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The Montreal Canadiens’ Untouchables Moving Forward

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Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens will be active over the coming months in trying to move out players to improve their team, but there are a few that should be considered untouchable.

When a team finishes last in the standings in a given season, major changes are expected. For the team to improve, a plethora of assets like roster players, prospects and draft picks will be moved in trades in order to make the team better, be it in the short-term or long-term. In the Montreal Canadiens’ case, they’ve already begun that process of moving out veterans, as we saw them move on from Tyler Toffoli, Artturi Lehkonen, Brett Kulak and Ben Chiarot at the most recent trade deadline. That was already a big sweep of veterans removed from the roster, but they aren’t done, as they remain in talks to move veteran Jeff Petry as well.

Alas, the Montreal Canadiens will likely look quite different in the coming years, but there are a few players/assets that the club will seek to build around moving forward and exclude from any trade talks that could be labelled as untouchable:

 

Nick Suzuki

Nick Suzuki is the most established youngster on the team and the heir apparent for the club’s captaincy. He has figured prominently in the team’s activities and was present during the night of the draft to welcome the Montreal Canadiens’ newest members. After putting up 61 points in games on one of the worst offensive clubs in the NHL this past season, Suzuki proved he could overcome adversity and still perform, no matter the quality of the team. What’s more is that the young man plays a position of critical importance for the Canadiens, as he is the only bonafide top-six centre on the team, and has the potential to become even more.

Having already shown himself a clutch player in the playoffs at such a young age, he is arguably the Montreal Canadiens’ most valuable asset. He shouldn’t be entertained any realistic trades moving forward.

 

Cole Caufield

Some folks were ready to give up on Cole Caufield at a certain point last season, due to his underwhelming offensive production in the first half of the season. Despite being one of the Montreal Canadiens’ most impactful offensive players during their 2021 NHL Playoff run, the youngster simply didn’t get off on the right foot and couldn’t recover under then-head coach Dominique Ducharme. With Martin St. Louis, Caufield was not only able to bounce back, but began to score goals at an elite level. His 22 goals in 37 games under Martin St. Louis put him at a 49-goal pace during a full calendar season.

With the team looking to play a more exciting brand of hockey predicated on speed and skill, Cole Caufield is a player that perfectly embodies that identity moving forward.

 

Juraj Slafkovsky

It goes without saying that 1st overall picks are usually never up for trade this soon after being selected. Given the amount of homework Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens management team put into deciding to select Juraj Slafkovsky, it would be almost impossible to see them turn around and trade the young power forward at this junction, if ever. Kent Hughes has spoken at length about his desire to get bigger and faster at forward and Slafkovsky is basically the poster boy for that movement. Hughes has spoken at length about how hard top-end power forwards are to find in the NHL and he isn’t about to let the next big thing go for short of a massive overpay.

With Slafkovsky just signing his entry-level contract earlier this week, expect him to be along for the long haul.

 

2023 1st Round Pick

The Montreal Canadiens have made some positive changes to their lineup since Kent Hughes, but not enough to pull them out of the basement of the NHL standings. Their defensive brigade is, on paper, one of the worst in the league, while their lack of clarity at the goaltending position makes it even less likely that the club will be much better at keeping the puck out of their net next season. Especially with Atlantic Division teams like the Detroit Red Wings or the Ottawa Senators getting even better this offseason, it will be difficult to imagine the Canadiens finishing outside of the bottom-10 this season, unless Hughes surprises us with some major moves.

With the 2023 NHL Draft expected to be one of the best in recent years, the Montreal Canadiens aren’t likely to sacrifice their 1st round pick for anything short of a star at this point. With the star power expected to be available in the top-10 next year, this pick could provide the Montreal Canadiens with a core player that will help them become a competitive team in the not-so-distant future.

Honourable Mention – Kaiden Guhle

Although Kaiden Guhle could be moved if the price is right, the Montreal Canadiens shouldn’t be in a hurry to move him in any deal, given that they just traded Alexander Romanov last week. Guhle is a highly coveted player across the league and teams are sure to ask the Canadiens for his inclusion in trade talks, but the Canadiens would be best served by keeping their top defensive prospect as they continue to build a consistently competitive team.

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