Habs Mailbag: Trading for Dubois, Byron’s Future, Lafreniere
Welcome back to another edition of the Canadiens Mailbag!
This week we discuss possible trades, the 2023 Draft, player development, and much more.
Before we get into it, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate Laura Stacey and Marie Philip-Poulin on their recent engagement announcement.
They’re both amazing athletes and great people, to boot.
Once they set a date, Canada will finally celebrate its true Royal Wedding. No offence, William.
Alright, let’s get right into it!
Any truth to the Habs offering Winnipeg Anderson, Dvo, and a 1st for Dubois?
— Wayne Callaghan (@WayneCallagha14) May 26, 2023
Given the tone from Elliotte Friedman the last time the Pierre-Luc Dubois topic was discussed, I don’t get the sense the Canadiens are willing to trade multiple quality assets for Dubois’ services.
Kent Hughes has also made it clear he’s in no hurry to trade Josh Anderson.
A late first-round pick would be a reasonable price to acquire Dubois this summer rather than next summer when he’s likely to become an unrestricted free agent.
But anything more than that feels like an overpay given that virtually every hockey insider has stated Dubois is intent on playing for the Montreal Canadiens.
Now, if you’re a Winnipeg Jets fan reading this, you’re probably a little insulted at the lack of decent proposals coming from Habs-related websites.
And you have every right to be.
It’s a frustrating situation that has left the Jets with little to no leverage.
The harsh truth is that no, the Jets won’t be getting a prospect such as Lane Hutson in return for early access to Dubois. But if the Jets play their cards right, they could still land a decent asset for their expiring asset, which is better than nothing.
And let’s remind ourselves, nothing is a very real possibility at the moment.
As for the Canadiens, they can afford to lay back, relax, and watch the situation unfold, which means there’s no reason for them to up the ante in a situation where their potential trade partner lacks leverage in negotiations.
Paul Byron situation: are we close to seeing a retirement announcement? If so, do you see him staying within the organization? He’s been active with the front office in the past year. Where would he fit best?
— Annik Lemire (@alemiredesigns) May 26, 2023
I’d be surprised if Paul Byron plays another NHL game, and it’s genuinely a heart-wrenching situation.
He literally put his body on the line for this franchise, creating lifelong memories for Canadiens fans at the expense of his long-term health.
Few players have worked harder to make the NHL, and even fewer who worked harder to say in the NHL once they forced their way onto the roster.
Which is why he’d be a perfect development coach, in my opinion. Not necessarily when it comes to Xs and Os, though I’m sure he’s quite adept in that regard. But rather, I’d say his greatest strength lies within his affability.
Paul Byron is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
In this era of open, healthy communication, Byron is the perfect candidate to help players understand what it takes to succeed in the NHL.
I’ve also had the privilege of interacting with his wife Sarah and their incredibly cute children during the Canadiens’ surprising 2021 run to the Stanley Cup Final, and I have to say they’re one of the most wholesome families in hockey.
Hockey can use more families like the Byrons in their ranks.
And I’m not just saying that because we used to frequent the same watering holes in Hull, either.
If the Canadiens don’t see the value in Byron’s guidance on the ice, I’d argue he’s also a fantastic candidate to become a team ambassador.
What traits would you say give smaller players biggest chance of doing well in NHL?
— hockey ninja 💙 Benson 🏒🥅 🇺🇦 #BLM (@lovehockey_mtl) May 26, 2023
It’s all about anticipation.
I remember talking to Lane Hutson following an intense scrimmage during development camp last season, and the topic of surviving as a smaller player came up.
Hutson had evaded every single hit during the camp, showing the type of elusiveness that would make a greased-up pig jealous.
But then, in the third period, Callum Chisholm landed a monstrous hit. It wasn’t exactly a Larry Robinson on Gary Dornhoefer type of hit, but it wasn’t too far off, either.
For the record, Chisholm is roughly half a foot taller than Hutson, not to mention 80 lbs heavier.
Hutson bounced back to his feet faster than an angry kangaroo on a hot summer’s day, skating away before Chisholm had a chance to figure out if he had managed to hit the small defender.
A few moments later, the puck returned to Hutson’s corner, leaving him vulnerable to yet another massive hit by Chisholm, who was looking to double his tally.
But Hutson had no intention of getting hit for the second time.
A glance over his shoulder confirmed that Chisholm was indeed bearing down on him. Rather than abandoning the puck retrieval, Hutson simply baited Chisholm into thinking he was going to proceed in the same manner as he had the previous play.
Chisholm took the bait, and a few seconds later, Hutson had deked his way out of the precarious situation.
I asked Hutson about the big hit, and whether that type of physical play concerned him.
But Owen Beck, the other player taking part in the interview, quickly intervened, stating he was surprised to see Hutson actually get hit, and that it was a very rare situation.
I forget which nickname he gave Hutson at the time. It was something along the lines of ‘ninja’ because he is such a smart player that opponents rarely have time to adjust to his style of play, let alone line him up for a hit.
