Canadiens News & Rumours: Wideman, Price, Poulin & More

With the Eastern Conference Final in full swing and the NHL prospect combine winding down, it’s been a busy week in the NHL. It’s also a busy week for the Montreal Canadiens, who have the first-overall pick in this year’s draft and have lots of roster decisions to make before September. Here is a look at what the Habs have accomplished this past week.

Canadiens Sign Wideman

The Canadiens have signed right-handed defencemen Chris Wideman to a two-year contract with a $765,000 annual average value (AAV). The Habs signed Wideman last season after a stellar campaign in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), where he had 41 points in 59 games. It was a cheap signing with no guarantee that Wideman would make the NHL roster. However, he did secure a spot on the team as a third-pairing defenceman and took advantage of this opportunity by having a career year, scoring four goals and 27 points while helping quarterback a dismal power play (PP).

Chris Wideman Montreal Canadiens
Chris Wideman, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Even though the Canadiens had one of the worst seasons in franchise history, Wideman was a positive. He helped the PP gain some respect and earned a spot on the top unit. His 27 points also proved that he deserved to play in the NHL. The Canadiens rewarded him for his outstanding play by extending his contract another two seasons at what could be considered a bargain for under $800,000 a season.

With Jeff Petry’s status with the team still up in the air, Wideman offers more stability on the right side of the defence. It will also allow the younger Canadiens defensemen to develop appropriately instead of being forced into a position they are not ready for.

Canadiens Price Wins Masterton Trophy

Carey Price has been the face of the Canadiens for 15 seasons. He helped lead the Habs to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020-21 and decided it was time to take care of himself in the offseason. He battled hip and knee injuries all season and needed surgery shortly after the team’s playoff run.

Not only did he require time off for his injuries, but Price also revealed that he had been battling substance issues and entered the NHL assistance program. His health cost him almost the entire season, with several setbacks in his return from knee surgery.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Price returned near the end of the season, playing five games for a 1-4 record, but his knee continued to swell after each match. With all his off-ice issues and the fact that he returned, he was nominated for and won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication. He is still dealing with knee issues, and although he is hoping to return to the ice next season, there are still lingering suspicions that he may never play again. With this award, he has now won every NHL award a goaltender can win except the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP and the coveted Stanley Cup.

Canadiens Hire Poulin as Player Development Consultant

When the Canadiens hired Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations (SVPHO) Jeff Gorton, he said he wanted the team’s management team to be more diverse. The team took a step in that direction by hiring Marie-Philip Poulin as a player development consultant, where she will work part-time while also continuing her playing career. Poulin will assist the director of player development, Rob Ramage and director of hockey development Adam Nicholas with on-ice coaching and video sessions with the players.

Poulin is one of the best hockey players in the world, winning 15 international medals, including four at the Olympics. She is the only hockey player, male or female, to score in four consecutive finals. She played for the Montreal Stars in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) from 2007 until 2009 and then with Les Canadiennes de Montreal from 2015 until 2019. She won the Clarkson Cup (CWHL Championship) twice and was named CWHL MVP three times.

Canadiens Very Busy at NHL Combine

The Canadiens were front and center at the NHL combine this year. The Habs hold the first-overall pick in the 2022 Draft, and they will be picking three times in the first 33 picks. The Canadiens started the combine by taking Shane Wright out for supper and having a one-on-one meeting with him. Wright is the de facto number-one pick according to most scouting projections.

They also took Logan Cooley out for supper, whom general manager Kent Hughes is familiar with from New England. A bit surprising, however, is that the Canadiens did not take Juraj Slafkovsky out for a meeting. Slafkovsky had great success at the Olympics and the World Championships, and many think he could overtake Wright in the top spot.

Related: THW 2022 Mock NHL Draft Round 2: Our Armchair GMs Make Their Picks

96 prospects were invited to the combine: three goaltenders, 63 forwards and 30 defensemen. All 32 NHL teams will collect physical and medical assessment information on the top prospects ahead of the draft in July. One weird moment during interviews involved prospect Calle Odelius who leaked that he was asked by the Canadiens if he would take $10 off a toilet seat or $50 from inside the toilet. The meaning behind the question is anyone’s guess, but it certainly is out there, and who knows, maybe Odelius was playing a joke on the media.

One thing to take away from the Canadiens at the combine is that they seem to be looking for a center as their first-overall pick. Taking the two top centers in the draft out for dinner is significant. They would have had one-on-one interviews with all the top prospects, including Salfovsky; however, dinner gives them more time to ask questions and get to know a player personally. These dinners are a good indication of what the organization is leaning toward in the draft.

That’s the week in the news. We are only a month from the draft, so let’s see what hints Hughes drops in the next few weeks if any.

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