4 Predictions for the Canadiens’ Offseason

The Montreal Canadiens’ offseason is in full swing, and it has already been rather eventful. The highlights include locking up the top pick in this summer’s NHL Draft at the Bell Centre and hiring Christopher Boucher as the new director of hockey analytics.

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With four months to go before training camp opens, the fun is just getting started. Here are four predictions, some bolder than others, about what’s to come this summer for the Habs.

Shane Wright Will Be the First Overall Pick

Let’s start with the most probable prediction. General manager Kent Hughes will step up on stage to kick off the draft in July and announce Shane Wright as the first overall pick, sending his team’s fanbase into a frenzy.

Shane Wright Kingston Frontenacs
Shane Wright, Kingston Frontenacs (Photo by Robert Lefebvre/OHL Images)

Sure, there are improvements to be made in Wright’s game just like any other 18-year-old prospect, but his track record, both as a player and a leader, speaks for itself. He’s a high character person with the highest floor in this year’s class. The fact that he is a productive centre who can play effectively in his own end makes him the perfect fit for the Canadiens and he’ll give them depth down the middle they haven’t had in years.

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It has become the norm to dissect and find flaws in the consensus no. 1 overall pick leading up the draft, especially when they aren’t considered to be a generational talent. This tendency will only be amplified because Montreal holds the first selection, but Hughes, Executive Vice President Jeff Gorton, and their scouting staff won’t pass up the opportunity to draft Wright.

Nick Suzuki Won’t Be Named Captain

Wright will create a dynamic and formidable top-six duo at centre for the next decade with Nick Suzuki, who has become a crucial part of the Habs’ core since being acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights.  The 22-year-old has grown into a leadership role with the team but won’t be named captain just yet.

Related: Canadiens’ Top One-Season Turnarounds in Team History

Hughes has indicated that he would like a new captain in place for the start of next season, replacing Shea Weber. Several players, including Suzuki, have been suggested to take on the role. There’s also a possibility that a veteran is brought in who will take on take on the captaincy.

Nick Suzuki Montreal Canadiens
Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Suzuki is certainly a strong candidate, management will likely opt for a more experienced player, someone like Joel Edmundson or Brendan Gallagher, in the short term until Suzuki is fully ready to assume the responsibility. His time will come to have the prestigious honour bestowed on him, but right now he already has enough pressure to deal with as one of the faces of the franchise.

Management Will Find a Way to Alleviate Their Cap Crunch

One of the challenges facing the Canadiens this offseason is their lack of cap space. Without any room to maneuver, management will have limited options to improve the roster for 2022-23 and beyond. They’ll have to get creative to move out a few contracts but expect them to have a bit of cap space to work with by the time free agency rolls around on July 13. It won’t be an easy task though.

Jeff Petry Montreal Canadiens
Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Moving Weber’s contract will probably be one of the first player personnel moves made this summer which will help alleviate their LTIR situation, especially if Carey Price starts the season there. Jeff Petry will likely be dealt and replaced with another veteran who fits the new way the group wants to play and who can mentor the team’s young defensive prospects. Forwards like Joel Armia, Mike Hoffman, and Jonathan Drouin could also be traded if the price is right and doesn’t handcuff Hughes in the future.

A Veteran Will Be Added

Hughes has said on multiple occasions that he would like to add some veteran leadership and character to his lineup. Perhaps that priority has changed somewhat after seeing how the team responded when Martin St. Louis took over behind the bench, but he is still going to try and change the mix and makeup of the roster.

Related: Montreal Canadiens Still Looking to Trade Jeff Petry

It sounds like Kris Letang won’t return to the Pittsburgh Penguins and rumours continue to link him to the Habs. Will he be Petry’s replacement? While the connection is obvious, it’s hard to see a fit considering where the Canadiens are in their rebuild. Letang wants to win, and he wants a big long-term deal which makes a match between the two parties a lot less evident. A cheaper option seems like the sensible way to go.

If Wright is indeed brought into the fold, it’s plausible to think that Hughes will bring in someone with experience, likely on his wing, to support him and who also makes the team better. Does bringing in someone like David Perron make sense in this context?

It’s hard to guess what Hughes and Gorton might do given that this is their first offseason at the helm, plus they have many more questions than answers right now. Regardless of what happens over the next several weeks, the Habs are sure to look significantly different when the puck drops next season.