Carey Price Tyler Toffoli Phillip Danault Habs draft offseason

It’s a huge week for the Habs: Your guide to the draft & offseason drama

The 2021–22 Habs may be a very, very different group.

Now that the body has cooled on the Montreal Canadiens’ thrilling run to the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s time to think about next season. In fact, this week is the biggest of the entire offseason as far as dictating what the 2021–22 Habs will look like. As of this writing, it could be a very, very different group — with the futures of players like Carey Price, Shea Weber, Jonathan Drouin and Phillip Danault all looking uncertain. Regardless of the direction Marc Bergevin takes, he’ll have several great opportunities to add both defensive reliability and offensive firepower to the lineup that took the franchise to their best-ever finish since they last won it all in ‘93.

With all of that in mind, here are some important dates for Habs fans to mark on their calendars this week.

July 21: 2021 NHL Expansion Draft

It’s a huge week for the Habs: Your guide to the draft & offseason drama

You’ve likely heard the bombshell news about Carey Price being exposed by the Canadiens to the Seattle Kraken for Wednesday’s upcoming Expansion Draft. His wife Angela’s recent social media activity seems to suggest that he won’t get picked, and indeed the chance of him being selected is still non-zero as of now. Furthermore, Pierre LeBrun recently reported that the Kraken are taking a “deep dive internally” about whether Price would fit with the team. However, a report on Sunday by Frank Serravalli says that Price may have to miss “significant time” in 2021–22 due to a hip injury, which would add risk in selecting him as far as Seattle is concerned. Here’s the complete list of players being protected by the Habs (Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield are exempt):

  • Josh Anderson, RW
  • Joel Armia, LW (pending unrestricted free agent)
  • Jake Evans, C
  • Brendan Gallagher, RW
  • Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C
  • Artturi Lehkonen, LW
  • Tyler Toffoli, RW/LW
  • Ben Chiarot, LD
  • Joel Edmundson, LD
  • Jeff Petry, RD
  • Jake Allen, G

It’s a huge week for the Habs: Your guide to the draft & offseason drama

This means that not only is Price available to be selected, but so are Jonathan DrouinBrett KulakPaul Byron, and pending UFAs Phillip DanaultTomas Tatar and Corey PerryShea Weber, whose career is in jeopardy due to lingering injuries on his thumb, ankle and foot, is also left unprotected. Assuming Kraken GM Ron Francis opts against taking Price and his gargantuan contract of $10.5-million AAV running until 2026, selecting Drouin as a reclamation project to help provide offence could be tempting — even at his $5.5 million cap hit.

July 24–25: 2021 NHL Entry Draft

Once the Habs and the Kraken both have their present somewhat figured out, their future will be next on the agenda. While there’s no obvious potential superstar à la Alexis Lafrenière, Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, there are still quality players to be had in virtually every area of the ice. For teams like the Buffalo Sabres, Seattle Kraken, Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils (who each own the first four picks of this year’s draft), young studs like Owen Power, Matthew Beniers, Dylan Guenther, Luke Hughes and William Eklund are all on the table.

For the Habs, their first pick won’t come until 31st overall, making the possibility of trading the pick as part of a package for a roster player very tempting. Should they decide to stay the course, their best chance of landing a high-upside prospect at that stage in the draft is likely done by picking a forward. Simon Robertsson, Logan Stankoven, Sasha Pastujov, Isak Rosén, Francesco Pinelli, Aatu Räty and Montreal native Zachary L’Heureux are all names to look out for around the Habs’ spot, should they still be available.

Francesco Pinelli

July 28: Free Agency Season

Once both drafts are completed, the NHL’s silly season can begin in earnest. For the Habs, the three biggest UFAs are Danault, Perry and Armia. Ideally, GM Marc Bergevin would be able to re-sign all three, particularly since Shea Weber is likely to spend all of the 2021–22 season on the LTIR (long-term injury reserve). The removal of his cap hit alone gives the Habs nearly $8-million in added cap flexibility to re-sign all three players. Not only that, but it could also help Bergevin make efforts to sign several coveted UFAs from other teams. Depending on who they lose in the expansion draft (and if Price will also have to go on the LTIR), he’ll have even more cap space at his disposal. Additionally, a recent report from Journal de Montréal’s Jonathan Bernier states that Danault doesn’t expect to re-sign with the Canadiens.

Carey Price, Tyler Toffoli and Phillip Danault

Perhaps the best option as far as replacing Weber would be signing Dougie Hamilton, a former teammate of Gallagher, Drouin and Danault with Canada’s World Junior team. While he won’t replace Weber’s physicality and leadership qualities, Hamilton has maintained a reputation as a dynamic offensive defenceman for years now, and would slot in as our power play quarterback. As far as forwards go, Bergevin has several other enticing options to choose from, particularly since Tomas Tatar is not expected to return. These include Gabriel Landeskog (assuming he doesn’t re-sign with the Colorado Avalanche), Brandon SaadJaden Schwartz and Kyle Palmieri, each of whom would provide an offensive spark to a team where goal-scoring has been a long-standing issue. ■

To read about the NHL draft event coming up on July 23–24, please click here.

For more Montreal sports coverage, please visit the Sports section.