The Montreal Canadiens will have to make some tough roster decisions during training camp, and management is ready to get creative to make it work.
On a recent segment with TSN 690‘s Mitch Melnick, the Montreal Canadiens’ executive vice-president, Jeff Gorton, was asked how he would address the logjam. When the option of waivers was brought up, Gorton seemed hesitant to agree that he would use this avenue to trim his roster, especially if young players impressed. Instead, he believed the Canadiens needed to get creative in order to have all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place this season:
“It’s not your favourite thing to do, it’s not something you like to do, but we might have to,” said Gorton when it comes to the use of waivers to bring their roster down to 23 players. “If all these young kids are ready and can help us now, then yeah, we’ll create the space. Whether we trade someone or whether we use waivers, we’ll be as creative as we can to make it work that we have the right players here. ”
General manager Kent Hughes has turned up the heat on the trade chatter front to alleviate the Canadiens of some bodies to give younger players a chance to crack the lineup. Bringing in more younger players who are ready to start their careers naturally brings about the idea that the Canadiens will fully embrace a rebuild and live with the mistakes of their youth.
The defensive side of the situation is more fluid, given how all of the youngsters are waiver exempt, but the forward position will be something to watch over the next two weeks.
It’s a fact that the Montreal Canadiens will look to focus on development this season rather than winning at all costs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they plan on tanking per se. When asked to comment on TSN’s Craig Button’s declaration that the Canadiens should tank this season to grab yet another top youngster at the top of a very strong draft, Gorton deflected the idea.
According to Gorton, it isn’t about tanking, but about ensuring that the youngsters on the team take the next steps in becoming a sustainably competitive team, especially at forward:
“It’s really just about getting better. We have so many young players that it’s just about developing and getting better and see how far we can push it with the group we have.,” said Gorton regarding the idea that the Canadiens should tank due to the strong 2023 NHL Draft class. “I like our group of forwards; we have young D and veteran D. We’re not worried about that. There’s not one NHL player that’s thinking about tanking right now.”
Although Gorton didn’t flat out say the Canadiens were tanking, he also was quick to praise the forward group, which is rather deep this year, but mentioned the youth of his defence and glossed over his goaltending. The Canadiens may not be explicitly tanking, but outside of a very balanced forward group, they still have many of the same glaring weaknesses as last season, and that may indeed cost them a playoff spot.
However, within the losses, the goal will be to see younger players take the next step in their development; which could quickly become a “two birds, one stone” strategy for the club moving forward. The chips will ultimately fall where they fall, but to openly tank is seemingly not in the cards for the Canadiens.