Skip to content
Kent Hughes has completed his reconstruction of the Montreal blue line
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

1.2 billion: that’s how much 185 NHL players were promised yesterday, July 1, 2024. I hear the salary cap has gone up… and will go up again next season!

Of course, there are a few good contracts, but we’ve mostly seen the festival of the bad (and long) contract. Tyler Toffoli and Sean Monahan each broke the bank away from Montreal… Steven Stamkos added $32 million to his personal kitty… Joel Edmundson managed to make Rob Blake and Marc Bergevin forget he had back problems… Brandon Montour hit the jackpot away from Florida… Jonathan Marchessault chose Nashville dollars over Montreal dollars… and Kent Hughes kept quiet.

His day on July 1 can be summed up as follows: Alex Barré-Boulet signed, followed by a contract extension for Juraj Slafkovsky. That’s it.

He stole the show yesterday in Montreal.
(Credit: Derek Cain/Getty Images)

And that’s just fine: Kent Hughe and Jeff Gorton stayed focused on their plan and didn’t succumb to temptation. Another GM won’t have to deliver us evil in a few years’ time, as Hughes is currently trying to do with the contracts of Price, Gallagher, Armia, Dvorak and Anderson…

The factremains that the Habs have made an important move: Jonhathan Kovacevic headed for New Jersey (in return for a fourth-round pick).

Why do I dare talk about an important move? Quite simply because Kent Hughes has cleared some space on the blue line, giving Lane Hutson, David Reinbacher and Logan Mailloux a real chance to break into the line-up in September/October.

Trading Kovacevic – or another defenseman – had become a necessity.

The Montreal defensive brigade looks like this this morning:

Matheson – Guhle
Harris/Hutson/Struble – Savard
Xhekaj – Mailloux/Reinbacher/Barron

Reminder: Harris and Barron should be subject to waivers before being sent to the AHL. All the other youngsters, no!

Draw it any way you want, there will be room for the youngsters who impress management and the coaching staff in September. Kovacevic would have stunted a youngster’s development if he’d stayed in Montreal…

It’s worth noting that only two defensemen are currently over 23 with the Habs; we’ve turned the corner on rebuilding at the blue line. We’ve got an interesting (and sufficient) pool, and we’re starting the real competition internally. Cool!

And the dollars paid to Karl Alzner and Joel Edmundson are finally a thing of the past.

Next up for Kent Hughes is the attack. The corner has clearly not been turned…

If we can conclude that no veteran is blocking the development of a youngster on the blue line, this is clearly not the case at forward. In fact, there are two problems up front:

1. Several players who will be in the line-up next season shouldn’t be; they’re taking up a spot without being part of the solution (either in the short or long term): Josh Anderson, Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia and Christian Dvorak.

What’s more, the four forwards account for nearly $18 million of the team’s payroll. So they’re an impediment to further signings. How can you expect to pick up veteran forwards when you’ve already got four of them lying around?

Dvorak and Armia will see their contracts expire in a year’s time; maybe that’s when we’ll turn the corner on offense. Then there’s Jake Evans, whose contract is also up next summer. Evans is worth close to $2 million and will be 29 in July 2025.

And Michael Pezzetta!

Not to mention Jeff Petry’s and Jake Allen’s salary deductions, which will disappear from the books!

2. The pool of prospects is not yet of sufficient quality for us to really say that veterans need to make way for younger players.

Joshua Roy is probably the only prospect who really needs to be in the NHL in 2024-25 to develop properly. Oliver Kapanen, Luke Tuch, Filip Mesar, Florian Xhekaj, Jared Davidson, Xavier Simoneau, Jacob Perreault, Sean Farrell and Riley Kidney need to play in the AHL.

Emil Heineman and Owen Beck are perhaps the only players who could surprise and start the season in the show… but a season in the AHL won’t do him any harm.

Next year – and the year after that – there’ll be Ivan Demidov and Michael Hage, then maybe the first pick of 2025 in the discussion. And hopefully a forward acquired via trade…

But for the moment, there’s clearly an imbalance between the forward and the backline. Up front, we have three big stars signed for the long term (Suzuki, Caufield and Slafkovsky), three interesting young players (Dach, Newhook and Roy) and a lot of fillers… whereas at the back, we have no more filler. We’ve got youngsters who need to learn, and two good veterans to go with them.

The real fun will come in the summer of 2025. And Kent Hughes knows it…

Hughes mentioned a few weeks ago that the summer of 2024 was his biggest yet in Montreal, but that 2025 was going to be even bigger.

Can’t wait to see what Kent Hughes does with the contracts of Price, Anderson and Gallagher, who will be the only “problematic” ones next summer, as well as with David Savard, who could be traded at the deadline, released next July or extended.

I’m telling you: the real fun will take place next summer, with many contracts disappearing and the salary cap rising by another $5 million or so. For now, we’ve got half a rebuild ahead of us:

Caufield – Suzuki – Slafkovsky
Newhook – Dach – Roy
Anderson – Dvorak – Gallagher
Pezzetta/Harvey-Pinard – Evans – Armia

Newhook and Roy will be relegated to the third line when Ivan Demidov arrives in Montreal (in a year’s time?) and another quality forward is added.


– According to David Ettedgui, the Habs have recently been looking at Patrik Laine, while a number of English-speaking insiders believe that Rutger McGroarty is the one to watch. The Habs have about $8 million under the salary cap, but need to come to an agreement with Arber Xhekaj, then add one or two forwards – who may come from Laval – to their roster.

Of course, Kent Hughes could put Carey Price’s name on the LTIR if he needs extra space. And should the Habs acquire Laine, you can bet your bottom dollar that either Dvorak or Armia will leave at the same time. In short, Kent Hughes still has room to maneuver if the mood strikes him.

– It will be interesting to see whether Samuel Montembeault, Cayden Primeau and Jakub Dobes remain the organization’s top three goaltenders. Jacob Fowler, as well as a goaltender acquired via trade or as a free agent, could eventually change everything in front of the net.

– Juraj Slafkovsky, Kaiden Guhle, Jayden Struble, Adam Engstrom, Arber Xhekaj, Lane Hutson, David Reinbacher and Logan Mailloux could all earn certain bonuses (real and accounting) in 2024-25. Plan ahead.

More Content