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D’Amico: Canadiens Shouldn’t Be Going Big Game Hunting Yet

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Montreal Canadiens

With calls for the Montreal Canadiens to speed up their rebuild by going after big-name players, the club would be wise to focus on acquiring more elite youth through trades and the upcoming drafts instead.

The Montreal Canadiens aren’t a player or two away from being a competitive team capable of making the playoffs; especially not in their divison. NHL Insider Kevin Weekes believes that the Atlantic Division is currently seen as the most improved division in the NHL and it’s a noteworthy observation because the Canadiens have done very little to improve their roster during this offseason. With the status of Carey Price still up in the air and their defensive brigade looking just as bad on paper, this is not the time to go big game hunting.

The Most Competitive Division

The Canadiens are strapped right up to the salary cap with some big contracts to move; meaning they couldn’t hope to be as active as they would have liked. Contracts like that of  Price ($10.5M), Brendan Gallagher ($6.5M) and Mike Hoffman ($4.5M) significantly hampered general manager Kent Hughes’ ability to go out and improve the team by any means. Hughes did make the most out of a bad situation by using an organizational strength on defence to acquire centre Kirby Dach, but, unless he can find a way to unload some salary quickly, it seems like the team will be mostly the same next season.

 

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Canadiens will be the worst team in the NHL like last season. However, with teams like the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres ready to take the next step and the Metropolitan Division looking equally as stacked, the Canadiens will be hard-pressed to find their way out of the bottom ten this upcoming season.

The Senators are perhaps the most improved team in the NHL at this junction, having added Alex Debrincat, Claude Giroux and Cam Talbot to a growing, young core. Detroit also added a plethora of veterans like Andrew Copp, Ben Chiarot and Dominik Kubalik and look primed to take the next step in their rebuild too. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers, who might have lost a few players, will be, at the worst, a playoff bubble team. With the exception of the Boston Bruins, who have yet to figure out what is going on with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, the Montreal Canadiens will be in arguably the most competitive division in hockey next season.

 

Not The Time For Big Game Hunting

With rumours swirling this summer about the likes of Pierre-Luc Dubois or Jonathan Huberdeau being players of interest for the Montreal Canadiens, many have jumped back on the bandwagon of acquiring these top players. However, the reality is that these players won’t come cheap and would cost some of the young players the Canadiens are looking to build around to be a consistently competitive hockey team in the NHL. If these top-end, Quebec-born players truly want to be Montreal Canadiens, they can do so by signing with the team in the summers of 2023 and 2024 respectively when they’re free agents, as it wouldn’t cost the Canadiens any assets.

In the meantime, paying prime capital to acquire these players will not solve the Canadiens’ bigger concerns on defence or in terms of their goaltending and would likely not move the needle in an extremely competitive division. It would be more of the bandaid solution that has been the modus operandi in Montreal for over two decades. The reality is that the Canadiens are not one or two players away from being a competitive team, and, with many teams in their division just hitting their strides after lengthy rebuilds, they simply wouldn’t be able to compete with them.. yet.

 

Montreal Canadiens Should Stay The Course

With no major changes to the lineup and the goaltending position still very much in the air, Hughes’ inability to move likely comes at the best possible moment, with the 2023 NHL Draft upcoming. This upcoming class boasts a top-10 that could arguably rival that of any draft in the last 15 years at this rate, with Connor Bedard, Matvei Michkov, Adam Fantilli, Dalibor Dvorsky, Zachary Benson, Leo Carlsson, Brayden Yager and more to chose from. The Canadiens might not finish last again next season, as the Chicago Blackhawks seem to be doing everything in their power to achieve this with their current offseason, but they may have a real shot at one of the prospects above, and that would be a game changer.

This next season is also one where the Canadiens have stated multiple times that they’d like to approach with a focus on player development. If the Canadiens maintain course and are unable to improve the team, expectations will not be extremely high for the club, and that may be a perfect time to help youngsters like Kaiden Guhle or Juraj Slafkovsky get their feet wet in the NHL. It also offers youngsters that have already played in the NHL like Cole Caufield, Jordan Harris and Justin Barron to gain experience and develop further in a much less stressful environment; a luxury prospects haven’t had in Montreal in quite some time.

 

 

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Dave

I will have to disagree. Habs forwards are due for a improvement after an off year. And a full year of st.Louis. The D will be decent, especially if Price and Allen are healthy. Ottawas goalie doesn’t scare me and the leafs goalies even less. Both of these defences are average at best.

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