There’s more to it than just anticipation, but I truly believe that when it comes to smaller players, it’s all about intelligence. It’s what allows them to find open ice in the offensive zone, or, in Hutson’s case, shut down the rush before it becomes a scoring threat.
Having quads that would make most old-growth redwood trees jealous doesn’t hurt, either.
Solo adventures or roadtrips with friends?
— Melissa Leigh (@MochiMayhem89) May 26, 2023
I like a healthy balance of both.
Personally, I think too few people have taken the time to get to know themselves. And though that may sound like a cheesy pitch for a self-help seminar, in this modern era of fleeting fads and fast-paced information, there’s significant value in setting aside time to grow as an individual.
I used to do solo camping adventures when I lived in Ontario, but unfortunately, that’s not as feasible now that I’ve moved to Quebec. However, those trips to Algonquin Park were some of the best weeks of my life.
Try to think of the last time you actually focused on yourself rather than the millions of issues that don’t truly matter in the long run.
Was it last year?
Five years ago?
For many, the answer is never.
And that’s a damn shame. We spend so much time parsing through the endless stream of content on the internet that we don’t give our own mind time to process the things that matter most.
However, I’m also never happier than when I’m surrounded by my friends at a campfire.
Take last weekend, for example. I was sitting on an island in a forest, with a dozen of lifelong friends in front of a blazing fire. The food was bountiful, the music was great, the fish were jumping, and to make things even better, there were a pair of dogs at the fire that kept me close company.
The good place. pic.twitter.com/GYVTHs39g6
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) May 23, 2023
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, life doesn’t get any better than that.
Who do you want the habs to take with our 2nd round pick?
— Dirby Kach (@DirbyKach77) May 26, 2023
One player, in particular, has caught my eye.
Mikhail Gulyayev is an offensive-minded defenceman who is fantastic in transition, but has a rather diminutive frame.
And because he’s rather small, there’s a decent chance Gulyayey could drop to the second round despite having first-round talent.
Does that sound familiar to Canadiens fans?
I’m not saying he’s the next Lane Hutson, but I’m a big fan of taking home run swings late in the first round or early in the second, and Gulyayev certainly comes with a rather high potential.
Byron Bader‘s Draft Comparison profile also paints a rather encouraging picture when it comes to Gulyayev’s potential impact.
What do you think it would take in a trade to move up to draft 2 or 3?
— Simmer11 (@bsimzz) May 26, 2023
I’m in the process of writing a detailed breakdown regarding the possibility of the Canadiens moving up or down at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, so I don’t want to spoil the fun.
But let me say this, I get the sense that all bets are off this year. The usual draft value charts need not apply. This is a generational draft.
NHL teams already tend to overpay to move up, but this year, we’re likely to see a significant cost increase due to the talent involved in the top five or six picks.
And that, my friends, will create opportunities to cash in by moving down in the draft. But that’s a topic for another day.
Thoughts on Leonard being a potential pick by the Habs?
— Steve – Michkov to the Habs (@PardonMyRatio) May 26, 2023
I think Ryan Leonard is a very interesting prospect.
He’s big, he’s skilled, he’s intense, he’s versatile, and he’s already producing at a very encouraging pace.
And we know he’s caught the eye of Canadiens management with his strong play.
In any other draft year, I’d suggest he’s a fantastic target.
But not this year.
At least not with the fifth overall pick.
Because drafting Leonard means you’ll forgo the chance to draft one of Matvei Michkov, Leo Carlsson, Will Smith, or Zach Benson, and I truly believe there’s a significant gap between those players and Leonard.
Would you trade 5th overall for Clayton keller?
— Stuart Brooks (@SBrooks_77) May 26, 2023
My first reaction is ‘absolutely not’.
However, Keller is the type of player that is young enough, and skilled enough to jump into the lineup and make an immediate impact, and Hughes has made no qualms about the possibility of making another Kirby Dach-type deal.
Keep in mind, Keller scored 37 goals and 49 assists last season. The last Canadiens player to reach 80 points was Alexei Kovalev in 2007-08.
I’m still of the opinion that drafting a player like Michkov or Carlsson would probably yield a better long-term return than trading for Keller, but it’s certainly an interesting proposal if the players available at fifth overall don’t involve the aforementioned prospects.
The Canadiens need more shooting talent, particularly on the wing. Keller definitely fits the bill.
Kudos for the proposal, it’s a good one.
hope a general hockey question is ok. what do you thing the Atlantic division will look like next year and your very early pics on who makes the playoffs?
— adamfirebear🏳️🌈 (@adamfirebear) May 26, 2023
This is a great question. I’ve often stated the current arms race in the Atlantic Division has led to the perfect time frame for the Canadiens’ rebuild.
Given what happened in the playoffs, I think we’re in for a major shakeup.
Will the Toronto Maple Leafs trade one of their core players? Will the Tampa Bay Lightning finally throw in the towel and admit their Stanley Cup window has closed? Will the aging Boston Bruins blow it all up? Are the Ottawa Senators finally ready to compete? Can the Buffalo Sabres finally disprove the theory that the city of Buffalo is a social experiment by a chaotic god to see how much pain sports fans can take?
