Canadiens News & Rumors: Byron, Waivers & More

In this edition of the Montreal Canadiens News & Rumors rundown, the Canadiens make a claim on the waiver wire to bolster their inexperienced defense. The Canadiens announce they’re still hunting to deal for a first-round pick. Rumors surfaced of a missed trade opportunity with the Carolina Hurricanes. Meanwhile, the roster is still not completed, and the final cuts will be announced in the next few days.

Canadiens Still Looking for More Draft Picks

In an interview with The Athletic, Canadiens general manager (GM) Kent Hughes was open about his plans to continue to add draft picks. For a team in a rebuild, it should come as no surprise that includes a desire for another first-round selection in the 2023 Entry Draft, which is considered to be one that could provide quality picks later in the first round.

“We’ll make moves here. We could do it in October, we could do it in January, we’ll do it at the trade deadline, but we’ll make moves, generally speaking, and those moves are going to be to acquire either prospects or picks again. We have two first-round picks. In a perfect world, we end up with three first-round picks. And then we use that collateral to see what we can do in terms of moving up to have higher picks or whatever, depending on what we see at the draft” – Kent Hughes (from ‘Marc Antoine Godin, Canadiens’ GM Kent Hughes chose development instead of tanking, and the strategy is timely’, The Athletic, 10/7/22).

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

With several soon-to-be unrestricted free agents (UFA), there will certainly be a few transactions. However, some of these UFAs, such as Jonathan Drouin and Evgeny Dadonov will need to be placed in positions to succeed, which will in turn provide the value Hughes desires.

Canadiens Missed a Golden Opportunity

According to Pierre LeBrun on RDS the Carolina Hurricanes tried to trade for Jesperi Kotkaniemi before signing the former third-overall pick to an offer sheet. In those negotiations, former GM Marc Bergevin tried to acquire Seth Jarvis in return. That turned out to be something Don Waddell refused to do. His 17-goal rookie season proved Waddell right to be gun shy on pulling the trigger on that deal.

Related: 3 Takeaways from Canadiens 2022-23 Training Camp

While it is only speculation by this author at this point, there is still a lot of ground between Jarvis and the return of the offer sheet provided (a 2023 first-round and second-round pick). Could Bergevin have been able to convince Waddell to part with a young center like Ryan Suzuki, brother of team captain Nick Suzuki? It will now undoubtedly become another topic of heated discussion on social media.

Final Roster Taking Shape

Sunday, the Canadiens cut two defencemen from camp. With Joel Edmundson still out injured for now and Madison Bowie and Corey Schueneman on waivers, it seems very likely that Kaiden Guhle, who had a very strong camp, has earned a roster spot.

If that blue line does take shape, it will remain one that lacks experience and will need to focus on its strengths to be effective. It may also force Hughes to make a trade to ensure that he does provide the team and its fans with competitive games this season.

Pierre McGuire Thinks the Canadiens Have a Future Star

In his return to the radio airwaves in Montreal, Pierre McGuire joined TSN 690 radio to talk about the Canadiens’ camp.

Juraj Slafkovský is a star in the making.

– Pierre McGuire

That is something that Canadiens fans are hoping to see materialize. Yet for now, the 2022 first-overall pick will need to continue to work on his game. While Slafkovsky didn’t dominate at training camp as some fans had hoped for, he did meet the expectations of his head coach, Martin St. Louis. “I find that he played two very good games. He was involved in the play and looked comfortable on the ice. I am really happy with his performances to end this camp.”

If the Canadiens hope for McGuire’s prediction to become reality, they will need to play the long game. That is, to ensure Slafkovsky is placed in a position to develop his skills in a role that he is expected to fill. If he begins the NHL season on the roster, he will need to be in a top-nine role with time on the power play. If he doesn’t earn the right to remain there, he will need to be sent to the American Hockey League (AHL) to play on the top line with the Laval Rocket until his game grows enough to be a top-six threat in the NHL.

Byron Dealing with Injury Issues

According to Marc Antoine Godin of The Athletic, Paul Byron is currently dealing with ongoing problems in his left hip, which could see him placed on long-term injury reserve (LTIR) (from ‘For Canadiens’ Paul Byron, LTIR is becoming a real possibility’, The Athletic, 10/5/22).

Paul Byron Montreal Canadiens
Paul Byron, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This lingering injury could mean that Byron could have played his last game in the NHL. For now however, once he is placed on LTIR, it means his cap hit of $3.4 million will be added to Carey Price’s $10.5 million as LTIR cap space.

Canadiens Make a Waiver Claim

The Canadiens used their priority position in the waiver draft and placed a claim, as they acquired Johnathan Kovacevic off the waiver wire from the Winnipeg Jets. Kovacevic is a 6-foot-4 mobile, right-shot defenseman who can handle a physical style. He played in four games with the Jets last season recording zero points. In 62 games with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, he had 11 goals and 19 assists.

Kovacevic’s style of play fits with Hughes’ preferred style of blueliner This may also point to them thinking that Justin Barron needs more time in AHL before he can handle a full-time NHL role. The 25-year-old defender may be ready to make the leap from the AHL to the NHL, but he shouldn’t be expected to fill more than a third-pairing role at this point in his development.

While the claim for Kovacevic seemed to be a surprise to most, in looking at his path to the professional game, it becomes much clearer as to why Hughes chose to claim this particular defenseman. He is likely very familiar to Hughes, having played college hockey in the Boston area for Merrimack College. Because of this, it makes sense that this particular player was on his list as a target of opportunity on the waiver wire.

With training camp now complete, the regular season is fast approaching. This means that there will be more news to keep up with so keep an eye on THW’s coverage of the Montreal Canadiens for all your hockey needs. This includes THW’s affiliated podcast Habs Unfiltered for the latest Canadiens news, notes, and rumors.

Sign up for our regular 'Habs Newsletter' for all the latest.

Latest News & Highlights