The Montreal Canadiens are preparing for the upcoming season and have almost all of their ducks in a row. Now that the status of Carey Price is clear and they can use his salary as cap relief when they put him on long-term injury reserve (LTIR), they have a little more wiggle room to make signings if need be. Roster players that need a contract are newly acquired Kirby Dach and goaltending prospect Cayden Primeau. They also have a significant hole on the right side of the defence – by hole, I mean lack of depth with only four NHL-ready right-handed defencemen. Here is a look at what the Canadiens have done this week and how they might be able to start filling in that hole.
Rangers’ Lundkvist Wants Trade
Young prospect defenseman Nils Lundkvist of the New York Rangers has reportedly asked for a trade (From “Rangers trying to Trade Frustrated Nils Lundkvist”, The New York Post, 1/9/22) and may not report to camp if one is not made. He is a right-handed defenseman who likes to join the rush and has excellent mobility; at 22 years old, he played 25 games and scored four points for the Rangers last season. Drafted in the first round, 28th overall in the 2018 Draft, he is an outstanding puck-moving defenceman who is predicted to play in the top four once he develops. With Adam Fox, new captain Jacob Trouba and Braden Schneider on the right side, there is little room for Lundkvist to crack the full lineup unless he switches to the left side, where he would be buried behind K’Andre Miller and Ryan Lindgren.
The Canadiens need young, puck-moving right-handed defencemen. Lundkvist fits the bill perfectly and can rotate the workload with another young defenceman, Justin Barron, who was acquired last trade deadline from the Colorado Avalanche. The Habs are heavy on the left side, especially with younger defencemen in Kayden Guhle, Arber Xhekaj and Jordan Harris, not to mention veterans Joel Edmundson and Mike Matheson. He is also signed until 2024-25 for under $1 million on his entry-level contract (ELC) and will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of his current deal; this would give Montreal some control for the next several years if they were able to acquire him.
Canadiens Close to a Contract With Dach
The Canadiens made a big splash at the NHL Draft this summer when they traded beloved defenceman Alexander Romanov to the New York Islanders for the 13th overall pick. They then flipped that pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for Dach, shocking fans at the Bell Center for the second time in a matter of minutes; they started surprising the crowd earlier by drafting Juraj Slafkovsky over the much anticipated Shane Wright. Dach is an RFA who had yet to be signed by the Blackhawks when they traded him to the Canadiens.
Dach is the most important of the two remaining RFAs the Canadiens need to sign and is expected to play big minutes for the team in the top six this season. With the 2022-23 campaign just weeks away, Montreal must lock him up sooner than later; one rumour suggests they are working on a four-year deal for $3.5 million. The 21-year-old former third overall pick has 59 points in 152 games but has been battling a wrist injury that he suffered during an exhibition game while playing at the World Junior Championship (WJC) in 2021. If he produces at the level general manager (GM) Kent Hughes hopes he can, it will be a steal of a deal for a possible second-line center.
Canadiens Drouin Says He Will Be Ready to Start This Season
Jonathan Drouin recently had his charity golf tournament for the CHUM Foundation; this year, he dedicated the tourney to his mentor and hero Guy Lafleur who passed away earlier in 2022. Lafleur was very involved with the CHUM Foundation and his involvement was a huge reason Drouin wanted to be too. The tournament raised $1.3 million this year and over $3 million for the CHUM Foundation over the past five years.
Drouin missed most of last season with an injured wrist which required surgery. This is his third wrist surgery in the past three seasons. He acknowledges that it won’t ever be the same but says he is fully ready to start the season this fall. He is looking forward to playing under head coach Martin St. Louis and understands how important it is to have a productive season and stay healthy. He believes the Canadiens have a bright future with all the young talent on the team and hopes that he can still be a part of it. The team hopes he can have a productive, injury-free year as well, so they can most likely get a good return for him at the trade deadline this season. Drouin’s contract expires at the end of 2022-23.
In Other News
Michael Pezzetta is prepared to work hard at this year’s training camp to crack the lineup. The Canadiens have 16 forwards going into this season with very little room for anyone extra; he’ll look to build on last season’s 11 points in 51 games.
Canadiens’ prospect Ty Smilanic is changing schools and hoping a change of scenery will help him improve on what he feels was a disappointing season. He played the last two seasons with Quinnipiac University of the NCAA, where he scored 44 points in 70 games; he will switch this season to the University of Wisconsin and play under head coach and former NHL player Tony Granato.
Finally, Jake Evans and Pezzetta met up with three of the four Blair brothers whose parents died in the mass shooting in Nova Scotia in April 2020. The three boys, Tyler, Alex and Jack met with the players at Rogers Centre this summer in conjunction with the more significant Toronto Blue Jays event organized by Jays commentator Jamie Campbell, WestJet and Hotel X Toronto. Before the shooting, the boys’ father, Greg, planned a trip to Toronto to see the Blue Jays; they were all big Canadiens fans as well.
That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for more news from our Canadiens writers here at The Hockey Writers as the countdown to the 2022-23 season continues.
Trege Wilson has been a freelance content writer for the past four years and with the THW for the past year. He is the co-host of the popular Montreal Canadiens podcast Habs Unfiltered on IHeartRadio.com.Trege is very passionate about all things Canadiens and loves to provide his readers with great quality news, rumours and opinions on the Montreal Canadiens. Trege has also been featured on JblamSports and JDFSports Podcasts; for interviews and guest appearances, you can contact him at any of his social media accounts listed under his photo in such articles as this one.