The Montreal Canadiens had their bout with COVID which cancelled about a week’s worth of games. With positive news yesterday, Montreal will be able to resume play on Tuesday night versus the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton will be playing on back-to-back nights which will be a huge benefit to a rested Montreal team.
That is however not the focus as Montreal finds itself still battling for their proverbial playoff lives. There are cap issues, player news, and a general manager on the hot seat. Those are the main courses as they say.
Montreal Canadiens, where art thou?
Montreal finds itself still in fourth-place in the North Division. They are two points ahead of the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks. However, they have five and six games in hand respectively on these two teams. Yes, playing an even more compressed schedule may hurt a bit but there should be opportunities to widen that precarious cushion a little.
In a week where the Canadiens did not play, they were still quite active.
They acquired Eric Staal from the Buffalo Sabres for a third and fifth-round pick. Montreal did not have to take as much of a salary cap hit as Buffalo retained some salary. Now, Staal is not going to solve all the center woes for Montreal. Far from it. He is not the player he was for Minnesota. However, Staal should improve from his post-COVID drought in Buffalo.
Marc Bergevin made a depth move for experience and a player who has enjoyed success at the NHL level. This sets up later move(s) even if Bergevin says he has little or few plans for that. Never believe a general manager for their word this time of year. Thanks to the Locked On Canadiens podcast this week for all of their insight here.
On today’s episode, we talk about the Canadiens returning to play, the Eric Staal trade, and… hmm… what are we forgetting here? Ah yes, the Small Goals Boy himself, Cole Caufield, has finally signed his ELC!
Spotify: https://t.co/KKRUhvun9v pic.twitter.com/URJBWOkuN2
— Locked On Cole Caufield (@LO_Canadiens) March 29, 2021
Again, there was that other thing…
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Montreal inks Cole Caufield to an entry-level deal
Ah yes! After Wisconsin’s season came to an unexpected end, this was just a foregone conclusion but now it has happened. The good thing is that Caufield gets a three-year deal. The even better news is that Caufield will get time to rest from the college season. That quarantine may be the best thing for the goal-scoring forward even if he does not realize it now.
Caufield is a player who takes a beating on the ice. Sometimes that is because he puts himself in vulnerable positions but that is how the game is. In order to score, one has to go to those high-danger areas often enough.
All the questions of where he will play and when he will play are almost secondary right now. He is signed. He has to wait. It is that simple.
The complexities all come next week err start. How will the coaching staff utilize him? Those are just the beginning. As everyone knows, with Marc Bergevin on the hot seat, the impulse may be to rush. Bergevin knows better for what it is worth. As for Caufield, he knows what he is walking into.
“From what I’ve heard it’s tougher than most places, just from the media aspect of it. But for me, I love it,” Caufield said in 2019. “If people care about hockey as much as the players do, that’s even better for the team. Having that support from them, if you win, they’re going to love you. There’s obviously some downfalls from that, if you’re not doing well you’re going to hear about it. But that’s probably the best part, the fans push you to be better and be consistent on a nightly basis.”
Now, what could be his role? A sheltered middle-six role with some power-play time is probably most likely. However, that is too early to speculate on as well.
Montreal still has much work to do but there are no excuses now. There is only winning enough to make the playoffs the first option. After that, well that matters little currently.