Now that the dust has settled on the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, which turned out to be a busy, but productive few days for Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes, here’s a look at which newcomers on the current roster have earned contracts for next season and perhaps beyond.
While it’s essentially a foregone conclusion that rapidly improving defenceman Alexander Romanov will sign his second contract with the Habs this summer, these four players have made a strong first impression this year. Perhaps William Lagesson and Nathan Schnarr, Montreal’s deadline acquisitions will add themselves to this list with a strong finish to the season. The same goes for Tyler Pitlick who continues to recover from an injury since being acquired in the Tyler Toffoli trade with the Calgary Flames.
From a waiver pickup to the Canadiens’ no. 1 starting goaltender for a significant stretch, Samuel Montembeault has come a long way this season. Sure, there have been some bumps along the way, but the 25-year-old has held down the fort admirably in the absence of Jake Allen and Carey Price. He was put in a very difficult situation and handled the adversity like a pro despite his inexperience at the highest level. He has proven to be a capable NHL netminder.
Montembeault will be a necessary insurance policy both for the Habs and the Laval Rocket next season given the uncertain futures of Allen and Price in Montreal. He’ll also allow Cayden Primeau to continue his development in Laval and keep the pressure off him while he continues to progress.
This season’s injury woes are proof that goalie depth is crucial for any team and can be crippling in more ways than one if it is lacking. Montembeault will provide exactly that. Not to mention that he’s still young and improving.
In a challenging season for the Canadiens, Michael Pezzetta has been one of the few bright spots. In a short time, he has gone from a bottom-six forward in the American Hockey League (AHL) to an effective NHL player who has captured the hearts of Montreal fans with his charisma and hard-nosed play.
He’s noticeable every shift and in a good way. The energy he brings to the ice is infectious and much needed for any team. He’s not the most talented but he works hard and he’s a great teammate. Like Montembeault, he’ll be an important depth piece next season and is the perfect candidate to be the Habs’ 13th forward next season. He won’t cost a lot either which is not insignificant considering Montreal’s salary cap crunch.
Rem Pitlick has been Paul Byron 2.0 for the Canadiens since being claimed off waivers six weeks ago and appears well on his way to becoming a fixture in Montreal’s plans. He’s fast, talented and his versatility allows him to play anywhere in the lineup as well as on special teams.
He currently sits ninth in NHL rookie scoring this season, just behind his teammate Cole Caufield, with 12 goals and 29 points in 47 games. He has put up six goals and 18 points in 26 games in a Habs uniform. He’s exactly the type of player that Hughes and Executive Vice President Jeff Gorton are looking to build their team with and so far, he’s been the perfect fit. His speed and skill certainly fit the bill.
Steady defenceman Corey Schueneman has been another feel-good story for the Canadiens this season and he is quickly rising the ranks within the organization.
He played four years in the NCAA with Western Michigan and despite going undrafted, he continued to pursue his professional hockey dream. After stints in both the AHL and ECHL, Schueneman is now proving his worth in the NHL for the first time at 26 years old. He’s earned the trust of interim head coach Martin St. Louis who puts him out in all situations and as a result, he’s having a positive impact on his team’s performance.
It should be a no-brainer to bring him back next season to help the Habs’ blue line when necessary as well as a core player and leader in Laval, especially considering several of Montreal’s young defensive prospects that will be joining the pro ranks beginning in 2022-23. Those that will continue their development with the Rocket will benefit from Schueneman’s presence.
Most of the storylines during the Canadiens’ offseason this summer will revolve around which players that management decides to move on from, but those that should stay deserve some attention too because they’ll be valuable pieces for the present and the future.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.