Free washer |  Will they dare with four youngsters in defense next year?

Free washer | Will they dare with four youngsters in defense next year?

Nine defenders have donned the Canadiens’ uniform in the last three games. A tenth accompanied the team but did not play.

Posted at 10:23 a.m.

Mathias Brunet

Mathias Brunet
The Press

It is clearly time for evaluation and it will be interesting to see the scenario favored by management next year with the presence of young Justin Barron and Jordan Harris, and the imminent arrival of Kaiden Guhle.

Let’s start with certainties. Barring an unforeseen turnaround or injury, Joel Edmundson, David Savard and Alexander Romanov will be regular roster next year.

Edmundson and Savard are not “modern” defensemen, strictly speaking, but their experience, their leadership and their efficiency in defense make them essential elements. You need defenders with a more defensive, tough character, in any team, and these two men in particular also have the perfect personality to pave the way for youngsters in a reset/rebuild context.

Romanov, 22, took off with the arrival of Martin St-Louis. Its usage time has increased by four minutes per encounter and it does not disappoint. We even feel more confident with the puck.

In the last eight games, Romanov, a 2018 second-round pick secured two years earlier from the Blackhawks with Philip Danault in the Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann trade, has played 25 minutes or more three times and 22 minutes or more six time. He is the team’s most used defender in every game.

There are three places left for the others, including Jeff, Petry, if he is not traded, and the three youngsters, not to mention Cory Schuneman and Kale Clague, whose rights will always belong to the club.

DG Kent Hughes has never hidden it, he will seek to trade Petry this summer to an American club to allow him to be closer to his family, unless his clan has changed its perspective. But at 34 years old and with a salary of $6.25 million per season for another three years, Petry will not be easy to trade.

If we succeed, Jeff Gorton and Hughes will be faced with two possibilities: we try to replace Petry with an experienced offensive defender to be competitive more quickly (the name of Kris Letang emanates here without surprise) or we continue the reconstruction without compromise leaving room for the organization’s young defenders.

And in a case like this, Harris, Barron and Guhle would piggyback on Edmundson, Romanov and Harris.

According to internal feedback, the Canadian would not be closed to the idea of ​​having four young people aged 22 and under in the training next year. Romanov turns 23 next winter and is already playing like a veteran.

Harris, a 2018 third-round pick, will turn 22 in July, Kaiden Guhle, a 2020 first-round draft pick, will be 21 twelve days after Romanov, while the foursome’s other first-round pick, Justin Barron, 25and overall choice by the Avalanche fifteen ranks after Guhle, will celebrate his 21st birthday in November.

But such a decision is not yet cast in stone. To embrace such a scenario, however, team management will want to have their backs covered and have at least one other veteran in the roster to ensure that one of these youngsters can be sent back to Laval for a few weeks. or the rest of the season if ever their development does not go as we hope, even if this veteran in question does not have their talent.

Cory Schueneman, 27 in September, finds himself in arguably the most favorable position among the remaining defenders. He will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season, so his rights still belong to the team, and he costs just $750,000. We can at the limit send him back to the American League, even if it means risking losing him on waivers.

Chris Wideman will become an unrestricted free agent. He can offer his services to the team of his choice. Wideman, 32, has 12 points in his last 12 games but remains vulnerable defensively against power teams.

It would be surprising to retain the services of William Lagesson, 26, an unrestricted free agent obtained in the trade of Brett Kulak, and Cale Klague, 24, a restricted free agent obtained off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings.

The free agent market will also be full of sixth and seventh defensemen if Montreal wants to add some depth to the group.

As for the other young defenders of the organization, they will have to wait a little longer. Logan Mailloux, whose season ended after a fight a few weeks ago, has played about fifteen games on average over the past two years. Turning 19 shortly (Friday), this 2021 first-round pick (31and in total) to wisely complete a final season in the junior ranks next year.

Mattias Norlinder, 22 on Tuesday, has not been convincing in North America this fall, nor in the regular season on his return to Frölunda. He’s doing better in the Swedish playoffs, but he’ll have to go through the American League if he wants to eventually play in Montreal. He is significantly behind Guhle, Harris and Barron in the hierarchy.

Otherwise, Jayden Struble, 20, would have chosen to follow the example of Jordan Harris and play a fourth and final season at Northeastern, in the NCAA.

Gianni Fairbrother and Arber Xhekaj are bigger and more robust defenders, they will in all likelihood be called upon to start the season in Laval and their recall will go on merit.

After them, let’s see who among Xavier Ouellet, Loui Belpedio and Sami Niku will be called upon to play in Laval as veterans. The first two will become unrestricted free agents, the third will have restricted free agent status. Let’s also see whether or not the CH will part ways with Josh Brook to free up a place among the players under contract, the maximum of which is set at 50.

In the Shadows, Riley Kidney

In principle, the second-round picks are more talked about than the players drafted in the fifth. Joshua Roy was no ordinary fifth-round pick, we agree, he had been drafted first overall in the QMJHL two years earlier, but had underperformed in his first year. Roy, 18, has just scored 102 points, including 41 goals, in 56 games in Sherbrooke. Nick Suzuki had achieved such a feat at his age.

In the shadow of Joshua Roy therefore, Riley Kidney, drafted at 63and rank, second to last in the second round in 2021, now has 87 points, including 27 goals, in 57 games with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. This young center has said in recent days that he wants to impress the Canadian to the point of earning a contract. He will be able to develop without pressure. Nobody expects him despite his impressive statistics.

Do not miss

1- Benjamin St-Juste, of the Washington Commanders of the NFL, is the most illustrious product of the Spartans of Old Montreal. And the young man has not forgotten the Old. He will soon participate in an evening to raise funds to allow his Spartan dolphins to evolve in better conditions. A text by Miguel Bujold.

2-Jaroslav Spacek played a few seasons with the Canadian. His contacts allowed him to find a niche in Sherbrooke, in the QMJHL, for his son David. The Phoenix does not regret it! This young defenseman has almost a point per game this season and could be drafted into the NHL this summer. Guillaume Lefrançois tells.

3- Last lap for Charles Hamelin this weekend at the Maurice-Richard arena. Katherine Harvey-Pinard was there.

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