Canadiens News and Rumours: Kotkaniemi, Dvorak, & Eichel

For most Montreal Canadiens fans, this week has been a nail-biter. Last week, the Carolina Hurricanes presented an offer sheet to Canadiens young forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who signed it. Canadiens general manager (GM) took the entire seven days to answer. Here is the answer Bergevin gave and the moves that followed.

Canadiens Don’t Match Offer Sheet

With only 15 minutes remaining before the 5:30 p.m. Eastern deadline for the Canadiens to match the Hurricanes’ offer sheet, the organization announced that they would decline to match, and Kotkaniemi would become a member of the Hurricanes. With a price tag of $6.1 million, it was a reasonable choice for the Canadiens to make, and this becomes the first successful offer sheet since Dustin Penner received one in 2007-08.

Jesper Kotkaniemi Montreal Canadiens
Jesper Kotkaniemi with the Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kotkaniemi will now join the Hurricanes for the 2021-22 season, but where he plays in the lineup is anybody’s guess. As of now, the Hurricanes have Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, and Vincent Trocheck playing center. It would be unwise to play a $6.1 million player on the fourth line, so I expect him to play on the wing somewhere in the top nine. It will be interesting to see how he does in Carolina.

Canadiens Acquire Dvorak from Arizona

Minutes after the announcement that they would not match Carolina’s offer for Kotkaniemi was made, and the Canadiens announced they had traded a first-round pick in 2022 and a second-round pick in 2024 to the Arizona Coyotes for center Christian Dvorak. The picks are conditional and top-10 protected, meaning if one of the picks is in the top-10, Montreal will retain that pick. If both are in the top 10, the Habs get the higher of the two picks; if both are not in the top 10 after the lottery, Carolina will get the higher pick.

Christian Dvorak, Arizona Coyotes
New Canadiens center Christian Dvorak with the Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Dvorak brings the Canadiens a solid two-way center that does well on the power play. He had 17 goals and 31 points in 56 games last season and is signed for the next four seasons with an average annual value (AAV) of $4.5 million a season. Dvorak has been on the Canadiens’ radar for almost the entire offseason. They probably would have acquired him whether or not they signed Kotkaniemi, getting him from a position of need and not want forced the Canadiens to overpay for his services probably. Dvorak will also provide the Canadiens with a solid faceoff player; he has a career faceoff percentage of 51.5 percent, but was 52.1 percent last season and over 55 percent the two previous seasons.

OHL Suspends Mailloux Indefinitely

The beleaguered first-round draft pick of the Canadiens has been suspended indefinitely by the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Logan Mailloux is a member of the London Knights and hasn’t played any hockey since he returned from being on loan to Sweden, playing only 19 games in the 2020-21 season. The OHL states the suspension is because he violated the league’s expectation for the appropriate conduct of a player rule.

Mailloux was involved in an incident in Sweden where he took and shared a photo of a woman without her consent. He deeply regrets what he has done and is working with a psychologist. The Canadiens have stated they will also work with him and hopefully make him a better person. They also had suspended him from any participation in all Canadiens training camps. Mailloux can apply for reinstatement into the OHL in January and assess his progress at that time.

Eichel Gets New Agent, Renewed Connection to Canadiens

According to Elliot Friedman in his “31 Thoughts” podcast, Jack Eichel’s new agent Pat Brisson could renew a connection to the Canadiens. The Canadiens had a slight interest in Eichel in the offseason but knew the Buffalo Sabres’ asking price was too high. Now that he has switched agents, the Canadiens could be back running for the disgruntled forward.

Jack Eichel Buffalo Sabres
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Eichel’s new agent, Pat Brisson, is a good friend of Bergevin, and Friedman wonders if this changes things for the Canadiens. Now that they didn’t match the Hurricanes’ offer sheet and acquired Dvorak, the odds are still slim in terms of them getting Eichel, but like Bergevin has said many times, “expect the unexpected.”

After a week of no news at all, the Canadiens dropped all the bombs within 15 minutes of each other. Now that the offer sheet fiasco is all over, the team can get ready for their rookie and training camps. It will be a busy month, and the start of the season is just around the corner.

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