The Montreal Canadiens are running with a shorthanded roster and due to the CBA, could be forced to do so for a while. Who else will they call up this season?
The Montreal Canadiens traded away several depth pieces leading up to the trade deadline. They moved out Marco Scandella a few days before the deadline, then traded Ilya Kovalchuk the night before. On deadline day they moved out Nate Thompson, Matthew Peca and Nick Cousins.
This brought in several draft picks to the organization and was the right approach as all of those players are going to be free agents in the summer and would have left for nothing at that time. With the Habs too far back in the playoff race, they may as well acquire future draft picks for expiring contracts.
This leaves the Habs with 14 draft picks when they host the festivities in June at the Bell Centre. It also leaves them with a shorthanded bench and due to some odd collective bargaining agreement rules, they may have to go most of the rest of the season shorthanded.
National Hockey League teams are allowed to carry 23 players on their active roster. Right now, the Habs have 20 as they have just 12 healthy forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders. It seems logical that they would just call up a player or two to have on the roster in case someone gets injured in warm up and can’t play.
Otherwise, what are they going to do, ask the Zamboni driver to play fourth line left wing? That would never work. Well, maybe when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs in April.
The problem is, the Canadiens can not just call up players whenever they want. In an odd rule, teams are only allowed to make four recalls from the minor leagues following the trade deadline. The Canadiens already made one when they brought up Jake Evans from the Laval Rocket.
They technically called up Karl Alzner after the trade deadline as well, but that didn’t count. Alzner was with the Habs before the trade deadline, but needed to be “sent down” before the deadline because in order to be eligible for the AHL postseason, a player needs to be on the AHL roster at 3:00 PM Eastern time on deadline day.
So, if you look at the AHL transactions page, you will see that Alzner was both sent down and called up on Monday. However, he was an “emergency recall” for the Canadiens since they had less than 20 players on their roster after trading Nick Cousins to the Vegas Golden Knights.
What this all means is the Canadiens are three players short of the maximum roster limit, but are only allowed to call up three more players for the rest of the season. So, how will they handle this? For now, I assume they will do nothing. They are at the minimum number of players so if someone else does get hurt and placed on injured reserve, another player can be called up on an emergency basis like Alzner and not count as one of the four regular recalls like Evans.
Luckily, for now, the Habs are at home for all of their games this week. With their minor league affiliate so close they can get away without carrying extra players on a day to day basis. However, if someone stepped on a puck and pulled a groin in the warmup tonight, the Habs would have to play the entire game against the New York Rangers shorthanded.
When they hit the road next week and especially when they go on a road trip to California in the middle of March, they are going to need an extra player to take with them. Choosing who to bring could prove difficult. The Rocket are dealing with their own injuries at the moment and needed to sign a few players from the ECHL and university hockey to fill their own roster.
If Xavier Ouellet gets healthy before the west coast trip, the Habs could use a regular recall on Alzner to keep him on the Habs roster. That would only leave them with two more players that can be called up. They seem content to let the young top prospects like Jesperi Kotakniemi and Ryan Poehling stay in the minors for the rest of the season to develop their games.
That means if they want to call up an extra forward, they could look to Charles Hudon once again who is among the leading goal scorers in the AHL. We could also see Laurent Dauphin called up as he has some NHL experience with the Arizona Coyotes.
It might make more sense to call up a defenseman like Gustav Olofsson and rotate Alzner, Olofsson and Folin on the third pairing if Ouellet remains injured. The only thing is, with Alzner up on an emergency basis, they can’t call anyone else up from the minors without “officially” calling up Alzner and making him a regular call up as well.
It puts the Habs in a tricky situation for the time being. Until Ouellet returns from injury, they are kind of stuck with this 20 player roster. I believe something will have to change when they go on a road trip, but they are only allowed three more call ups the rest of the year.
It will be interesting to see how the Habs handle this tricky roster situation. One thing is for sure, it is great news for Evans. They used their first call up on him which means they plan on having him stay in Montreal the rest of the year. Who will be called up next will be an interesting story to follow for the next five weeks.