May 25, 2024

GM Kent Hughes should be interested in acquiring Trevor Zegras from Anaheim, as Jesperi Kotkaniemi continues to struggle in Carolina.
Do we genuinely believe that this year’s NHL Draft will have a significant impact on the teams? If not, why not consider dealing the fifth pick given the strong pipeline we now have?

The Canadiens may have a strong defensive pipeline, but they are desperate for forwards who can score, and I believe that is what they will seek for with the fifth choice. The only way I see GM Kent Hughes trading the pick is for a young forward who has already demonstrated his ability to score in the NHL.

How do you think the draft is going to play out, especially at pick No. 5?

As previously stated, I expect the Canadiens will draft a forward.

I don’t claim to be an expert on draft-eligible guys because I don’t pay careful attention to them during the season when covering the Canadiens.

Bob McKenzie, a well known TSN draft expert, keeps a close eye on them. He ranks Cayden Lindstrom, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound center who has 27-19-46 totals and 66 penalty minutes in 32 games this season with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League, fifth in his draft rankings. Lindstrom appears to be a nice match for the Canadiens, despite being limited to 32 games this season due to an upper-body injury that required surgery in December.

McKenzie has Tij Iginla, the son of Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla, at No. 10. This season, the 6-foot, 186-pound center went 47-37-84 in 64 games with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lindstrom or Iginla ended up with the Canadiens.
How great is interest in obtaining Trevor Zegras?

A good question. However, because Hughes cannot discuss players under contract with another team, it is unclear how interested the Canadiens may be in Zegras.

If I were Hughes, I’d be very interested in acquiring the 23-year-old Zegras, who has two seasons remaining on his deal and a salary-cap hit of $5.75 million. As previously stated, the Canadiens require forwards who can score, and Zegras can provide offense.

Zegras is also a good friend of Cole Caufield, and the two are playing on the same line for Team USA in the IIHF World Hockey Championship, which began on Friday.

Hughes will undoubtedly be paying careful attention to how Caufield and Zegras perform together during the competition.

Which prospects do you see making the team next year?

A lot relies on Hughes’ off-season actions, but I expect to see defensemen Lane Hutson and Logan Mailloux with the Canadiens next season. I believe management will want defenseman David Reinbacher, the No. 5 pick in last year’s draft, to spend time with the AHL’s Laval Rocket, like Mailloux did this season.
Which contract would you want to be traded: Josh Anderson or Carey Price?

The solution is simple: Anderson.

Price has two seasons left on his deal, with a salary-cap charge of $10.5 million, but he won’t play again and will be placed on long-term injured reserve, so his money will not count against the cap.

Anderson has three seasons left on his deal, with a salary-cap hit of US$5.5 million, which weighs heavily after posting only 9-11-20 totals in 78 games this year. At this point, it’s difficult to imagine another team showing interest in Anderson.

The Arizona Coyotes were the only team that might have been interested in acquiring Price’s contract. However, they have relocated to Utah, and the new owner, Ryan Smith, will not seek to add dead contracts to the salary-cap floor, as the Coyotes have in the past.

Shea Weber, a former Canadiens captain, is now theoretically a member of the Utah team after the Coyotes purchased his contract from the Vegas Golden Knights last year. Weber still has two seasons left on his deal, with a salary-cap hit of $7.857 million, but he will not play again.


Dynamic center Trevor Zegras agrees to 3-year contract extension with  Anaheim Ducks - The San Diego Union-Tribune
Trevor Zegras


However, Weber might become the first Utah player admitted into the Hall of Fame.

It would have been fascinating to see how Kotkaniemi would have progressed with the Canadiens if they had been in a complete rebuild when they took him third overall in the 2018 draft and Martin St. Louis had been his coach. However, given what has happened since Kotkaniemi signed his offer sheet with Carolina, he would most likely be a third- or fourth-line winger for the Canadiens, as he is today with the Hurricanes.

Kotkaniemi had 12-15-27 totals in 79 games this season and 0 points in eight playoff contests. The Hurricanes clearly expected a lot more when they extended Kotkaniemi a one-year, US$6.1-million offer sheet three years ago and subsequently signed him to an eight-year, US$35.6-million contract with an annual salary-cap charge of US$4.82 million. The Hurricanes and head coach Rod Brind’Amour planned to help Kotkaniemi grow into the player the Canadiens hoped he would be, but he hasn’t.

For many years, the Canadiens will regret not picking Tkachuk, who was selected one choice after Kotkaniemi by the Ottawa Senators.


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