By Cole Parkinson
Westwind Weekly News
The Montreal Canadiens are not going to be a playoff team in the 2022-23 NHL season, but they do have things to look forward to. In the tough Atlantic Division, and considering they’re at the bottom of it, the Habs are looking forward to the trade deadline and then the draft.
I’m sure Habs fans are hoping they’re in the running for the first-round pick because Connor Bedard would be an absolute stud alongside Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach, Kaiden Guhle, Juraj Slafkovsky, Nick Suzuki, and Arber Xhekaj. The lottery is a long way off, but considering where the Canadiens are at this point of the season, it’s easy to start dreaming of adding a top-round pick to this lineup.
Suzuki and Caufield are already bonafide top-line players and Caufield’s scoring ability is just going to continue to get better as he gets older. Suzuki is a fantastic centre that can both score and make great plays to get the puck to Caufield. Dach has been a nice addition to the Habs and at his age, he’s right alongside that window to rebuild. At only 21, Dach still has plenty of room to grow and get better.
The Habs don’t have a ton of cap space at the moment, but with Carey Price and Paul Byron on long-term injured reserve — and Price not likely to return — they do have some wiggle room. Brendan Gallagher and Sean Monahan are hurt right now, but they are potential trade chips heading into the deadline. Josh Anderson has five more years at $5.5 million so I don’t know if a team would take on that contract without Montreal eating a bit of that cap hit, but if the deal is right, I think they’d do it. Jonathan Drouin sees his deal up at the end of the year, so I bet there will be plenty of talk around him too. The Habs will be looking for picks and prospects right on the cusp that line up with their current core.
Guhle has looked like a great draft pick and he will be a great top-four d-man moving forward. He’s only 20, so expect tons of ups and downs like with any other young defenceman, but hopefully playing in the NHL leads to tons of learning opportunities. It’s the toughest league in the world, especially for young defencemen, but he’s a big body that can skate, so I expect him to only get better. The Habs’ defensive unit right now is especially young which will lead to plenty of mistakes in their own end. But considering this team was never meant to compete in 2022-23, I think the Montreal management team is fine with seeing what they have.
While the cap is not expected to go up by a ton next season, I think there will be plenty of movement this trade deadline. The Habs will likely be at the forefront there and for good reason. This team needs a reboot and they’ve already done lots of the heavy lifting, but adding more picks and prospects is a good thing at this stage. It’s looking like a strong draft class, so the more darts to throw at the dartboard is not a bad thing.
And despite the Habs being a bottom feeder, it’s not like their games are all blowouts. They’re exciting games and the team plays hard. Mistakes are made and poor play in the defensive zone is to be expected, but at least when you turn on the TV to watch the game, you know it won’t be boring. Better times are coming, but for now, at least enjoy how much fun the team is this season.