With 11 games left in the regular season, the focus lately for the Montreal Canadiens and their fans has rightly been on the progress of the team’s young players as the foundation for next season as well as beyond begins to take shape.
While the likes of Cole Caufield, Jordan Harris, and Justin Barron are garnering most of the attention at the moment, these four veterans have a lot to play for from now until the end of April and these next few weeks could impact their respective futures with the Habs.
On the verge of a much-anticipated return, Carey Price has something to prove to the Canadiens, to the rest of the NHL, and most of all to himself before this season concludes. If he can get in some games this month, it will do wonders for his confidence while also helping the new management group make crucial decisions about the team’s future in net.
If nothing else, this challenging season for the Habs has highlighted the importance of strong goaltending, especially for a roster that is undergoing a transformation. If Montreal’s franchise player can rediscover his form in the coming weeks, perhaps he will stick around for the next chapter and be an incredibly valuable mentor for his young teammates. If not, it will be easier to move him to a contender to chase that elusive Stanley Cup.
Christian Dvorak’s first season with the Canadiens has not gone according to plan and he has struggled to adjust to his new team after spending the first part of his NHL career in the Western Conference with the Arizona Coyotes.
Like many players on the roster, the 26-year-old has started to find his footing under interim head coach Martin St. Louis and will need to make sure he finishes the year strong. He can be effective in all situations, has size, and is the team’s best, most steady faceoff man. Given that the centre ice position is a question mark going forward and depending on the players the Habs choose to draft this summer, Dvorak could be an important asset for the Habs in the future, but he must find his place in the lineup first.
Mike Hoffman has brought more to the Canadiens this season than originally anticipated by many when he signed with Montreal as a free agent last July. The problem is that he hasn’t been able to do what he does best, which is score often enough. He’s been given every opportunity to do so on the power play and at 5-on-5, but the production hasn’t been there.
Recently, he was put on the top line with Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, an experiment that did not pass the initial test. He’s struggled to find chemistry with regular linemates and has struggled to generate scoring chances with the man advantage. As a result, he’s pressing and making costly mistakes.
If Hoffman hopes to remain in Montreal, he needs to prove that he can play in the team’s top-nine forwards at the very least and be a consistent offensive threat. If not, he’ll become a prime trade candidate rather quickly.
After a stellar performance during Montreal’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last summer which earned him a four-year contract extension in the offseason, Joel Armia has struggled mightily in 2021-22 with just five goals and 13 points in 55 games.
The Finnish forward has all of the tools to be an impactful player in the NHL, but his inconsistency and invisibility at times this season have made his contract a significant burden to carry for a team that is already tight under the cap. It’s a contract that likely influenced the decision to move Artturi Lehkonen at the Trade Deadline since there’s only so much money available for bottom-six forwards.
Armia needs these final games to prove his worth to not only the Canadiens but also to other teams around the league should general manager Kent Hughes look to trade him this summer. His value is understandably low right now which makes a deal almost impossible. A contending team looking for a proven playoff performer would undoubtedly be interested in acquiring him, but he has to show that he can be that player on a more regular basis.
In the present, it’s all about the future for the Canadiens and these veterans are going to influence what’s to come with their performances during this final stretch.
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.