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Canadiens GM Hughes Discusses Slafkovsky, UFAs, & Demidov

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montreal canadiens kent hughe

Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes met with the media on Monday, to discuss Juraj Slafkovsky’s contract extension, free agency, Ivan Demidov, and a few other pressing topics.

The sticker price on Slafkovsky’s eight-year extension may have come as a shock to some, but given his impressive upward trajectory in the second half of the season, it’s clear the Habs are banking on their own evaluation of the 2022 first-overall draft, as well as a continued evolution in all aspects of his game.

It’s a part of the reason why term was such a crucial aspect of the contract negotiations.

“The process has been ongoing for about a month,” said Hughes. “Listen, it’s someone we drafted first overall, he’s every important to the future of the Montreal Canadiens. Juraj loves Montreal, loves the city, loves playing here. We always wanted to find a long-term deal that was seven or eight years, we even looked at six years. There was a lot of back and forth, but in the long run, we landed on eight years.”

Hughes would go on to state contract negotiations with the other young player who is now eligible for a long-term extension, Kaiden Guhle, are ongoing, but they did not necessarily start at the same point as the Slafkovsky-related discussion.

“It’s not always about taking care of things quickly,” he explained, “But rather, the right way. We didn’t start at the same place as we did with Slaf[kovsky], but the objective is finding a contract that we can all agree on this summer. If not, we’ll wait, as we did with Cole [Caufield]. We have plenty of time to find a solution.”

Montreal Canadiens Free Agency Complications

The Canadiens did not make much noise when free agency opened at noon on Monday. Their marquee signing, Alex Barré-Boulet, will have a chance to earn a job with the team at training camp, but for the most part, the organization focused on adding talent and depth at the AHL level.

That’s not to say they didn’t do their homework. The team had irons in the fire, but they were reluctant to offer long-term deals to older players, a decision that will surely reassure fans who were worried some of the younger players would be left by the wayside.

“We looked at a few players,” said Hughes. “But for us, the complication is that we have so many young players, so we aren’t worried about paying a player, but term is an issue. We didn’t want four or five year deals. We wanted to add a player if they were able to play in the top six, with a short term. If we could do it, that’s great, but if not, it’s not a crucial aspect of our long-term rebuilds. The first day [of free agency] involves finding a premiere player that wants a short term, which is hard, but you have to try.

As for the plans going forward, Hughes, a former player agent, dismissed the idea that a high tax rate would impact the team’s ability to sign free agents. The eternal truth when it comes to hockey players is that they like playing for good teams.

“I’m not worried about attracting people here,” he said. “Quite frankly, if we were prepared to meet the terms in deals, I’m fairly confident we’d have a player here. My experience representing players for a long time is that hockey players are happy when the hockey is going well. If we were willing to match the lengths of contracts being offered, we’d have some of those players. But at the end of the day, we won’t do something that will provide a short term gain at the expense of our long-term plan. If we commit too long into the future, and we end up blocking a young player from moving their way up, then we’re doing a disservice to what we’re trying to accomplish.”

A big part of what they’re trying to accomplish involves the fifth overall pick at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft, Ivan Demidov. Hughes confirmed that he’s expecting the young player to play out the final year of his contract with SKA St. Petersburg before he makes his way to North America. He went out of his way to mention he considers St. Petersburg to be a world-class organization, and that Demidov’s development will be in good hands.

It’s another good reminder that when it comes to Russian prospects, the fear that they’ll refuse to report to North America is completely unfounded. Demidov will be in Montreal within the year, while fellow top prospect Matvei Michkov signed his entry-level contract on Monday, and is expected to play for the Flyers as of next season.

INSTANT ANALYSIS: The Montreal Canadiens Hit A Home Run By Drafting Ivan Demidov

As for the other housekeeping matters, Hughes confirmed the team is actively looking for a replacement head coach for the Laval Rocket, and that the team has already met with a long list of interested parties. The decision is not imminent, but it should not be long before Laval’s new coach is decided upon.

And finally, he also cleared up the situation regarding assistant coach Alex Burrows. The time demands placed on Burrows were starting to be a strain, especially when you consider he already missed a considerable amount of time with his family during his playing days. Burrows will still work with the team, particularly young players in Laval, but he will take on much fewer responsibilities going forward.

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morrisk

So glad they did not sign any of these UFAs today. Hopefully none tomorrow.

Stamkos @ $8M for 4 yrs?
Reinhart @ $8.6M for 8yrs?
Monahan @ $5.5M for 5 yrs?
Montour @ $7.2M for 7 yrs?

Are you kidding me?

Extract Necas from the Canes with a RFA offer sheet and be done with it. Otherwise, do it from within and give out NO bad contracts!

Greg

Offer sheet? Ludicrous. Anyone who watched the Habs last year knows this team is still a bottom 10, non playoff team next year. I wouldn’t give up a top 10 pick by itself for Necas, and as Carolina has said they’ll match any deals up to a point, it’s a stupid idea.
Clearly, no team was willing to pay the ransom Carolina wanted or he’d have moved b4 draft day. Offer sheet. Have you looked at the compensation levels? You’re also assuming Necas would sign for 6 million, but he’s no Steve Austin, he wants more.
Hughes would be making the dumbest move since arriving if he Offer sheeted Necas. A trade, you can top 10 protect pucks, Offer sheet guarantees they’d get OUR PICKS. No effin way.

Tyrone

I bet Toffoli was one of the guys that we offered a deal to that would match the money San Jose gave him, but not the term. My guess is we would have offered 2yrs. He got 4yrs from San Jose, so he went with them.

PS Not a fan of the new look comment section compared to the old one. I’d prefer to have the new comment box before the comments already posted. Having said that, if this new setup happens to solve the issue of refreshing the page and wiping out everything we’re writing before we can post it, I guess that’s definitely a step forward. 😁

Happy Canada Day everybody! 🇨🇦♥️

FlowerPower60

Long contracts for players in their mid-30s. Now, compared to many of us that’s still quite young. But not everyone can be Joe Pavelski. Those GMs must know they do’nt have the prospects to build from within so go the UFA route out of necessity. Sure, these players will work out for a while, but just when Montreal’s Kid Squad is rounding into form those teams will be struggling like the Pens and Caps at the end of the season. We should expect some turnover in the power structure of the league over the next 2-3 years.