The Montreal Canadiens have started the season, and even though it has been a lacklustre start, there is hope that things will improve. Some injured players are close to returning, and the Canadiens have an easy schedule for the first month. Here is the news from the past week.
Suzuki Signs Eight-Year Contract
The Canadiens locked up their young star forward a season early to avoid him becoming a restricted free agent (RFA). Nick Suzuki signed an eight-year $63 million contract which will keep him a member of the team until he is 30. Habs general manager (GM) Marc Bergevin avoids another Jesperi Kotkaniemi situation by signing Suzuki this season. Suzuki’s annual average value will be $7.875 million per season, making him the highest-paid player behind Carey Price.
Suzuki led the Canadiens in playoff scoring last season with 16 points, and had back-to-back 41-point campaigns. Last season he scored 41 points in 56 games, which had him on a 60-point pace for an 82-game schedule. He was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Max Pacioretty in the 2018-19 season, and made his NHL debut with the Canadiens in 2019-20, starting on the fourth line. By season’s end, he was their second-line center.
Suzuki will start this season as the number one center, and the Canadiens are banking on his potential and upwards progression with his new long-term contract. With increased minutes and special teams time, the Habs hope Suzuki hits his ceiling sooner than later. So far, he is off to a rough start on the scoreboard, but he is still playing very well, and the goals and points will start coming.
Hoffman Close To Returning
Since the start of training camp, Mike Hoffman has been injured with a lower-body injury, as he was injured during his final skate at home before reporting for the Canadiens training camp. Hoffman has missed the first three games of the season, but head coach Dom Ducharme says he could return as early as this week against the San Jose Sharks or Carolina Hurricanes.
In the offseason, Hoffman signed as a free agent to help the Canadiens beleaguered power play and add some offence to the team. Hoffman has scored 25-or-more goals every season played so far, with 17 goals in last year’s shortened season. He averages 28 goals and 60 points over an 82-game schedule, which hopefully will help the Canadiens get over the offensive funk they are in to start this season.
Poehling Sent to Laval
Ryan Poehling will start the season with the Canadiens’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Laval Rocket for the second straight season. He had an excellent year with the Rocket last season, leading the team in points with 25 in 28 games, however, his season ended early when he broke his wrist. He had good numbers analytically in the preseason, but didn’t play with the intensity needed to win a spot. There was a center spot open for him to seize, but when Bergevin selected Adam Brooks off the waiver wire, Poehling’s fate was sealed – for now.
Since returning to Laval, Poehling has played with more passion. He has a goal in two games, but left his second game early after being hit on the back of the head. There was no word on the severity of his injury, or whether he will be out of the lineup for an extended period. He already has a history of concussions, considering he suffered one while in training camp with the Canadiens in 2019-20. It might be a coincidence, but he ended up struggling that entire season. If it is nothing serious, the good news is he looks like he’s trying to prove he belongs in Montreal.
Eichel Trade Talks Heat Up
Jack Eichel has probably already played his last game with the Buffalo Sabres, given that he has switched agents and lost the captaincy. He wants a specific procedure to fix his neck that the Sabres don’t want him to have, so he wants to move elsewhere, and five teams are still discussing a potential trade with Buffalo. All five teams have agreed to let him get his desired disk replacement surgery.
It was rumoured that the Canadiens had an interest in Eichel, but whether they are one of those five teams now is still a mystery. Odds are they are not; the Canadiens don’t have the assets to acquire Eichel, and with the draft being in Montreal next season, it’s improbable they trade their first-round pick. If the Canadiens were to put a package in for Eichel, the first pick and one of Alexander Romanov or Cole Caufield would have to be included, plus more.
Canadiens to Feature Land Acknowledgement at Home Games
For every home game this season, the Canadiens will have land acknowledgments for First Peoples, and help recognize the traditional territories on which we all now work and live. This is a tribute to indigenous people that attests to their presence both historically and today. This is the first of several initiatives that the Canadiens plan to implement throughout the season to honour and support local First Nations communities.
The Canadiens worked with the Val-d’Or Native Friendship Center for guidance and support, and have planned a more formal celebration when Price returns later in the season. His mother is Chief in his home community of Anaheim Lake, and he has strong ties to the First Nations community. In doing this, the organization is hoping it will inspire others to support Indigenous communities.
Niku Ready to Play
Injured defencemen Sami Niku is back and ready for action. He had a mild concussion after being checked from behind into the boards in his sole preseason game. He signed as a free agent in the offseason to a two-way contract, and the highly skilled puck-moving defenceman is hoping to find a steady home in Montreal after spending most of his time with the Winnipeg Jets in the minors.
That’s the news for this week! Let’s hope that next week is better for the Canadiens, and they turn their three-game losing streak into a three-game winning streak.
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.