The 2021 NHL offseason has kicked into high gear with the Expansion Draft just days away and it’s been an eventful week for the Montreal Canadiens, to say the least. Fans across the league were surprised to learn that Carey Price, Shea Weber and Jonathan Drouin have all been left unprotected by general manager Marc Bergevin and are available to be selected by the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, the latest indication is that Phillip Danault doesn’t expect to be back with the Habs next season and could the Canadiens make a pitch for Jack Eichel? Plus, head coach Dominique Ducharme and assistant coach Luke Richardson have both signed three-year contract extensions.
Long-Term Injuries for Both Price and Weber?
It came as a shock to the hockey world when it was revealed that Price and Weber would be left exposed in the Expansion Draft, especially considering that they just led the Canadiens to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1993. But it turns out their bodies are in terribly rough shape which explains why they are unprotected.
On Sunday, Frank Seravalli indicated that Price may miss significant time next season due to a hip injury while Pierre LeBrun added that a knee issue could require offseason surgery. While the Kraken would be foolish to not seriously consider selecting the former Hart and Vezina trophy winner, these latest setbacks, coupled with his hefty contract, and previous injury history might discourage them from making Price the face of the new Seattle franchise. It was Price’s idea to lift his no-move clause so that he could be exposed to ensure that Jake Allen would remain a Hab and assume the no. 1 role in net during his anticipated injury absence next season.
As for Weber, the news is even grimmer. The wear and tear he has put on his body are starting to wreak havoc on the towering defenseman. At worst, the captain’s career is in jeopardy and at best, he will miss the entire 2021-22 campaign. If Weber is allowed to be placed on long-term injured reserve, it will be interesting to see how Bergevin uses the additional cap space to fill the gaping hole on Montreal’s blue line.
Drouin an Intriguing Option for Seattle
Drouin is also among the players left unprotected by the Canadiens. The 26-year-old winger took a leave of absence from the team during the regular season for personal reasons and didn’t return.
Despite the question marks surrounding him, his talent would be a great addition to Seattle’s top-six forward group. Will general manager Ron Francis take a chance on him?
By choosing to expose Drouin, Bergevin is indicating that perhaps it’s time for a fresh start for both the player and the team. We’ll see what the next steps will be in this situation if he’s not selected.
Danault Not Expecting to Be Back
In an article published on Sunday evening in the Journal de Montréal, journalist Jonathan Bernier indicated that negotiations between the Canadiens and pending unrestricted Danault are at a standstill and a source close to the situation said that Danault is not expecting to be back with the Habs next season. He also just put his Montreal home up for sale, surely a sign of what’s to come.
Following a stellar performance in the playoffs as the Canadiens’ shutdown centre, Danault is looking for a five or six-year deal with an annual salary of $5.5 million. Last September, Bergevin made a six-year offer at $5 million per season.
If the Habs were to lose both Danault and Drouin this offseason, they would not have a Quebec-born player on the roster for next season, something Bergevin will probably address if it comes to that.
Canadiens to Enter the Eichel Sweepstakes?
Seravalli dropped quite the tease in one of his columns this past week in the wake of the Weber injury news and the Canadiens potentially gaining $7.86 million in salary cap space. The former TSN insider said not to rule out the Habs making a play for Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel who is the biggest name on the trade market right now.
If the Canadiens lose Danault, maybe this is something Bergevin explores. But the asking price will be very high and include young players like Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and Alexander Romanov all of whom he would be incredibly reluctant to give up.
Ducharme and Richardson Will be Back Behind the Bench
Earlier this week, the Canadiens agreed to terms with Ducharme on a new three-year deal to remove his interim tag and officially make him the 31st head coach in Canadiens history.
Under Ducharme, the Canadiens posted a 15-16-7 regular season record after he replaced Claude Julien in February and led them to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 28 years. He joined the Habs’ coaching staff as an assistant in April of 2018.
Meanwhile, Richardson will be entering his fourth season behind the Montreal bench as an assistant in 2021-22 after he inked a new three-year deal as well this week. He has more than 25 years of NHL experience, including four seasons as an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders.
He was called upon to replace Ducharme during the postseason while the head coach was isolated due to a positive COVID-19 test and helped the Canadiens defeat the Vegas Golden Knights in six games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
It’s already been a crazy first few days for the Habs and the NHL offseason is just getting started. After the Expansion Draft, the Entry Draft is scheduled for this coming weekend where the Canadiens currently have 11 picks, including two in the second round. Free agency begins on July 28.
With all the uncertainty surrounding the roster in light of the latest news, it promises to be a busy time for Bergevin as he’ll be even more active than was initially anticipated.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media Community Manager and a 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.