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In Hainsight: Caufield Bought in Hughes’ Team Concept

June 6, 2023, 1:16 PM ET [371 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Follow me @KarineHains for all updates about the Montreal Canadiens and women's hockey

Signing a long-term contract is not an easy task in a salary cap world, each and every contract signed by a team is an important piece of an intricate puzzle and if you want to finish the puzzle, no piece must be oversized. Kent Hughes has got the blueprint for the Canadiens’ puzzle and for it to work, no piece must be bigger than Nick Suzuki’s and he made that clear to the Caufield camp from the start of the negotiations.

That could have been a problem, but it wasn’t because the young snipper understands Suzuki’s role and importance: “That’s our guy, that’s our leader, everyone around here knows that and it’s still heck of a lot of money, so I’m not complaining about anything like that”. For Caufield, this contract extension wasn’t about breaking the bank, a lot of things factored into the decision: “Making myself and my family set for a while and I wanted to be here long term, I love where the organization is going, the mindset, things are heading in the right direction, and I wanted to be part of it.”

Of course, he was asked about the possibility of signing a shorter deal for less money in order to get more down the line and he had the perfect answer: “ We looked at all options and things like that but at the end of the day, being set for that long in a place like that, with great coaching staff, management, it’s all headed in the right direction and being able to win maybe faster, taking less money for maybe making more later wasn’t in my mindset, I want to be a team guy, that’s what I am, I want to be a leader and at the end of the day, it’s good for both sides.” In other words, Caufield bought into Kent Hughes’ team concept. He trusts this organization to build a contender and he didn’t want to handcuff it with an unreasonable contract. This is the right attitude, and it truly reminds me of Martin Brodeur taking less money to allow Lou Lamoriello to build a winner in New Jersey and of Sidney Crosby’s hometown discount.

First and foremost, Caufield is a hockey player at heart and that’s not going to change for any amount of money: “ It’s not going to change who I am, I’ll keep coming to the rink every day, I mean, I’d do it for free, my passion for the game is never going to change, I’m really excited and it’s very special for me and my family, but at the end of the day, I just love being a hockey player. Caufield comes from a modest background and for him, that contract is an insane amount of money: “I doesn’t make sense to me, I mean I could have dreamt about it as a kid but that amount of money wouldn’t even have gotten in my head. I couldn’t be more proud, we [him and his family] are in a really good spot and excited.”

On top of the contract having a reasonable cap hit, Kent Hughes has also managed to structure it in a way that will be useful to the organization. The deal is frontloaded, meaning that in its later years, there’s less money to be paid and that could be a real advantage on the trade market, if the Canadiens were ever to explore the idea of trading Caufield. If they do, the youngster will still have some control over his destiny since the pact includes a modified no trade clause for its last three years. In 2028-2029 Caufield can submit a list of 15 teams to which he doesn’t want to be traded, the following year it’s 10 teams and 5 teams in the last year of the deal. Nobody is thinking about trading Cole Caufield right now, but should it become a possibility, the player will be easier to move with such a deal in place.

In the end, the few months it took to negotiate a pact that was perfect for both sides were well worth it. Both sides now have complete peace of mind for 8 years and seeing this talented youngster commit to the organization for such a long time sends a positive message to the other players in the league as well, it says that things are going the right way in Montreal now and that players are happy to be here for the long haul.

Health wise, Caufield confirmed that he has now been cleared for full activity following his shoulder surgery and that he's started taking shots again. He's therefore well on his way to being fully ready for training camp when it rolls around. Until then, he'll be spending the summer at home in Michigan and chances are he'll be spoiling his family a bit, especially once the calendar turns over to July and he gets his 5 million signing bonus.

With the Caufield case now settled, it’s time for Kent Hughes to get rid of the oversized pieces of the puzzle. Joel Armia, Mike Hoffman and Joel Edmundson are players that he could and should consider moving in fact, he probably already has but it takes two to tango as they say and it’s hard to see how those players could attract many buyers, for performance reasons when it comes to the first two and for health reasons when it comes to Edmundson. Still, Kent Hughes has showed that he’s the man for the job and odds are he’ll have a very busy summer and he’ll manage to surprise us a few times.

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