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Canadiens Trade Talk

Canadiens GM Hughes Discusses Trades & Lack Of Elite Forwards



Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes

Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes addressed the media on Monday in Montreal to discuss the team’s results through the first half of the 2023-24 season, as well as to give an update regarding the Habs’ long-term rebuild plans.

The press conference started with Hughes explaining he’s very satisfied with captain Nick Suzuki’s progression this season. Suzuki has emerged as a top-line centre at both ends of the rink, and may even receive some Selke votes at the end of the year.

He also pointed to Cole Caufield’s shooting percentage as the reason why he’s not overly concerned with the slower-than-usual scoring pace.

“Cole is a goal scorer,” he said. “He’s scoring less often this year than in previous seasons. But more than anything with Cole, his shooting percentage is just 7 percent. Last year it was 16 percent. The other day we checked, and among all players with 11 or 12 goals, he’s 110th in shooting percentage.”

It’s a legitimate argument.

Some of the lack of production could be caused by his shoulder injury, which took place before the sniper signed an eight-year contract extension, however, it’s very fair to point to the downtick in historical shooting efficiency in Caufield’s case.

As for disappointments, Hughes stated the long list of injuries this season has held his team back, particularly losing Kirby Dach early in the season.

“Certainly, we did not want to have another year full of injuries,” said Hughes. “Losing Kirby Dach in the second game of the year, for example. It complicates things. Not just our chances every night, but our big-picture stuff as well. We’re losing a year to evaluate his progression and his impact. It complicated things.”

Hughes also admitted that he has to improve the overall depth of his club. The injuries are difficult to predict, but every NHL team deals with injured players yearly. That’s when a team’s depth comes to the forefront. For the Canadiens, there’s very little depth to be found.

“I think the coaches have done a great job with what they have, there are too many injuries and not enough depth,” he said. “We know that It’s something we aim to have on our team. But injuries will hurt us more than a team with depth.”

Potential Montreal Canadiens Trades

The Canadiens have carried three goaltenders on their roster all season, which is far from an ideal situation. Hughes explained he decided to keep all three goaltenders in the NHL, suggesting that placing Cayden Primeau on waivers would have led to a waiver claim by another team.

“We were not ready to put Cayden on waivers, based on the discussions with other teams,” he explained. “We were pretty sure someone would have claimed him. We decided to keep three goalies and evaluate the potential trades from there. The plan was not to have three goalies all year. It’s still not the plan. But I can’t tell you 100% that we’ll make a goaltender trade.”

Several teams have enquired as to the availability of one of the Canadiens’ goaltenders, including the Edmonton Oilers and the New Jersey Devils, but according to a recent report, Hughes is intent on receiving a relatively healthy return on any type of goalie trade.

MUST READ: Montreal Canadiens Holding Out For Bigger Return In Potential Goaltender Trade

According to Hughes, it’s too early to decipher whether it will be a seller or buyer’s market. Prior to last year’s NHL trade deadline, teams like the Washington Capitals and the Nashville Predators were surprise sellers, whereas the Calgary Flames also made a last-minute decision not to improve their lineup via trades.

As for the logjam on defence, the Canadiens may end up using a defenceman as a trade chip, but they’re not in a hurry to move a young blueliner.

“Would we explore a trade?” he asked. “Where we have a chance to rebalance to the ledger, we’ll pursue it. But we’re not in a hurry to make a deal We don’t feel any urgency to make a trade. If the deal is there we’ll do it, if it isn’t we won’t”

He also mentioned it’s a wait-and-see situation when discussing any potential move including veteran forward Sean Monahan.

“When you talk about signing a player to a one-year deal and convincing the player to come to a team like ours that’s in a phase of building, as a player, you evaluate it and look at what the opportunity is,” he said. “You’re trying to reset after a number of years of injury-riddled seasons. We’ll see where we are at the deadline.”

And finally, Hughes addressed the lack of high-end talent among forwards, both in the NHL and the organization’s prospect pipeline.

When asked if the team would like to add a point-per-game player to the lineup, something the Canadiens have not enjoyed in many years, Hughes quickly changed the subject.

“I don’t think of it in terms of a point-per-game player,” he said. “I hear it a lot in this market. Patrice Bergeron was never a point-per-game player and he is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”

For the record, Bergeron did indeed have a point-per-game season, but more importantly, he was one of the most complete NHL players of all time.

Elite, 200-foot players like Bergeron are even rarer than point-per-game NHL forwards.

“We’re looking for players that will help us,” he explained. “Are we looking to add offence to this group? Yes, no question about it. We’ve talked about the defensive depth of this group. If we’re able to do that, we will, using young players that we have in a logjam position. We also have a lot of picks, 22 in the next few years. In a perfect world, we’ll use some of those picks, as we did in the past to find Dach.”

Hughes’ final comment may give us some insight into the team’s long-term plans. He referenced the NHL’s salary cap, which is expected to rise significantly in the upcoming seasons.

“As we move forward we’ll have more financial flexibility in terms of the cap,” he said.

MUST READ: Montreal Canadiens Projected Lineup And Salary Cap Situation In 2024-25