Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes as well as several players met with the media one final time this season on Saturday following locker cleanups, exit meetings, and physicals which signal the start of a busy summer for the Habs. Here’s a recap of the main talking points throughout the day.
Price Faces Uncertain Future
Everyone was anxious to hear from Carey Price after an appointment with his doctors and some noticeable discomfort during two of his final starts in 2021-22. Unfortunately, the news wasn’t good and the star netminder finds himself at a crossroads in his career.
The fact is his surgically repaired knee isn’t 100 percent. There is still a lot of swelling which makes certain aspects of goaltending in today’s NHL difficult for him to do. He wants answers and will be seeking a second opinion in the coming weeks. Another procedure is on the table. The 34-year-old was emotional and honest when discussing the possibility that Friday’s 10-2 victory over the Florida Panthers was his last game in the NHL.
He’s not ready to give up but admitted that he doesn’t see himself continuing to play if the state of his knee doesn’t improve.
If he can get healthy, Price wants to be part of the Canadiens’ bright future and can’t envision himself playing anywhere else, admitting that being a Hab is part of his identity. Still, the lack of clarity and uncertainty surrounding the team’s franchise player makes Hughes’ job that much more difficult.
Gallagher Will Be Back Next Season
Despite some trade rumours surrounding him during a challenging season, Hughes confirmed that Brendan Gallagher will be back in 2022-23 despite his hefty contract.
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With just seven goals and 24 points in 56 games this year, management expects more production out of the two-time 30-goal scorer going forward and they also want him in the lineup more after struggling with injuries over the past three seasons.
With that in mind, Gallagher declined an invitation from Hockey Canada to play in the IIHF World Championship later this month so that he can benefit from a full summer of recovery and training to get his body back where it needs to be for him to be at his best. If he can’t regain his form, his contract will only become even more of a burden.
Petry Open to Return
Mired in one of the worst seasons of his career and with his family back home in Michigan for a multitude of reasons, Jeff Petry asked for a trade out of Montreal a while back, a request that Hughes was unable to fulfill.
Fast forward a few months, the veteran defenceman was rejuvenated by the arrival of interim head coach Martin St. Louis and finished the year with a flourish, playing like the Petry of old. This reversal of fortunes has encouraged him to leave the door open for a possible return to the Canadiens next season. He will take the time to reflect and discuss with his family what’s next for them. If he does come back, his wife and kids will join him in Montreal.
Hughes mentioned that if Petry is ultimately dealt during the offseason, he will likely be replaced by a veteran defender as opposed to one of the team’s promising defensive prospects.
Hughes is Focused on the Draft
When asked about his top priorities over the next few weeks, Hughes said that his primary focus is the NHL Entry Draft which will be held at the Bell Centre in July.
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This isn’t surprising considering that the Canadiens have 14 selections in this year’s draft, including a guaranteed top-3 pick and the best odds to choose at no. 1. Hughes and Executive Vice President Jeff Gorton recently met with their European scouts as well Nick Bobrov, co-director of amateur scouting, while they were in Germany for the IIHF World U18 Championship.
The general manager also said that negotiations with St. Louis to get him back behind the bench will begin shortly and ideally would like to give him a three-year extension.
Suzuki Wants a Bigger Leadership Role
Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, the Canadiens’ dynamic offensive duo, stepped up to the media podium together. Both discussed the learning curves they experienced this season and how they’re dealing with being the new, young faces of the franchise.
Both announced that they won’t go to Finland for the World Championship. Suzuki dealt with a lower back injury towards the end of the season while Caufield wants to take advantage of a full offseason. They also addressed the team captaincy for next year and beyond since management wants a new captain in place to replace Shea Weber. Suzuki would embrace a bigger leadership role and Caufield advocated for his linemate’s candidacy as captain.
Caufield, Suzuki, Weber, and a host of current Habs will stay in town to attend Guy Lafleur’s funeral on Tuesday.
This year’s post-mortem wasn’t about dwelling on a disastrous campaign, but rather a time to reflect and look forward to a brighter future even if a ton of work lies ahead over the next four next months until training camp opens in September.