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Canadiens Mailbag: NHL Trade Market, Bedard, Farrell’s Future

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Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes

We have an abundance of topics to cover in this week’s Canadiens mailbag because as per usual, Habs fans are excited about what the future may bring.

We’ll answer as many as possible, however, there are a few topics that will be covered with in-depth articles, such as Cole Caufield’s extension, as well as the 2023 Draft.

Slafkovsky Situation

My opinion at the time of the Draft was that Juraj Slafkovsky was not the player I would have chosen first overall, and that hasn’t changed.

I had players such as Simon Nemec, Logan Cooley, and David Jiricek higher on my Draft list since they have a skill set that should translate seamlessly to the NHL. You could argue the same for Shane Wright, though I am still unsure if he will become more than just a very good middle-six player.

As for Slafkovsky, it was clear at the time that the Canadiens were not drafting him due to his present form, but rather because provided a unique combination of potential and physical maturity.

With that in mind, the 2022 Draft was never going to provide the team with a game-changing presence, especially among the available forwards. Therefore, I’d suggest that it’s too early to discuss whether he was the right pick.

Rather, we should focus on whether or not his current development is conducive to growing into an impact player in the NHL.

It’s going to be a long-term project. The minutes and responsibilities will increase slowly and surely, which is always the case for a player attempting to make his mark in the NHL as an 18-year-old.

The most important thing in Slafkovsky’s case will be next year’s usage.

As Vincent Lecavalier explained recently, playing 13 or 14 minutes in the NHL as an 18-year-old is an invaluable experience, and helped him grow into a dominant player.

But in Lecavalier’s case, his ice time jumped to almost 20 minutes per night the following season, which, truthfully speaking, is the main reason he became such a great player.

It’s All Gravy

Blain is speaking my language: food.

Nick Suzuki is the base of all things good, and Cole Caufield is the delicious finishing touch, but without Kirby Dach in the mix, they do lack the gravy that can highlight the other two ingredients and complete the dish.

Much like a proper poutine, the gravy needs to be thick and it needs to be able to carry the other two elements to greatness without overshadowing their unique talents.

Sean Monahan fits the bill, seeing as he can create time and space, and is one of the better Canadiens players in transition. Gaining access to the offensive zone with control of the puck doubles the odds a player will get a goal or a shot on the net.

But Monahan is not a long-term fix, and with Dach returning to centre, the available options are few and far between.

The long-term answer would be a player along the lines of Kevin Fiala or Anthony Duclair, who are among the best wingers in the NHL when it comes to maintaining control of the puck in transition. The same can be said for Carter Verhaeghe and Evan Rodrigues, although they’re centres.

The Canadiens may also want to consider splitting up their two best players, but that’s a topic for another day on a completely unrelated note, I am craving a poutine all of the sudden.

Tank Hard For Bedard

Connor Bedard is clearly a franchise-altering player, but let’s face it, as interesting as the Canadiens’ Draft odds happen to be, they’re more likely to Draft 6th or 7th overall with their own pick, and closer to 10th overall with the Florida Panthers pick.

The good news is the upcoming Draft should yield an impressive number of high-end players.

The Cost Of Wood

Given that he’s in the process of shattering his career bests, you have to assume it would cost the Canadiens too much to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois at this stage in his career.

He’s in his prime and the Jets would be foolish to demand anything but a king’s ransom in return.

I’m terrible at gauging value, but I’d expect a package that includes several quality prospects, high-end Draft picks, and a player that can make an immediate impact for the Jets.

But the Canadiens cannot afford to mortgage their future, even if Dubois is an excellent player.

It’s worth revisiting this summer when Dubois becomes a restricted free agent and the Canadiens have a little more clarity as to their long-term ambitions as well as their cap flexibility.

Sticky Stairs

Technically you’re not supposed to bring food to the press box, there are signs asking members of the media to avoid any sort of hot food once you arrive at the catwalk.

And therefore, I have never, ever, ever, ever brought food to my desk.

Never.

Not even once.

Just ignore the ketchup-looking stain on my tie.

The popcorn on the ground? No idea how it got there.

However, I once spilled about half my coffee when I sat down beside Chantal Machabee to ask a few questions during a game, so I’d argue the drinks are a bigger issue.

Goalie Projections

I was hoping the Canadiens would allow Cayden Primeau to start a few games following his recall from the Laval Rocket.

It’s the perfect chance to see what he can do, and gauge whether or not he still holds NHL potential. Remember, goaltenders, peak around 27 or 28 years old, which means there’s still a lot of developmental runway to go.

But given his lack of consistency and the Canadiens’ hesitancy to put him into a game, you’d be hard-pressed to argue the Canadiens see him as a future NHL goaltender.

