Hughes rises to the challenge in his first big test
MONTREAL — A growing sense of excitement is building among Canadiens fans.
And it’s not just because young stars like Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki keep fans in suspense.
The 2022 trade deadline, one of the busiest in Canadiens history, has provided the organization with high draft picks and quality prospects.
Most analysts see the Canadiens as one of this year’s big winners, a sentiment also shared by the vast majority of Bleu-blanc-rouge fans.
It is evident that supporters are delighted with the acquired assets. All in all, in just five trades before the deadline, the Canadiens had two first-round picks, two second-round picks, one fourth-round pick and one fifth-round pick, not to mention several prospects.
But the weeks leading up to the deadline weren’t just about harvesting picks and hopes. It was clear that general manager Kent Hughes was setting his prices and only taking trades if teams were willing to match what he was asking.
This is not only a sign of supreme confidence and competence, it shows that despite his status as a rookie general manager, Hughes has firmly established a long-term plan, a plan to which he is seriously committed.
While it is true that Montreal will miss the services of Artturi Lehkonen, Brett Kulak, Ben Chiarot, Tyler Toffoli and Andrew Hammond, players who put in an honest effort every night, it is also fair to say that Canadians have maximized the value of their outgoing assets.
Kulak heads to Edmonton in exchange for the defender William Lagesson and a second-round pick.
Chiarot, who had about 20 games left to play, turned into first-round pick, fourth-round pick and NCAA prospect Ty Smilanic.
Toffoli also generated a great return, including a first-round pick and a scoring prospect in Emil Heineman.
The same can be said for Justin Barron, Colorado’s 2020 first-round pick. Like Smilanic and Heineman, Barron, a defenseman, is an excellent skater with top-notch offensive instincts. It’s also worth noting that the Canadiens received a second-round pick in the trade that sent Lehkonen to Colorado.
Simply put, it was a great comeback, the kind of comeback you can’t refuse.
« We didn’t make any calls for Lehkonen or Kulak, » Hughes said. “But we received calls, and the exchange offers became more and more interesting, and in the end, we made our decision. »
Barron, who is a right-hander, will not only fill an organizational need, he also has the potential to form an exciting defensive duo with prospect Kaiden Guhle given that they have spent time together on Team Canada for the World Junior Championship.
“A guy like Barron, who is 20 years old and shoots from the right, is obviously very coveted,” said Vincent Lecavalier, special adviser for hockey operations. “Great defensemen who shoot from the right are in demand all over the NHL, so getting them is very good for the future of the Canadiens.
But beyond hopes and draft picks, the days leading up to the trade deadline showed that Hughes isn’t afraid to make bold moves. He understands that in the modern world of sport, you have to take calculated risks if you want to win championships. He has also been very honest about his intentions with fans, media and players.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to do. The development of hopes will play a major role in the future of the Canadian.
Nonetheless, the Habs have done a great job of mitigating developmental risk, not only accumulating quality draft picks, but also staggering them over multiple drafts.
This strategy, combined with the influx of young players joining the team, should ensure a smooth flow of prospects for many years to come. And with a little luck, a lot of foresight and careful planning, the team should enjoy considerable success.
Time will tell if the players and prospects will measure up, but ask most Canadiens fans and they’ll tell you the 2022 trade deadline was a perfect first step.