NHL Team Preview: Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens’ miracle run to the Stanley Cup Final was one of the top stories of the playoffs last season, and though they have their sights set on another postseason run, that could prove to be quite difficult. Reverting back to the Atlantic Division will make a route to the playoffs that much more challenging, and with Shea Weber expected to miss the entire season and Carey Price out indefinitely, the Canadiens will have their hands full.
Needing a player to take Weber’s spot on the blue line, the Canadiens brought in a former foe, David Savard, who was a key piece of Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup victory over Montreal. Savard won’t produce the same offensive results as Weber, but he’s a tough, physical defenseman to play against. He’s projected to play on the second pairing with second-year d-man Alexander Romanov.
Adding some scoring punch, the Canadiens signed free agent winger Mike Hoffman. After a productive yet uncomfortable season with the St. Louis Blues where he never truly fit the system, Hoffman is a solid middle six forward who will likely play opposite Tyler Toffoli.
Montreal also traded for Christian Dvorak, previously with the Arizona Coyotes. Dvorak has spent his entire career with Arizona to this point, and he has yet to score more than 20 goals or more than 40 points in a season. However, that should change this year with the Canadiens.
In one of the more surprising moves of the offseason, the Carolina Hurricanes signed restricted free agent Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet. Montreal declined to match and was sent a first and third round draft pick. The optics of the signing led many to believe Carolina only made the move to get back at Montreal for trying to sign Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho during the 2020 offseason.
Phillip Danault is out the door as well, having signed in free agency with the Los Angeles Kings. An elite defensive center with solid playmaking metrics, this is a big loss for Montreal. Danault’s offensive production dropped last season, but there’s a reason he played 19 minutes per night in the playoffs last year. Danault is also 53.1% in the faceoff dot for his career, which is particularly important, given Montreal as a team won 48.4% of its draws (including Danault’s opportunities), which was tied for 24th in the league last season.
Others who left the Canadiens include Corey Perry (signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning), Tomas Tatar (signed with the New Jersey Devils), Erik Gustafsson (signed with the Chicago Blackhawks), Eric Staal (still a free agent), and Michael Frolík (also a free agent).
The favorite to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, Cole Caufield is going to be a star in Montreal. He scored four goals in 10 games last season after winning the Hobey Baker Award as the top NCAA Division I Men’s College Hockey player while at the University of Wisconsin, then racked up 12 points in 20 playoff games as a 20-year-old.
Caufield has a deadly scoring ability and is a game-breaker with the puck on his stick. He fell to the Canadiens at 15th overall in the 2019 Draft because of his smaller stature (5’7”, 165), and the 14 teams who passed on him likely already regret it. Most sportsbooks have Caufield around +350 in the Calder odds race.
Jake Allen will also be tested heavily this season, especially with Carey Price’s status uncertain. Price is recovering from offseason knee surgery, but he’s also entered the NHL’s Player Assistance Program, and has been battling a non-COVID illness. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin says he expects Price to miss at least 30 days but that it could be more.
Allen was last a starting goaltender while with the St. Louis Blues. He’s struggled at times with consistency, but he was also a part of St. Louis’ Stanley Cup winning team in 2019.
Samuel Montembeault will be Allen’s new backup.
Montreal Canadiens Season Predictions and Odds
2021-22 Over/Under Point Total: 88.5 (over and under are both -120) Atlantic Division Title Odds: +4000 (fifth-best) Eastern Conference Champions Odds: +2200 (11th best) Stanley Cup Odds: +5000 (tied for 20th best)
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.