This week’s edition of Montreal Canadiens news and rumors is dedicated to the start of free agency and all the latest speculation surrounding the Habs as the NHL’s shopping season gets underway.
It’s no secret that the Canadiens are tight against the salary cap, as evidenced by the decision to not issue a qualifying offer to versatile forward Rem Pitlick and making him an unrestricted free agent, so they aren’t expected to be active on the free agent market. But there are still plenty of rumors swirling, especially on the trade front as the Habs try to clear out some contracts to give themselves more flexibility going forward. Here’s what’s percolating as the clock is about to strike noon on Wednesday.
Hurricanes Interested in Petry
The Carolina Hurricanes need to replace Tony DeAngelo after he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, and it appears they have kicked tires on Jeff Petry and Brent Burns. They join the Dallas Stars, Detroit Wings, and others who have expressed an interest in the 34-year-old defenseman.
Petry and the Hurricanes would be a good match because his game suits the up-tempo style Carolina plays, and he would slot perfectly behind Brett Pesce on the right side of the second pairing. He can also give their power play a boost. The Canes also have some intriguing future assets that would be of interest to the Habs in a potential trade.
A Possible Kulak Return?
Following the draft-day deal that sent Alexander Romanov to the New York Islanders, the Canadiens are awfully thin on defense with just three players remaining who have any considerable NHL experience: Petry, Joel Edmundson, and David Savard.
Related: 2022 NHL Free Agent Signing Tracker
If Montreal is going to dip its toes into the free agency pool, it will likely be to sign a veteran defenseman who can help bridge the gap until some of their top prospects are ready for regular NHL duty. François Gagnon evoked the possibility that Brett Kulak might return to the Habs to fill this important role. The 28-year-old was moved to the Edmonton Oilers at the Trade Deadline and performed very well for his hometown team in the playoffs.
He was unable to strike a new deal with the Oilers and will have plenty of suitors on the open market but has expressed a desire to return to Montreal where he played for the past four seasons. Engels and Gagnon also mention Justin Braun, Nick Leddy, Colin Miller, and Anton Stralman as other potential free agent options.
Habs Pursuing Dubois?
Martin Leclerc, a journalist for Radio-Canada, dropped a bit of a bomb on the eve of free agency, indicating that, according to his sources, the Canadiens are working with the Winnipeg Jets on a trade for Pierre-Luc Dubois. He said that a deal almost came to fruition at the draft, but the talks have continued.
As with everything this time of year, rumors like this are to be taken with a big grain of salt. It’s well-known that Dubois would like to play for the Habs and the interest is mutual to a certain extent, but now might not be the right time to complete this transaction, especially if he plans on hitting free agency in two years anyway. Montreal can sign him when they have more cap room and won’t have to give up any assets. Nevertheless, it’s something to keep an eye on. On Monday, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports mentioned during a radio interview that he believes the Habs agreed to a trade that will be announced over the next few days and that a few moves are probably on the horizon.
Colin White, one of general manager Kent Hughes’ former clients during his days as an agent, is a more plausible addition to provide center depth via free agency if that’s something the Canadiens are looking to accomplish.
Could Scotty Bowman Join Habs’ Coaching Staff?
On the eve of free agency, legendary coach Scotty Bowman announced via his Twitter page that he is no longer working for the Chicago Blackhawks, becoming the newest free agent coach. Bowman served as an advisor in Chicago’s front office.
Bowman wants to stay involved in the game and could be the perfect candidate to mentor Martin St. Louis behind the Canadiens’ bench. The Habs are looking for a new assistant coach following the departure of Luke Richardson.
Bowman was the head coach of the Canadiens during the franchise’s dynasty years in the 1970s and won five Stanley Cups in Montreal.
Pezzetta and Schueneman Re-Sign
Pezzetta earned himself a one-way contract after putting up 11 points in 51 games with the Habs this past season. He’s a character player who makes for a perfect 13th forward option. Meanwhile, Schueneman’s contract is a two-way deal and he’ll battle for a place on Montreal’s third pairing during training camp after a strong showing during his first NHL games when he was called up last year.
The Canadiens still have five restricted agents to sign after issuing qualifying offers to the newly acquired Kirby Dach, Samuel Montembeault, Cayden Primeau, Nate Schnarr, and Joël Teasdale.
While it might be a quiet day on the free agency front on Wednesday for the Habs, Hughes will continue to work the phones and it will be busy on the ice at the team’s practice facility in Brossard as development camp continues. All of Montreal’s top prospects are in attendance, including this year’s first-overall pick, Juraj Slafkovsky.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.