Canadiens Injuries Fast Track Evaluation, Prompt Summer Moves
The Montreal Canadiens have used the injury situation to their advantage, getting prime evaluation time to help them plan their summer moves.
It’s a far cry from the start of the season, when the Canadiens had a logjam at forward with 16 healthy forwards on the roster.
Now they find themselves in need of yet another emergency recall at forward just to finish up the season, while also doing the same on defence on Monday.
However, if it weren’t for injuries, players like Justin Barron, Jesse Ylönen and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard likely would have never gotten their chance to shine at the NHL level.
The Canadiens are now trying to do the same with Cayden Primeau, as Jake Allen appears a little banged up to end the season; offering the youngster a prime opportunity to show he can hang in the big league.
But what does it all mean?
If the players above prove they are ready for the NHL, and it’s safe to say that most have, the Canadiens will be forced to take a hard look at their roster this summer and make some decisions.
The Montreal Canadiens have ten forwards signed for next season, not including Ylönen, Harvey-Pinard, Michael Pezzetta, Cole Caufield, Alex Belzile and Denis Gurianov.
Caufield’s extension should be coming shortly, while it would be surprising to see the Canadiens let go of Ylönen and Harvey-Pinard after the way they’ve played this season.
It could leave the Canadiens with up to 15 forwards on the roster for next season; and that doesn’t count any prospects that could surprise out of training camp next season.
Rem Pitlick could easily be waived next season to make room on the roster, but the Canadiens would still have a logjam in key positions.
Mike Hoffman would be a perfect trade candidate in this situation, with one year left on his deal valued at $4.5M a season.
The Canadiens also have the ability to retain up to 50% on his contract, as they’ll need the roster spot next season much more than the cap space; with over $20M coming off the books this summer.
Then there’s Joel Armia, who is a prime buyout candidate this summer. The 29-year-old veteran has been a shell of his former self since signing his four-year contract and could make for a very interesting buyout, as it would save the Canadiens $3.3M and $2.4 over the next two seasons, while penalizing them by $1.4M from 2025-2026 to 2026-2027.
Lastly, Christian Dvorak, who generated some buzz shortly before the NHL Trade Deadline could be an option to move for the Canadiens, as centres are always coveted during the offseason.
If the Canadiens believe that Alex Belzile should be re-signed, or that Owen Beck is ready for the jump to the NHL, they’ll have to make some room.
Jake Evans has shown an ability to take on the defensive responsibilities in Dvorak’s stead, leaving the door open for the Canadiens to get creative.
The writing has been on the wall for a while on the back end, the youngsters will ultimately push Joel Edmundson out of the lineup sooner than later.
That’s not a knock on Edmundson, who has been a rock for the Canadiens over the last three seasons, but the point of a rebuild is to have your youngsters force you to make a move.
And that’s exactly what they’ve done.
The emergence of Kaiden Guhle, Arber Xhekaj and Jordan Harris has made it impossible to picture a lineup without each of them in uniform.
Throw in the resurgence of Mike Matheson to top-pairing form, and the Canadiens have a serious log jam of left-shooting defencemen.
It won’t get any easier down the road, with William Trudeau, Lane Hutson and Adam Engstrom not too far either.
With Edmundson finishing the season healthy, some of the concerns regarding his health that percolated around the NHL Trade Deadline will be calmed.
The expectation is that the veteran will be moved around the draft for futures.
This is where things get tricky, as Cayden Primeau has looked stellar down the stretch this season for the Laval Rocket and he will have to go through waivers next season.
If the Montreal Canadiens ever decided to take the gamble and put him through waivers next fall, it’s very likely that an NHL club would take a shot with him and claim him.
That would be a disaster for the Canadiens’ goaltending depth, leaving them with just Jakub Dobes for reinforcements should anything go wrong.
With Jake Allen injured again this season, the Canadiens are going to test Primeau at the NHL level, just as they have Samuel Montembeault of late, to see if they can hold the fort moving forward.
If Primeau goes on to have another successful spring in Montreal and Laval, the management staff could be tempted to test the market on Allen, as a multitude of teams were interested in his services last summer.
With a $3.875M for the next two seasons, Allen would be a good value across the league and could be a 1B type of goaltender for a contending team with cap constraints.
Needless to say, all these injuries have given the Montreal Canadiens something they haven’t had in a long while.
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