The Montreal Canadiens had another roster crunch on their hands when Mike Matheson returned, but it seems they’ve been given more time to figure out next steps.
In anticipation of this upcoming move, fans debated as to whether the Canadiens should waive a veteran like Jonathan Drouin or Evgenii Dadonov or take the easy route and simply assign waiver-exempt youngster like Arber Xhekaj or Juraj Slafkovsky.
With the Canadiens consistently flirting with the top-end of the 23-man roster limit, they were consistently aided by an injury or illness that bought them some time to figure out their next move.
General Manager Kent Hughes was yet again given the gift of time, this time in the form of two injuries. A minor injury to Joel Armia and a long-term, upper-body injury to veteran forward Jonathan Drouin, who was said to have been playing with an injury since the Canadiens’ tilt against the Vegas Golden Knights on November 5.
The 26-year-old is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with his injury and has been placed on injured reserve, resulting in the Canadiens recalling Pitlick to the main roster. With Pitlick’s addition and the two veterans on the shelf, the Canadiens now count 23 players on their active roster, until Matheson is ultimately cleared in the coming days.
Once Matheson is ready to return to play, the Canadiens can simply return Pitlick to Laval without waivers if he plays less than ten games, which seems likely.
This means the Montreal Canadiens have a month to figure out a sustainable means of fixing their logjam, whether by assignment or trade, and they now have the flexibility to focus on that, rather than balancing their rosters on a nightly basis.
Time To Seize The Opportunity
With Drouin out, Evgenii Dadonov now has an assured spot in the team’s top-9, and will have a regular shift on the Canadiens’ power play.
After scoring his first goal for the team against the Devils on Tuesday night, a player like Dadonov could better seize the opportunity to perform up to his standards with the given roster consistency and continue to up his value.
He played on both power play waves on Tuesday and was given a steady centre in Sean Monahan at even-strength; showing that head coach Martin St-Louis is doing everything n his power to get the Russian forward going.
With Dadonov’s performances seemingly improving game after game, he looks well on his way to seizing the opportunity in front of him with the Canadiens’ forward rotation temporarily on pause.
Evgenii Dadonov gets a nice bounce and has his first goal as a Hab! pic.twitter.com/RqhmPmMH7o
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 16, 2022
Time To Shine
The Montreal Canadiens started the season with 15 forwards on the active roster, and are now down to the desired number of 13 with injuries to Armia and Drouin and Pitlick’s recall.
That means that there will only be one forward set aside for every game.
The most popular scratch so far this season has been Micheal Pezzetta, and that likely won’t change in the short term, which now provides Juraj Slafkovsky with the necessary room to do his thing and continue to gain St-Louis’ confidence.
In Tuesday night’s game, Slafkovsky was used on both power play waves, was on the ice late in the third period and didn’t look out of place; in fact, he looked to be gaining steam and making plays at a high rate.
This newfound roster flexibility now eases much of the concerns Slafkovsky may have had about being sent down to the Laval Rocket and will allow him to focus on improving as an NHLer.
It’ll also add more consistency to the bottom six, which has been a carousel of bodies over the last four weeks; meaning Slafkovsky can begin to develop some much-needed chemistry.
That is the kind of consistency youngsters need in their game, like Kaiden Guhle playing consistently next to David Savard.
It’s a golden opportunity for Slafkovsky to not only cement his place, but jump up in the roster, as his improved performance continues to earn him better usage.
Pour son retour Slafkovsky fait une belle action mais Vanecek est toujours là, une grosse prise des Devils. pic.twitter.com/l1CA6DLY9C
— Jeudepuissance (@jeudepuissance) November 16, 2022