There’s also the matter of other goaltenders closing the gap, such as Jakub Dobes.

It’s become clear Primeau should have remained at Northeastern for a couple more years. Being the youngest goaltender in NCAA history to sign an NHL contract was a fun story, but it also robbed him of crucial development seasons.

Primeau’s situation is a healthy tale of caution for NHL executives: don’t rush a goaltender, no matter how much potential they have.

Gooners or Habs

Definitely Arsenal.

Vivianne Miedema might be the most underrated striker in football history, and Beth Mead is a force in her own right.

But in the meantime, Arsenal’s men’s side can resume celebrating St. Totteringham’s Day, which is a sign nature is healing.

Gorging Guhle

Absolutely not.

And I’m being completely serious.

Kaiden Guhle hates losing and does everything in his power to win.

And as we’ve seen, he has no issue putting his body on the line when necessary. I’d expect Guhle to smash up roughly 200 skittles at a time and devour the monstrously delicious creation as if he were eating an apple.

He doesn’t want to taste the rainbow. He wants to drown his competition in sorrow.

Farrell’s Future

With only two NCAA seasons in the books, there’s a risk you’d be rushing Farrell’s development.

But given he’s playing in every situation for Harvard, and doing so with aplomb, the extra year spent in the USHL does not seem to have harmed his growth.

We should wait to see how he closes out the season, but there is a chance Farrell signs a contract and plays a few games with the Canadiens this season, much like Cole Caufield did.

It’s also worth noting during our interview with Sean Farrell, the exciting prospect did not hesitate to express his desire to play for a coach like Martin St-Louis, which is a common refrain among Canadiens prospects.

Owen Beck said the same.

Deadline Deals

Again, I am terrible when it comes to gauging potential returns involved in NHL trades, but there’s a dearth of talented centres available on the trade market, which should increase Monahan’s value.

Other than a player like Jonathan Toews, who might end up staying in Chicago, or Bo Horvat, who carries a rightfully elevated price tag, Monahan is one of the few centres that excels in all three zones, and wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, relatively speaking.

I expected Monahan will garner a late first-round pick or a very talented prospect that’s on the cusp of being NHL-ready.

Or maybe the Canadiens can acquire that Artturi Lehkonen guy.

I hear he’s underrated, is signed to a very reasonable contract, is very young, and has a Stanley Cup ring.

What’s not to like?

Edmonton Edmundson

Edmundson should fetch a very good return as teams prepare to endure the war of attrition that is the NHL playoffs.

I’ll let NHL insider Chris Johnston answer this one.

“The best assets at this deadline are mostly going to be asking for at least a 1st-round pick in return,” said Johnston regarding the high ask from selling clubs. “That goes for the high-profile forwards, but also a couple of defencemen. I think that, if the Montreal Canadiens are to move Joel Edmundson at this deadline, you’re looking at a 1st-round pick-plus. Same in Columbus with Vladislav Gavrikov.”

Who Goes, Who Stays?

I’m inclined to believe will be a lot of potential movement from here to the NHL deadline, but there’s only one guarantee: Sean Monahan will be traded.

I’d argue Joel Edmundson is also likely to move, and if the offers improve, Josh Anderson may end up with a new address.

As for the struggling veterans, players like Joel Armia, Evgenii Dadonov, and Jonathan Drouin, it’s difficult to envisage a scenario in which the Canadiens could organize a trade that doesn’t involve salary retention.

When it comes to the long shots, I’d put Jake Allen in the conversation, because he offers a great contingency plan for teams looking to make a serious push into the playoffs.

Mike Hoffman is the wild card, but statistically speaking, he’s a very interesting target if teams are looking for some secondary or tertiary scoring.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if a team enquired about Rem Pitlick if they’re hoping to shore up their offensive depth.

DOGGO

Flambo is all grown up but was unfortunately diagnosed with elbow dysplasia, which prevented him from taking part in the extensive training involved in becoming a guide dog.

But I can confirm he is still incredibly cute, as evidenced by my graceful actions the last time I saw him at the Bell Centre.

While running up and down from the office, I spotted the incredibly adorable fluff ball on the concourse, which obviously drew my attention as I rubber-necked to get a better view.

Unfortunately, the cuteness overloaded my senses, and I may or may not have slammed into the person walking in front of me, who was also distracted by Flambo but had the presence of mind to stop walking in a crowded area.

Mister Anderson

As mentioned earlier, I’d give Anderson a 50/50 chance to remain a member of the Montreal Canadiens beyond the deadline, and close to no chance to remain a member of the organization throughout the entirety of his contract.

He’s the type of player that causes general managers to drool due to his intense style of play, and is one of the most discussed players on the NHL trade market.

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