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Montreal Canadiens

Canadiens Management Preparing To Take The Next Step

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Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes

Even though qualifying for the playoffs was well beyond realistic expectations, the Montreal Canadiens saw several of their key players experience tangible growth in 2023-24.

From Juraj Slafkovksy’s improved scoring rate to Nick Suzuki’s emergence as a top-line centre, and everything in between, there certainly are some positive aspects to keep in mind as the team prepares to take the next big step in their rebuild.

And though they’re not ready to compete with some of the best teams in the NHL, there will be an opportunity to significantly improve the lineup this summer, either via free agency or yet another draft-day trade that will lead to an NHL-ready player joining the team, much like the trades that saw Kirby Dach and Alex Newhook join the organization.

As it stands, the Canadiens will be blessed with an abundance of one of the most important assets in a modern sports landscape: salary cap space.

Their financial maneuverability will be considerable, as the Canadiens are expected to have over $17 million in available funds this summer.

MUST READ: Canadiens Salary Cap Outlook For 2024-25 Provides Interesting Options

On top of having more cap space than most teams in the NHL, the Canadiens also own 12 picks set to take place in the first three rounds of the 2024 and 2025 NHL Entry Drafts, including four first-round picks.

“It’s a huge summer for us,” explained V.P. Of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton. “We want to set ourselves up pretty well.”

The Canadiens will have to make sure they avoid taking the same route as a team like the Detroit Red Wings, who attempted to hasten their rebuild by adding expensive veterans to the mix in a desperate bid to qualify for the playoffs.

Not only did the Red Wings fail to qualify for the playoffs, but they’re also set to draft in the middle of the first round, the worst possible outcome for a team that needs to add more talent to the mix.

Of course, there will always be significant pressure to perform in hockey-crazed cities like Montreal and Detroit, not to mention expectations from the person who signs the cheques.

Montreal Canadiens Making Moves

“I read Geoff Molson said we want to be in the mix for the playoffs,” said general manager Kent Hughes. “That is a fair characterization. Whether we push it over the threshold, I don’t know but we need to be better. The fans deserve it.”

While there’s no doubt the Canadiens have improved certain aspects of their overall play, there is still a bevy of issues that need to be addressed before they can even consider becoming legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

Essentially, this is the time frame in which the team is at its most vulnerable. The Habs have plenty of cap space, lots of draft capital, and one of the most intense fanbases in the world.

Yes, the Canadiens need to be better, but not at the cost of deviating from what seems to be a rather well-designed rebuild blueprint.

The good news for Habs fans is that Hughes will not use fan pressure as an excuse for his own shortcomings, unlike former general manager Marc Bergevin, who suggested fans could not tolerate a rebuild.

It turns out Montreal Canadiens fans can indeed show patience, they just want the reassurance that their patience will likely lead to success down the road, a philosophy shared by the current management group.

“We’re going to try to do what we can,” said Hughes. “But we won’t do it at the expense of this long-term plan.”