It all remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, while the rest of the division jockeys for position, the Canadiens can bide their time while slowly adding talent to the roster.
With all that in mind, here is my very early prediction for next season’s standings. Full disclosure, there are very good odds my prediction will be completely wrong.
First – Toronto Maple Leafs (As much as we like to poke fun at the Leafs due to them being the embodiment of sports memes, they should avoid panicking this offseason. Run it back.)
Second – Buffalo Sabres (I’ve predicted they’d be underdog candidates to make the playoffs for the last five years, and I’ll be damned if I stop now. Also, Devon Levi is the truth.)
Third – Florida Panthers
Fourth – Ottawa Senators (They simply have too much talent to keep underperforming.)
Fifth – Boston Bruins (If they retool, they can easily win the Division again, but I get the sense change is coming.)
Sixth – Tampa Bay Lightning (hey, they’ve had a good run.)
Seventh/Eight – Interchangeable between the Detroit Red Wings and the Canadiens. Neither will be good enough to compete, but I also don’t anticipate they’ll be among the bottom five teams in the league.)
Mailloux in Laval next season?
— Habs Insight (@HabsInsight) May 26, 2023
Let’s keep in mind Logan Mailloux has missed significant stretches in two very important development seasons.
I know lots has been said about Mailloux’s potential, and people are probably tired of hearing about it by now, but I’m here to tell you two facts.
He’s probably not as bad defensively as some have suggested.
And he’s not remotely close to being the best prospect in the organization, as others have said. Watching three or four of his games will quickly dissuade anyone of that notion.
Mailloux’s highlights are fun, but they’re just that, highlights.
I had the opportunity to watch dozens of his games, and there are certain aspects that will translate well to the professional ranks, including his affinity for putting a ridiculous number of pucks on the net, and some that won’t, like his defensive positioning while trying to shut down the rush.
In my opinion, which can be, and is often wrong, Mailloux will need two years, or more, to hone his craft in the AHL before he’s ready to step into the NHL.
On that note, working with Adam Nicholas and Co. will benefit Mailloux greatly. I’d say he’s the prospect who stands to improve the most by working with the Canadiens’ development team.
Favorite Habs hockey card of all time ?
— Casey Leigh (@Casey_LeighD) May 26, 2023
Patrick Roy’s rookie card from the 1986-87 O-Pee-Chee set, hands down.
Roy was my favourite player growing up, and like every good French Canadian boy of the era, I ended up becoming a goaltender in a desperate bid to emulate Casseau‘s greatness on the ice.
Unfortunately, the only thing we had in common was our fondness for chip truck food, so my NHL dreams ended early.
I saved up a good amount of money to attempt to buy the card when I was about nine or 10 years old. I begged my mother to bring me to the Sears card exchange, located at the St-Laurent Mall in Ottawa.
But the card was no longer there. I panicked. I cried. I threw a tantrum.
Lo and behold, there was only one gift under the tree on Christmas morning, a small, rectangular present that my mother had put aside many moons ago.
I’ve never been much for gifts. From a very young age, I told everyone that I saw no value in buying me things. If anything, I asked for socks and underwear.
Material objects held very little value in my mind, but I will never forget getting the Roy rookie card.
It was slightly better than the socks I had received the previous year.
Hi Marc. Do you think there is any chance of acquiring another R1 pick? TIA
— Ken Craig (@MrHabsFan31) May 26, 2023
I feel like that ship has sailed.
The Canadiens’ best opportunity to add another first-round pick to the cupboard was during the regular season.
Players like Sean Monahan, Joel Edmundson, and Josh Anderson could have led to decent returns at the trade deadline, but Monahan and Edmundson’s injuries put an end to that notion.
The issue is that there are very few teams that will want to move out of the first round now that their playoff aspirations have come to an end.
However, Hughes has mentioned on a few occasions that he would like to add another first-round pick to the mix, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still actively trying to find a way to get a deal done.
Would you trade pick 5 for Lafrenière?
— Kevin Elder (@ottawakev) May 26, 2023
Short answer: No.
Longer answer: As much as I don’t think Alexis Lafreniere has been put in a position to succeed in New York, he’s quickly approaching Jesperi Kotakniemi territory.
And by that, I mean he’s likely to become a good, not great, player in the NHL. Teams certainly need those types of players to win, but if you play your cards right, you can usually acquire them on the cheap.
There’s simply too much talent available in the top five to risk such a trade.
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When did Jesperi Kotakniemi become good? Carolina would probably still be playing he did anything in the playoffs – penalty in overtime to lose one game and an earth shattering 8 minutes and 20 seconds in the deciding game. He was an electrifying 41% on face-offs in the playoffs as well.It took till his 5th season to get more points in a year than he did as a rookie with Montreal and it took a loaded Carolina team for him to do it.
Bang on , man …just doesn’t have it ..