The Montreal Canadiens have signed their first two players upon the opening of the 2023 NHL free agency period.
The team announced that Kent Hughes had come to terms on a contract with two players: Phillippe Maillet and Brady Keeper.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) July 1, 2023
Maillet is a 30-year-old forward who played in the KHL last season, scoring 21 goals and 31 assists in 66 games for Magnitogorsk Metallurg. As for his Junior hockey, Maillet played for the Victoriaville Tigers in the QMJHL, where he put up three 25-goal seasons in a row.
Keeper, 27, is a defenceman who spent the 2022-23 season in the AHL, playing with the Abbotsford Canucks, Vancouver’s AHL affiliate. The blueliner had one goal and five assists in 35 games.
Seeing as the Canadiens have very little available in terms of roster spots in the NHL, both Maillet and Keeper are likely destined for the AHL, where they can provide a veteran presence for the Laval Rocket.
Maillet, in particular, should provide a significant offensive boost. He’s scored 37 goals in 113 games with Magnitogorsk Metallurg.
Maillet is gonna cook.
Been watching him in the KHL for the last couple seasons.
He doesn't need directions on where the back of the net is.
— Hockey News Hub (@HockeyNewsHub) July 1, 2023
The Rocket are expecting an influx of prospects this year, with players such as Joshua Roy, Emil Heineman, Riley Kidney, Sean Farrell, and others joining the fold. It marks a significant step in the organization’s development plan. Since the team arrived in Laval, the Rocket have mostly depended on hired mercenaries to fill the roster rather than legitimate prospects who have the potential to play a big part in the team’s rebuild plans.
Prior to the signings, the Canadiens had a little over $8 million in available salary cap space if we include the cap relief they’ll receive once Carey Price is added to the long-term injured reserve. It’s also worth noting that Hughes traded Joel Edmundson, which should provide the team with a little more maneuverability in terms of their salary cap expenditures.