Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 24, 2024

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 24, 2024

Check out the most recent Canadiens speculation in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels reported Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes hopes to accelerate his club’s rebuilding timeline during the offseason. He knows that his roster still needs work, especially their need for scoring depth.

Engels noted that Hughes has plenty of assets to draw on for trade bait this summer. He has plenty of promising young defensemen, four first-round picks and three second-rounders in the next two drafts and plenty of salary-cap space.

Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes (NHL.com).

At this stage, Engels doesn’t see them pursuing expensive aging veterans in this summer’s unrestricted free-agent market.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan reported Jeff Gorton, the Canadiens executive vice-president of hockey operations, indicated that his club is always looking to add and to improve the roster. He said the Canadiens are “always looking for a trade” that would help move their rebuild along.

THE ATHLETIC: Arpon Basu also took note of the Canadiens’ depth in young defensemen. He believes this summer gives them a prime opportunity to flip some of those blueliners for help at forward.

Basu noted the Canadiens had done this before. During the first round of the 2022 draft, they shipped promising Alexander Romanov to the New York Islanders for a first-round pick that they sent to the Chicago Blackhawks for Kirby Dach. They did so because Guhle was in their system and would crack the roster the following season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Basu pointed out that David Savard was not moved at this year’s trade deadline but could be traded during the offseason.

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman listed what he believes are the five priorities facing the Canadiens in the offseason.

Wegman feels they should weaponize their $19 million in cap space to continue stockpiling draft picks and prospects by targeting cap-strapped clubs looking to shed salary. Such teams are usually willing to add sweeteners to move out players. As long as it’s a short-term contract, it could help them add a prospect or draft pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens have experience in that department, most notably their acquisition of Sean Monahan two years ago from the Calgary Flames. They could continue to go that route. However, recent remarks by Hughes and Gorton suggest they’re focusing on adding a player who can help them accelerate their rebuild.

The Canadiens should also sign Juraj Slafkovsky and Kaiden Guhle to long-term extensions this summer before it becomes more expensive to re-sign them. The duo have a year each remaining on their entry-level contracts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. There’s a risk that they might not play up to the expectations that come with such contracts. Usually, however, such deals turn into long-term bargains if they continue to develop as projected.

Wegman believes the Canadiens should make a modest splash in this summer’s UFA market to bolster their forward depth. Options could include Boston’s Jake DeBrusk, Edmonton’s Warren Foegele or Detroit’s Daniel Sprong.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could be worthwhile provided they don’t overpay for the privilege. However, they could be more interested in finding a forward in his mid-twenties who would have a bigger impact and fit better within their long-term plans.

Wegman also thinks they should shop a veteran defenseman like Savard or Johnathan Kovacevic. Both are a year away from UFA eligibility. He also advises against buying out Brendan Gallagher or Josh Anderson as it would hurt the Canadiens’ long-term salary-cap flexibility when they project to be contenders again.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gallagher and Anderson each have three years left on their contract. It’s better to hang onto them for another couple of years and go the buyout route in the final season when the cost will only be spread out over two years.










The Canadiens Don’t Need To Tank The Season

The Canadiens Don’t Need To Tank The Season

A quarter of the way into the 2022-23 schedule, the Montreal Canadiens are exceeding expectations.

Having bottomed out last season in one of the worst performances in franchise history, the Canadiens (11-9-1) had 23 points entering their Nov. 29 games with the San Jose Sharks. They’re just two points out of a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

Several factors account for this improvement thus far.

Head coach Martin St. Louis doesn’t punish players (especially the younger Habs) for making mistakes. It’s much easier to play the game when you’re not terrified of getting banished to the press box for screwing up now and again.

Nick Suzuki wears the captaincy as comfortably as he would his favorite pair of skates. He leads the Canadiens in scoring, becoming the first-line center this franchise has been lacking for some time.

Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield (NHL Images).

Cole Caufield, meanwhile, continues to blossom into one of the league’s most dangerous snipers. Off-season acquisition Kirby Dach is thriving alongside Suzuki and Caufield, providing the Canadiens with a potent scoring line.

Rookie defensemen Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Arber Xhekaj and Johnathan Kovacevic stepped up when veterans Joel Edmundson and Mike Matheson were sidelined by injuries. 2022 first-overall pick Juraj Slavkovsky is showing some potential as a future top-six winger.

The Canadiens’ rebuilding process under general manager Kent Hughes and his boss Jeff Gorton seems to be tracking in the right direction. A house of horrors a year ago, the Bell Centre is rocking once again to the cheers of Habs fans.

However, not every Canadiens follower is pleased by the club’s promising early-season play.

There are those fearful that the Canadiens are wrecking their rebuild, screwing up their chances of winning the 2023 draft lottery and the rights to projected top prospect Connor Bedard. Some suggest management tank the season by trading away as many veteran players as they can as soon as possible.

Hughes and Gorton entered this season with no illusions. Their game plan was always to shop some veterans (especially those on expiring contracts) by the March 3 trade deadline for draft picks and prospects to put toward the ongoing rebuild.

Waiting for February or March to unload those players isn’t good enough for those Canadiens followers hoping their club finishes dead last. They want them gone now in the belief it’ll send the team tumbling toward the bottom of the standings and fulfill their daydreams of Bedard pulling on a Habs jersey at the 2023 draft.

