FC Montreal

Habs Mailbag: Canadiens have plenty of options with their defencemen


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Don't be surprised if GM Kent Hughes makes a big trade for a bona fide top-six forward this summer.

Canadiens' Joshua Roy, right, competes for the puck with Bruins' Trent Frederic during game in march. Roy will be given every chance to earn a spot in the top six next season, Stu Cowan writes. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

Always enjoy your mailbag columns. My question: assuming no trades involving defencemen this summer, who do you see as the seven defencemen being on the Habs to start next season?

Nil d’Entremont, Halifax, N.S.

Glad to know you’re enjoying the mailbag.

I’d be very surprised if the Canadiens don’t trade any defencemen during the offseason, either individually or — more likely — as part of a package deal.

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But to answer your question, if no defencemen are traded, I can see the seven defencemen being Mike Matheson, Kaiden Guhle, David Savard, Lane Hutson, Jordan Harris, Arber Xhekaj and Jayden Struble. With no trades, I see Hutson starting the season in the NHL over Mailloux, but a trade (or trades) could open up spots for both of them. Justin Barron would have to clear waivers before being sent back to Laval next season, while Johnathan Kovacevic remains a great bargain with a salary-cap hit of US$766,667 if the Canadiens want to keep him as a sixth or seventh defenceman in the final year of his contract.

The Canadiens will have options when it comes to deciding which defencemen to keep.

With the stable full of high-potential prospects, do you think there will be a big trade for a bonafide top-six forward this summer, before or after the draft?

Tim Griffin on X (@MoosecalacTim)

GM Kent Hughes holds a lot of cards when it comes to young defencemen and draft picks — including two first-round picks this year and next year — so I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls off a big trade for a top-six forward. If it happens, I would expect it to be shortly before the draft or at the draft.

Where does Joshua Roy fit next year?

RWL on X (@Dis70Hab)

I’d be very surprised if Roy doesn’t start next season with the Canadiens and — depending on what other forwards might be acquired during the offseason — I expect he will be given every chance to earn a spot in the top six.

Do the Laval Rocket coach their players the same system or concepts as coached by the Habs’ Marty St. Louis? If not, then why not? Wouldn’t that help with development, especially since it’s time to compete for the playoffs and not accept another year of losing for the sake of development?

Mick Chow

The system/concepts used in Laval are similar, but not the exact same as what the Canadiens use. At least, that’s what Mailloux told me when I asked him that question after he made his NHL debut in the Canadiens’ final game this season after spending the year developing in Laval.

“I’d say it’s similarities and little tweaks,” Mailloux said when asked if the systems were different in Laval and Montreal. “When the puck moves, different guys got to cover different guys. But I wouldn’t say it’s too hard to switch up here systems-wise. The guys helped me out and the coaches.

“You can see the systems and stuff that they’ve been preaching,” Mailloux added. “I haven’t known them too much, but when Marty talked about it before the game you could see what he wanted to happen, for sure.”

Have you ever done a story on Dick Irvin Jr.? The history that man can tell about the Habs.

Habhead on X (@HabHeads)

I wrote a column on Irvin two years ago (along with a Q&A sidebar) on his 90th birthday.

His voice was exactly the same as it was during his days on TV and radio. His mind was also sharp as a tack when telling stories about the Canadiens, dating back to when his father coached the team from 1940-55, winning three Stanley Cups.

“I used to tell Scotty (Bowman): ‘You’re my second-favourite all-time coach in the NHL’ — which is true,” Irvin said with a chuckle. “I started in the broadcast business when Toe (Blake) was coaching. I saw a lot of them … they had the dynasties with Toe and Scotty.”

But Irvin’s father remains at the top of his coaching list.

“I’ve had a good life,” Irvin said. “My biggest regret is that my father didn’t live to see me as a hockey broadcaster. I would have been a lot better hockey broadcaster if he had been there. He passed away six years before I got in the business.”

Take a break about the Habs. It’s summer. Have a beer — or two. Cheers.

Philippe Dupuy on X (@comfort_table)

While it may be summer, interest in the Canadiens never seems to fade with fans and it will only increase with the draft, slated for June 28-29 in Las Vegas, the free-agent market opening on July 1 and the Canadiens’ summer development camp in Brossard.

After that it will be time for a vacation and, yes, I will have a beer — or two.

In the meantime, fans can keep the questions coming for the weekly Habs Mailbag.

If you have a question you’d like to ask for our weekly Habs Mailbag, you can email it to [email protected]

[email protected]

x.com/StuCowan1

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