2020 has been something else, hasn’t it? Due to a pandemic, the world’s economy went down the tank and our lives have likely been changed forever. Layoffs, remote work, arrows and limitation of the number of people in stores, masks and disinfectants, we are all affected by it. Looking at what’s happening south of our border, it won’t be over anytime soon. Even professional sports teams and leagues were shut down and while some have returned, it’s far from being the same. For the NHL, they are playing in two bubble Cities with no fans around.
With unique times come unique events. The NHL Draft, scheduled to be held in Montreal, didn’t take place. Players scheduled to become free agents are still under contract with their respective teams. And all of this has stalled the usual summer trades frenzy and free agents’ signings.
For most teams, the evaluation period is over and they have a pretty good idea of the direction they want to take during the off season. And it’s a good thing as there won’t be much time to do what they usually have all summer to do. Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin is no different, although his team’s performances during this COVID Cup has solidified his stance, particularly for some of his young players.
Who’s back and who’s not?
The player the least likely to be back, in my opinion, is Charles Hudon. The 26 year-old winger played 15 regular season games all season with Montreal and managed two points. The fact that Alex Belzile was prefered to him in the playoffs speaks volume. Whether he gets traded or the Canadiens simply don’t offer the pending RFA a contract remains to be seen. I put his chances to be back at only 10%.
Next on the list is Max Domi. It’s no secret that Domi prefers to play centre and Canadiens head coach Claude Julien as the fourth line centre during the COVID Cup. Further, in his postseason press conference, Julien told everyone that Domi is better at centre. Let’s be real here… the 25 year-old is NOT a fourth line player. It leads me to believe that the coach was sending him a message: “You’ll play where I want you to play if you want quality minutes”.
For what seems to be wanting to send a message of his own, Domi had removed all mentions of the Canadiens on his Social Media. He has since added “MTL” back, seeing how much it stirred in the media and amongst fans. In advance of his upcoming contract negotiations, Domi has decided to switch agents. After being represented by Pat Brisson, he is now repped by Darren Ferris of Quartexx. So let’s see what happens. I personally believe that he’s played his last game in a Habs’ uniform and there’s a 75% chances that he’s gone.
Other trade baits?
After that, there’s a clutter of players with an estimated 50-60% chances of being back. Not that they’re not good or useful players, but the Canadiens need to address some needs. By doing so, these players could very well be sacrificed in trades in order to improve in other aspects. Charlie Lindgren, Ryan Poehling, Tomas Tatar and Paul Byron are all pretty good assets. The Poeling case is puzzling. He is rumoured to have taken it very easy during the COVID break and wasn’t in game shape when camp started. It’s apparently the reason why he didn’t play in a single game during the series against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
|NAME||ODDS OF BEING BACK|
Just as there are some who are likely to not be back, there are some who are almost certain to wear the Habs’ jersey next season. Shea Weber and Carey Price lead that list as the ultimate leaders of this team, along with Brendan Gallagher. The organisation’s top two young centres, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. In spite of the mess some media and fans have created with Phillip Danault‘s comments, he’s also not going anywhere, as are Jonathan Drouin and Cayden Primeau. The team’s other two pillars on defense, Jeff Petry and Ben Chiarot, are also very unlikely to change address.
Schedule of Events
September and October will be fast and furious in the NHL. We’ve already seen Jimmy Rutherford (PIT) and Kyle Dubas (TOR) completing a trade and more are coming. The Winnipeg Jets are rumoured to want to make a big splash and with their cap space, we know that Bergevin will try everything to improve his team.
Here’s a reminder of the key dates for the rest of this COVID Cup and the upcoming unusual off season:
|* September 8||Conference Finals begin|
|* Later of Sept.25 or beginning of Stanley Cup Final||First Buyout Period begins|
|* September 22||Stanley Cup Finals begin|
|* October 4||Last possible day of Finals|
|* Later of Oct. 8 or Stanley Cup Finals + 6 days||First Buyout Period ends|
|* October 9-10||2020 NHL Draft|
|* Later of Oct. 9 or Stanley Cup Finals + 7 days||RFA/UFA Signing Period begins|
|* November 17||2020-21 Training Camps begin|
|* December 1||2020-21 regular season begins|
The schedule is tight from now until the start of next season’s training camp and a lot of action will be condensed into those few weeks. Go Habs Go!