Those folks are overlooking the potential already on display within this season’s roster.

The Canadiens have two foundation stars in Suzuki and Caufield. Dach has the potential to become a star in his own right. The 18-year-old Slavkovsky could turn into a serious scoring threat as his game matures. Guhle, Xhekaj, Harris and Kovacevic are providing a tantalizing glimpse of what could become a solid blueline corps.

Why mess with that right now? What gut the roster of veteran experience, skill and leadership that takes the pressure off those kids while they’re developing their skills? Why risk damaging the budding confidence of those promising players with another season wallowing in the bottom of the standings?

Despite the Canadiens’ early-season play, realistic fans understand that they will likely come up short of a playoff berth. There are still too many holes in their current roster despite their better-than-expected start. Management probably understands this too. They will start shopping some of their veterans leading up to the March trade deadline for draft picks and prospects. In the meantime, those players are more beneficial in the lineup now to help the kids develop their abilities.

Even if management did all it could between now and the trade deadline to tank the season, there’s no guarantee they’ll win the lottery again. Just because they might miss out on Bedard doesn’t mean they can’t find a potential star later in the opening round. Caufield, after all, was chosen 15th overall in the 2019 draft.

Thanks to their current and former management, the Canadiens already have a crop of promising talent on the roster and within their prospect pipeline. Those youngsters could form a solid core that forms the nucleus of a future Stanley Cup contender or at the very least a perennial playoff club.

Thanks to the guidance of St. Louis and his coaching staff, they’re already getting better. They’re entertaining to watch and never give up when they fall behind on the scoreboard.

Those Canadiens fans worried about next year’s draft lottery should just relax. Don’t look at it like they’re wrecking their chances of landing a magical unicorn prospect. Appreciate that they already have a promising core that could become something special in a few years.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 9, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 9, 2022

Recaps of Saturday’s preseason games, the Flames extend coach Darryl Sutter’s contract, Kyle Okposo is the Sabres’ new captain, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

PRESEASON GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Nashville Predators defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-2 to sweep their two-game NHL Global Series in Prague, Czechia. Second-period goals by Filip Forsberg and Nino Niederreiter lifted the Predators past the Sharks while Kevin Lankinen made 31 saves for the win.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Auston Matthews and William Nylander each scored twice while Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly each picked up three assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

A hat trick by Vladislav Namestnikov carried the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Corey Perry collected three assists while Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 27 shots for the Lightning.

The Los Angeles Kings beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-3. Arthur Kaliyev led the way with a goal and two assists. Ducks netminder John Gibson left the game after the first period with an upper-body injury after taking a shot off his mask. An update on his condition is expected on Sunday.

Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello each had three-point performances to lead the Minnesota Wild over the Dallas Stars 5-1. Marc-Andre Fleury picked up the win by stopping 22 shots.

St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington made 24 saves to shut out the Chicago Blackhawks 6-0. Ivan Barbashev tallied twice for the Blues.

The Ottawa Senators swept their two-game Kraft Hockeyville series with the Montreal Canadiens with a 3-2 win thanks to an overtime goal by Drake Batherson. The Canadiens were winless in preseason play with an 0-6-2 record.

An overtime goal by Dylan Strome lifted the Washington Capitals over the Columbus Blue Jackets by a score of 4-3. Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper got the win with a 36-save effort while teammate John Carlson collected three assists.

The New Jersey Devils got two-point performances from Jack Hughes and Alexander Holtz to top the Boston Bruins 5-3. David Krejci picked up two assists for the Bruins.

A 28-save performance by Ilya Sorokin helped the New York Islanders defeat the New York Rangers 3-1. Josh Bailey had two assists for the Isles. Rangers winger Sammy Blais left the game in the first period and didn’t return but head coach Gerard Gallant said Blais “should be fine.”

The Vegas Golden Knights downed the Arizona Coyotes 5-1. Reilly Smith and Paul Cotter both had two assists on the night.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those were the final games of the 2022 preseason. The regular season opens on Tuesday, Oct. 11 with the Tampa Bay Lightning facing off against the New York Rangers while the Vegas Golden Knights visit the Los Angeles Kings.

HEADLINES

CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: The Flames yesterday announced that head coach Darryl Sutter had agreed to a two-year contract extension that begins next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise there. The Flames made significant improvement after Sutter took over as head coach during the 2020-21 season. Management sees this team as a Stanley Cup contender and wants an experienced, steady hand behind the bench.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres named Kyle Okposo as their new team captain with Zemgus Girgensons and Rasmus Dahlin as their alternate captains. Okposo is the 20th captain in Sabres history and the first since Jack Eichel was stripped of the captaincy prior to trading him last November to the Vegas Golden Knights.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

DAILY FACEOFF: Calgary Flames defenseman Juuso Valimaki, Detroit Red Wings center Austin Czarnik and Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner Mark Friedman are among those placed on waivers on Saturday. Teams have until noon ET on Sunday to claim them.

MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: The Canadiens claimed defenseman Jonathan Kovacevic off waivers Saturday from the Winnipeg Jets.

TSN: Andrea Skinner has stepped down as interim chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors. The organization has been losing sponsors and support from provincial organizations over its mishandling of sexual assault allegations leveled against several players on Canada’s 2003 and 2018 World Junior teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s departure is a start but there needs to be a complete overhaul of Hockey Canada’s leadership.