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In Hainsight: Hughes Speaks from the Combine

June 9, 2023, 12:33 PM ET [309 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Canadiens GM spoke to the media yesterday for the first time since inking Cole Caufield to an 8-year contract and it therefore wasn’t at all surprising that he was asked a few questions on the topic. It’s worth mentioning that the Canadiens wanted to sign Caufield for the maximum allowed length not only to have him for that long but to send a message to other players that yes, good players are happy to be and play in Montreal. Furthermore, he also stated that it was important for the team that the salary structure they had put into place for players coming out of the entry level deal be respected. In other words, the young Habs who finish their ELC cannot hope to get more than team captain and leader Nick Suzuki.

As for the upcoming draft, Hughes conceded that yes, the geopolitical portrait is one of the factor that teams need to take into consideration when making a pick and as for Matvei Michkov, he also added that it’s one thing to be signed to a 3-year deal, but it’s also possible that a player signs another contract to stay in the KHL for longer after that deal expires. That also has to be taken into account as has happened in the past. As of now, the Canadiens have not been able to speak to Michkov and they’ve not seen him play in person this season, but they do plan to talk to him. I guess we shouldn’t read too much into these comments as Hughes has proven in the past that he keeps his cards close to his chest when it comes to the draft, but I don’t feel like they are intent on picking the Russian prodigy.

Hughes also mentioned that it was special to interview young men he already knew or had coached like Will Smith for instance. The GM couldn’t believe how much maturity the forward gained since he had last coached him, and he texted his parents to say so as well. The former agent also had kind words for Ryan Leonard, he praised the way he plays with grit and physicality and even added that he’s got some Tkachuk in his game, comparing him to both Matthew and Brady. Given how the Habs are built up front right now, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if come draft day, Leonard became a Montreal Canadiens, especially if Will Smith is off the board.

The Canadiens have yet to hold their wrap-up meeting on the prospect so the GM wouldn’t comment on the strength of this year’s class at the goaltending position, but he did say that he’s been talking with Vincent Riendeau (the Habs’ director of goaltending development) about it. The Canadiens’ strategy for this draft is clear: draft the best player available taking all factors into consideration. It’s not just about talent, character also comes into play. As for drafting for organizational needs, for instance going for a right-handed defenseman, Hughes said that would only be taken into account if they were hesitant between two blueliners which were ex aequo in their assessment, it would be used as the tie breaker.

When asked to comment on the Pierre-Luc Dubois situation, Hughes once again said that he couldn’t comment on other teams’ players and added that his answer would be the same if anyone asked him to comment on the fact that Carter Hart was said to be available. What he did say though was that he was always looking to improve the Canadiens, but not in the short term. In other words, don’t expect the Canadiens to trade for Pierre-Luc Dubois without a long-term deal in place, it’s always been clear, Hughes’ goal is to build a contender for years to come and not to squeeze into the playoffs and hope for the best. According to Basu and Godin from The Athletic, Dubois has given a list of teams he’d accept to be moved to and Pat Brisson has been given permission to speak to those teams to see what kind of contract could be signed before a sign-and-trade contract can be put into place, just like it was last year for Matthew Tkachuk. They also believe that Dubois is looking for a $9M a year deal and that he’d be using Barzal, Hintz and the aforementioned Tkachuk as comparable. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, personally, I would stay away from Dubois if that’s the kind of money he’s after.

As for Carter Hart, The Athletic’s sources have made it clear to them that it was a non-starter, the Canadiens are not interested in the Philadelphia goaltender. Hughes did say that it was a possibility that the Habs would be working on a contract extension with Montembeault once July 1st comes around.

The draft is scheduled to take place in Nashville on June 28 and 29 and there will be plenty of speculation until then on who the Canadiens will pick and on if they’ll do some trading on the draft floor especially since Hughes did say that the team is open to use some picks in a trade. Watch this space until then for any and all development!

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