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Justin Barron will have trouble breaking into the Canadiens lineup in October

Those who dreamed of Jeff Petry staying in Montreal and taking his poutine to McDonald’s will be disappointed: yesterday, the defenseman headed for Detroit. He’s back home, which makes his family very happy.

He’ll also be reunited with a certain Ben Chiarot.

In return for his services (with the CH holding back half of Petry’s contract), the Flanelle got a fourth-round pick in 2025 and Gustav Lindstrom.

It wasn’t the deal many were hoping for, but in the end, Mike Hoffman walked away. It was what the CH wanted.

Of course, even though he’s from Detroit, everyone knows that Gustav Lindstrom is no Nicklas Lidstrom. In Lindstrom, the Habs got a Johnathan Kovacevic of some sort, with whom they hope to make a revised and corrected version.

Will it work? We’ll see.

Instead of keeping Jeff Petry for $4.6 million (he didn’t want to stay, I know) for two years and trying to rebuild his value, the CH paid $2.3 million a year over two years to send him elsewhere and took Lindstrom’s one-year, $950,000 contract.

We’re obviously talking about a lesser-quality defenseman (with all due respect to the guy, of course), which is, once again, a look into the future with a blue-line project.

The CH blue line, as you know, will be very young. Mike Matheson and David Savard will be the veterans of the Montreal defensive corps, which will need to be surrounded. Chris Wideman too, but his position is less assured.

Here are the players who will logically be fighting for a position in the city.

  • Mike Matheson
  • David Savard
  • Jordan Harris
  • Gustav Lindstrom
  • Justin Barron
  • Kaiden Guhle
  • Arber Xhekaj
  • Johnathan Kovacevic
  • Chris Wideman

Matheson, Savard, Lindstrom, Kovacevic and Wideman can’t go to Laval without a ballot. Harris, Barron, Guhle and Xhekaj, on the other hand, can go easily.

In my opinion, Matheson, Savard, Harris, Guhle and Xhekaj are the guys most likely to play on a regular basis. I think Kovacevic and Lindstrom will make the club, but not necessarily every day – if everyone is healthy. Lindstrom may have potential, but he’s got a lot to prove.

And that’s seven guys.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chris Wideman start the season elsewhere (transaction, ballot: it doesn’t matter) and under those conditions, I don’t know if Justin Barron will be the extra man who could, once again, start the season in Laval.

That said, it’s not clear that Barron, who obviously has some work to do to start the season in Montreal, will be the extra man. Why is that? Several factors play in his favour.

Last year, in the NHL, he showed some good flashes. The CH can judge that he did what he had to do in the AHL. A good training camp could work in his favor.

But above all, he’s offensive. When you look at the right-handers, apart from Wideman (when he wants to), the guys aren’t offensive machines. Whether it’s Savard, Kovacevic or Lindstrom, the right-side offense won’t be huge in 2023-2024.

Maybe that won’t bother the CH, which will rely on duos where the left side relaunches and the right side stays home, but maybe that can work in Barron’s favor.

Of the five guys (Matheson, Savard, Harris, Guhle and Xhekaj) I think are ready to play regularly, there’s only one right-hander. I know Guhle, Xhekaj and Harris can play both sides, but still.

So it’s going to be a big season for Barron.

On the right, he can’t dislodge Savard and he’ll have to fight against the other rookies who’ll play on their bad side, but if he wants a spot, he’ll have to set his sights on dislodging either Kovacevic or Lindstrom.

It’s not as simple as some think.

It won’t be simple because being able to go to Laval easily works against Barron, but hey. What’s more, the CH likes Kovacevic’s reliability and surely wants to see what Lindstorm has up his sleeve.

A lot of people like him, and if he can improve at equal strength, the 24-year-old Swede could find a niche for himself in Montreal. And if he develops well, it could prove management right to have taken a chance on him.

What I remember is that time is against Barron. With David Reinbacher and Logan Mailloux (it’s becoming increasingly clear that whoever is waiting for Gary Bettman’s OK to make the NHL will start in Laval following the addition of another right-hander) pushing forward, Barron wants to prove himself.

And that’s only natural.

After all, the other two top prospects could be in the NHL by October 2024 – or even April 2024, perhaps. Until then, the Maritime native must take advantage of his age-based edge to find a way to quickly make his mark in the NHL and make himself indispensable.

Time is on his side… because there’s more than just the right side to watch out for. The arrival of Lane Hutson will change all that, even if the little defender is left-handed.

In bursts

– That’s a good point about the Quebec draft.

– That remains to be seen.

– Ouch.

– Eight washers in the panties for Johnny Gaudreau at the combine? Wow. [HF]

– Happy Birthday, Carey.

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