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Out-Of-The-Box Rebuild Underway For Montreal Canadiens

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Montreal Canadiens

The out-of-the-box rebuild for the Montreal Canadiens is already underway and promises to intensify heading into the March 21 NHL trade deadline. However, the offseason is likely when we may see just how far out of the box Canadiens executive vice president Jeff Gorton and general manager Kent Hughes plan to go.

In the coming weeks, Gorton and Hughes will be looking to transform the roster by trading plenty, if not all of the team’s veterans on expiring contracts. They could also move players with term on their contract as they did on Feb. 14 when they dealt winger Tyler Toffoli to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a 2022 first-round pick, 2023 fifth-round pick, forward Tyler Pitlick, and prospect Emil Heineman. Stockpiling picks and prospects, preferably those close to or ready to make the leap to the NHL will continue to be the focus for the Habs.

It’s expected that veterans like Ben Chiarot, Artturri Lekhonen, and Jeff Petry could be on the move by the NHL Trade Deadline, with more trades to come in the summer, but don’t expect the returns to be just high draft picks. Hughes will not be influenced by his team’s current winning streak and won’t let that deter from his plan leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline. Nor will he veer of the calculated path he and Gorton have laid down in the months leading into the 2022 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal and then in the NHL Free Agency market, where the Canadiens reportedly plan to be active.

“We’re not going to follow the Arizona Coyotes and trade everyone for draft picks” said Hughes in an interview with The Athletic on Feb 2. “If there’s a possibility to move some veteran players, we’ll do it. So, ideally, a large part of what we’re going to try to do is acquire assets, be they prospects, younger players or draft picks”

Being Active on July 13

When it was recently reported that the Montreal Canadiens would like to be big players during this year’s free agency period, which caught a lot of fans off guard. The signing of one or two talented players to join the core of this young team might make some believe that the Canadiens will be looking to compete as early as next season, which is unlikely if you look at the logistics.

According to Puckpedia, the Canadiens currently have $2.78M in salary cap space, for next season. That’s clearly not enough to go big-game hunting for top players, which seems to indicate that the Montreal Canadiens will be looking to unload a significant amount of veterans leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline and the NHL Draft on July 7th. Moving players like Mike Hoffman or Jonathan Drouin, who would be much easier to move in the summer as opposed to the middle of a season, would free up the Canadiens to turn around and target some key veterans to continue to support the young, burgeoning core that Hughes will be putting together, without necessarily putting them in playoff contention.

Targeting Prospects Speeds Up a Rebuild

As mentioned above, the Toffoli trade proved that the Montreal Canadiens seem very enticed with the inclusion of prospects as trade targets leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline. Rather than include one of Calgary’s two 2nd round picks in the deal, Hughes chose to include Heineman, who was a 43rd overall pick in 2020. Targeting prospects that could join the club within the next two years can accelerate the rebuild strategy for the Montreal Canadiens. By filling roster spots with cheap, young talent, they can free up cap space for extensions for key players like Cole Caufield and Alexander Romanov, that need to be signed in the next 18 months. With the Montreal Canadiens focused on improving their player development department, the acquisition of a handful of talented prospects is exactly the kind of project Hughes and Gorton are looking to take on.

 

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Dylan (The guy with poutine as his profile pic)

It’s good to see that Hughes plans to get not just picks, but prospects in the deals he makes. This will speed up the process and futher guarantee better odds for success in the future with young prospects who have shown signs of improvement.

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