In this edition of the Montreal Canadiens News & Rumors rundown, the Canadiens make a trade to bolster their defense in the minor leagues. They also have players building themselves reputations and raising their value prior to contract extension talks. Finally, Carey Price addresses the media and makes a declaration about his intentions for the future.
Carey Price Not Retiring
Carey Price finally sat in front of the microphone and answered lingering questions about his intentions for the future. It wasn’t good news.
My rehab hasn’t been successful so far; I’ve talked to several people who have had this type of injury. It has taken over a year for them to feel normal. I’m still holding up hope. There’s a possibility I go for another injection. That surgery is a little bit worrisome for me.– Carey Price
It is likely that Price, who is still not even pain-free in his daily life, will never play NHL hockey again, and that is a painful realization for Canadiens fans. This has set off discussions on his legacy. Will he enter the Hockey Hall of Fame (in my opinion, absolutely), and should the Canadiens retire his No. 31?
Cap-wise, the Canadiens will be fine. Price is now, and will be for the remainder of his contract, on long-term injury reserve (LTIR) allowing the Habs to spend over the cap ceiling to the amount of his $10.5 million cap hit. Granted there are some hoops and loopholes that the Canadiens will need to go through to gain the full advantage, but with an experienced salary cap manager in John Sedgewick, they will be well-managed in that respect.
Canadiens Well Represented at World Juniors
Looking ahead to the upcoming 2023 World Junior Championship being held in Halifax, NS, and Moncton, NB all indications point to the Canadiens being very well-represented this December.
Team Canada could ice returnees in Joshua Roy and Riley Kidney, then add the services of newly signed center, Owen Beck. Roy was a key player in the top nine for the 2022 games that saw Canada win a gold medal. Kidney was the 13th forward, but his experience and improvements from last season could see him crack the regular rotation this time around. Whereas Beck has simply been lighting up the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) while leading the Mississauga Steelheads in points and in faceoff wins while playing the role of top-line center. There is also Logan Mailloux who is making a case for himself as a top option on the right side of the blue line. While he is nearly a point per game from the point, he still has work to do tightening up defensively.
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Team USA has the option of bringing on Lane Hutson. With eight points in seven games so far this season for Boston University, he has become their top offensive defenseman, and he is only a freshman. Filip Mesar, the second Canadiens first-round selection in 2022 is a lock for Team Slovakia. He has played professionally in Europe, internationally for Slovakia and so far, this season has dominated the OHL at a goal per game and is over two points per game so far this season. The Canadiens’ prospect pool has rarely seen the quantity and quality that is being seen this season, but with time and proper development, the Habs’ future does look promising.
Canadiens Need to Sign Caufield to Extension
According to Elliotte Friedman in a recent 32 Thoughts blog, the Canadiens are deciding on what a long-term contract could look like for Cole Caufield, but for now, formal talks haven’t begun. There are no easy decisions in this situation. Obviously, the Canadiens would likely prefer an eight-year deal at a cap hit below Nick Suzuki’s $7.875 million salary. The question is, will Caufield accept that?
The expectation is that the salary cap will rise by $4 million next season, and that could impact negotiations. Since Martin St. Louis arrived as the Canadiens’ head coach in February of 2022, Caufield has been scoring at nearly a 60-goal pace over an 82-game season, putting him among the top goal-scorers in the NHL. Goal scoring is a rare and important skill set and because of that, an expensive one to keep around.
The issue now, will Caufield choose to have a shorter deal so as to cash in on a second deal during his prime years, as he enters unrestricted free agency eligibility, or will he choose instead to commit long term to what general manager (GM) Kent Hughes is building in Montreal? One recent deal that could be used as a comparable is that of
Jason Robertson‘s four-year, $7.75 million deal.
Canadiens Shop Local
Hughes continues to add mobile puck-moving defenders to the Canadiens’ stable with the addition of Quebec-born Nicolas Beaudin. The Canadiens did need to add someone who could help their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, Laval Rocket.
Beaudin, a former first-round pick, was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for center Cam Hillis. Hillis had been relegated to the ECHL Trois-Rivieres Lions due to the depth at forward, so with this move, at least he will be given an opportunity to play in the AHL and try to earn an NHL job with the Blackhawks.
Xhekaj Builds a Reputation
Arber Xhekaj’s, nicknamed WIFI, arrival to the NHL wasn’t expected to be as impactful as it has so far this season. In one of Elliotte Friedman’s 32 Thoughts, he asked a former player about Xhekaj who said “how Xhekaj smartly realized Kassian was adjusting his elbow pads, pouncing on the veteran’s mistake of taking his eye off an opponent. That ex-player added every NHLer would notice Xhekaj is not just tough, but also very perceptive.” In Montreal, WIFI drops you. Xhekaj is more than just a set of fists and intimidation, he has proven himself to be a mobile defender with a good point shot and an ability to clear the defensive zone.
As the Canadiens continue to surprise early in the 2022-23 season, it 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.