jun 10, 2022).
This has led to speculation that Jeff Petry, whose wife is from Texas, would be a trade target for Nill.
“If the Stars lose Klingberg to free agency, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Montreal pick up the phone and gauge the Stars on Jeff Petry, 34, who has three years left on his deal at a $6.25 million cap hit,”Pierre LeBrun (from ‘Pierre Lebrun, Johnny Gaudreau, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Mikheyev and other pending UFA updates’, The Athletic, June 7, 2022)
Petry does seem to be a good fit for Dallas, as he would fill their need for a right-handed defenceman. His contract is also only for three more seasons, which would allow their prospects time to develop and help them in the playoffs as he has shown in the past with the Canadiens. This is something to watch for on Draft Day as Hughes has stated in the past that he would trade Petry, but only if a deal made sense for the club.
Guhle is Canadiens’ Top Prospect According to Bouillon
On francophone radio in Quebec, 98.5 FM, Canadiens development coach Francis Bouillon was asked about Habs prospect Kaiden Guhle, he said (translated from French), “I was in Edmonton 2-3 weeks ago and was talking with my counterpart Rob Ramage. Kaiden is incredible. The way he plays, he’s a very responsible player, he’s serious about his defensive game. Offensively he is a very complete player. He hasn’t changed his game in the playoffs, he is very steady, very responsible. So for me, I would say he’s the one that has stood out the most.”
Guhle has been a key part of the Edmonton Oil Kings’ run to the Western Hockey League (WHL) Final. He was also a point-per-game player, as a defenceman, during the regular season with Edmonton. In the playoffs, he has continued to produce, 15 points in 18 games, but has also played a physical brand of hockey while playing heavy minutes in all situations.
As the 2022 Stanley Cup Final is about to start, that doesn’t stop the Canadiens from making news or being involved in rumours. 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 rumours.
Blain is a regular contributor as a THW Writer. For over 7 years he has been a part time journalist and podcaster covering the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and its affiliates. He has made appearances on various television and radio stations as well as podcasts to discuss the Canadiens, and the NHL. Blain has taken the lessons on integrity, ethics, values and honesty that he has learned as a 28 year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and applied them to his work as a journalist to guide him in informing his readers and his goal of being a trusted source of information and entertainment.