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2022 NHL Off-Season Guide: The Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens
Cole Caulfield is one of the most exciting prospects in the Montreal Canadiens system. How will the obvious Shane Wright pick effect that? Photo: David Kerouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2022 NHL Off-Season Guide: The Montreal Canadiens

One year removed from a Stanley Cup Final loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens are where they should be in the NHL standings, which is dead last. The rebuild will likely begin this off-season with Shane Wright likely to be a Canadien as they won the Draft Lottery but what else do the Canadiens need? Stealing Jarrod Prosser’s fantastic NBA off-season guide format here’s the debut NHL off-season guide as we take a look at the Montreal Canadiens.

The Roster

You have a star in the making with center Nick Suzuki, but starting next season you will be paying him as such. The former Vegas Golden Knights draft pick will be earning just shy of $8 million a year and when added to the $21 million you are dividing out between Brendan Gallagher, Josh Anderson, Mike Hoffman and Christian Dvorak the Canadiens top six has to be relatively set. Cole Caulfield will need to be your bargain next season and after a horrific start to the season that saw him sent down to the the AHL he seemed to regain his form and confidence under Martin St. Louis.
On the back end, the acquisition of Justin Barron in the Artturi Lehkonen trade to the Colorado Avalanche will be huge for the Montreal Canadiens. Despite falling to 25th in the 2020 NHL Draft, Barron is highly thought of for his two way game and put up good numbers in his first professional season with the AHL Colorado Eagles before the trade. With experience like Jeff Petry, David Savard and Joel Edmundson to pair with the young blood is ideal, although at 34 years old Petry’s 4 years remaining is beginning to look like an Erik Karlsson bad contract.

Team Needs

A bottom six would be nice, but as we will discuss in a bit the space to do so is limited. The Canadiens have a lot of players on contracts that already look bad and are about to look worse. The future of the franchise looks bright given the high end talent they have at their disposal, but it may be a case of trying to move a lot of those contracts on and promote from the draft pool.
If they do you could see Joshua Roy given a call up from the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the QMJHL where he put up 119 points in the regular season and has 12 points in four playoff games. At 18 years old you would prefer to send him back to the Juniors for another year but if he gets the nine game trial next season it wouldn’t come as a shock. Given he can play both wing and center is an added advantage.

Cap Situation

The less said the better. As of writing the Montreal Canadiens are over the $82.5 million salary cap by $171,309. The easy thing to say is that Carey Price will go on LTIR and free up his $10.5 million cap hit but you also only have 10 forwards and five defensemen from your NHL roster under contract for the 2022-23 season. You also then have to figure out your goaltending situation. If Jake Allen is your starter it makes it easier to bring back Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau as your backups, but in saying that you are entering a full on rebuild mode one year removed from a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
You also have four Restricted Free Agents to offer. Forward Rem Pitlick with 26 points in 46 games since his waiver wire pickup from the Minnesota Wild is one of the four and as long as they can fit him in under the cap should be returning. You could also make cases for defensemen Kale Clague and Alexander Romanov returning which makes Price going on LTIR all that more important. Otherwise a trade will be needed to move on a big contract and more than likely will need a sweetener.

The Draft

With the first overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft it would be beyond surprising if the Montreal Canadiens didn’t select Shane Wright from the Kingston Frontenacs, the question then becomes what do you do with him? Wright has already demolished the OHL and it would be a waste of time for both player and team to send him back. Most scouts believe he’s ready for the NHL but your first line center has to be Nick Suzuki. Do you move him to a wing on the top line to facilitate? Do you slot him in as second line center and hope it doesn’t stunt his growth to become an elite first line center? Do you pay your second line center nearly $8 million going forward if Wright is your 1C? Probably more question than answers going forward for the Canadiens but let’s be ho eat it’s not a bad headache to have.
All this is without mentioning the Canadiens have 12 draft picks this year with a possible 13th depending on how the Edmonton Oilers season plays out. This includes a second first round pick acquired from the Calgary Flames in the Tyler Toffoli trade and three picks in both the third and fourth round. This means it is a perfect opportunity for new General Manager Kent Hughes to build a pipeline to help with the cap situation going forward.
Overall, this is a rebuilding season for the Canadiens that needs to have an impact. The pipeline needs to grow while the front office makes decisions on what to do with some of the dead weight contracts holding them back.
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