In this week’s Montreal Canadiens news and rumors rundown, we’ll break down trade rumors, Canadiens roster updates, and much more.
The Canadiens’ top defensive prospect Kaiden Guhle is a serious candidate to be named captain of Team Canada at the upcoming 2022 World Junior Championships. Guhle returns to the program after winning silver in 2021. Losing to Team USA in the gold medal game should be motivation for the young defenceman and his returning teammates, who will try to avenge the defeat to fellow Habs prospect Cole Caufield.
“This guy’s a horse out there, if he’s not in Montreal he will certainly be an important piece of our team and I assume a good chance in being part of our leadership group.”– Allan Millar, director of player personnel for Team Canada
Guhle’s style of play and tough, quiet leadership has been compared to Canadiens captain Shea Weber. Team Canada representatives have made it clear that if Guhle is available to play, he will be one of the team’s leaders.
Filing for Dollars
Goaltender Micheal McNiven has filed for arbitration. After spending the 2019-20 season bouncing around the ECHL all to gain important ice time, he returned in 2020-21 and proved himself capable of backing up the Habs’ top goaltending prospect, Cayden Primeau in the AHL.
McNiven started 13 games in the shortened season, putting up a win-loss-tie record of 7-3-4 with a goals-against average of 2.59 and a save percentage of .895. Last season, he was on a two-way NHL contract that paid him $700,000 at the NHL level and $75,000 in the AHL. He received a qualifying offer that allowed the Canadiens to retain his rights.
McNiven is still set to be Primeau’s backup in 2021-22, but the Laval Rocket now have a new coaching regime under head coach Jean-Francois Houle, and with an expected full 72-game schedule ahead, it will be important for the team to have a strong goaltending tandem. By filing for arbitration, McNiven is trying to earn more on his AHL salary for next season.
Burrows Completes Coaching Staff
Alex Burrows has been signed to a three-year deal and will return to the Canadiens as an assistant coach.
Burrows was promoted from the Rocket mid-season in 2021-22 and took over power-play responsibilities after Kirk Muller was fired. Before his arrival, the Habs’ power play ranked 20th in the NHL with an 18.2% success rate. In the following 38 regular-season games after Burrows took over, the Canadiens scored at a 19.8% rate, which ranked 12th in the NHL. His signature likely completes the coaching staff under Dominque Ducharme.
Tatar Still Homeless
Unrestricted free agent forward Tomas Tatar is still without a contract. The former Canadiens left-winger earned $4.8 million last season and is likely looking for a similar contract with some term from anyone willing to take him on.
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Despite three strong seasons with the Canadiens, when he finished near the top in team scoring, his playoff performances have left something to be desired. In Montreal and with the Vegas Golden Knights, he spent long stretches as a healthy scratch while the teams went on to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Tatar’s reputation of being unreliable in the playoffs is likely holding teams back. That said, he can help a team reach the playoffs with his strong two-way play during the regular season. He may have to settle for a one-year contract for a low dollar amount to prove himself on a contending team or he’ll have to wait for a young rebuilding team in search of solid veterans to sign him. In either case, that won’t be the Canadiens, as it’s almost certain his time in Montreal has come to an end.
The Canadiens have re-signed Artturi Lehkonen on a one-year, $2.3 million contract. The 26-year-old winger had a difficult season offensively and will return at a slightly discounted rate from his previous two-year, $2.4 million deal.
The bonus is that he will still be a restricted free agent at the end of this contract, giving the Canadiens some control in negotiations. Lehkonen, the author of the Game 6 overtime goal versus the Golden Knights that sent the Canadiens to their first Stanley Cup Final in 28 years, will return to provide much-needed defensive support for the Habs’ young centers.
The Human Aspect of Hockey
Carey Price’s wife Angela opened up with a rare inside view of the process that players and their families go through in the offseason and provided more information about how Price and the Habs approached the expansion draft.
“It hurt my heart to read that people thought we wanted out of Montreal.”– Angela Price
The stresses of the Covid-19 restrictions, the expansion draft, dealing with injuries and the fallout from the press and fans had an impact on not just the players but also their families. The blog post by Angela Price offered a rare glimpse of that side of the business and maybe helped to humanize NHL players.
Kotkaniemi’s Father Diagnosed with Cancer
Some sad news has been reported by the Rauman Lukko Liiga hockey club in Finland. Mikael Kotkaniemi, Canadiens centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s father, is taking time off from the Finnish U20 National Team because of a recent cancer diagnosis.
There is no update on the severity of the diagnosis, but we here at The Hockey Writers send all of our best wishes to the Kotkaniemi family and hope for a full and speedy recovery for Mr. Kotkaniemi.
As the NHL offseason begins, keep an eye on The Hockey Writers and our new THW Podcast Network for the latest Canadiens news, notes and rumors.
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 29 year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and applied them to his work as a journalist with the goal to be a trusted source of information and entertainment.