Montreal Canadiens: Claude Julien Expects Alexander Romanov in Habs Lineup

Montreal Canadiens prospect Alexander Romanov signed his entry-level contract recently. It sounds like his new coach expects big things from him.

The Montreal Canadiens went through an odd battle with the National Hockey League to get Alexander Romanov signed to his entry-level contract.

Romanov’s KHL season ended while the NHL was on pause due to the coronavirus outbreak. Since NHL teams were not allowed to handle business at that time, Romanov technically was not allowed to sign his entry-level contract.

Then, the league announced he would be ineligible to play in the NHL’s Return to Play action. This made, well, absolutely no sense, but the league stuck to its guns and ran with it. When teams pushed back against this rule, the league said players could sign their contracts, and skate with the NHL team, but not play in games.

So, that is what Romanov did. He joined the team for training camp and skated with them in practice. However, he was not allowed to play in games as Xavier Ouellet played regular minutes on the third defence pairing. It would have been nice for Romanov to get some action, but the league wouldn’t budge on its odd, last minute, unheard of rule.

The Canadiens then went out in the offseason and re-signed Victor Mete and signed unrestricted free agent Joel Edmundson. This added some depth on the left side, and made the position fairly crowded with Brett Kulak and Ben Chiarot also under contract.

Since the Habs have several options, I though Romanov would be best suited to start the season in the AHL with the Laval Rocket. However, head coach Claude Julien was speaking to the media yesterday and he made it abundantly clear that there is a roster spot for Romanov.

This is a very interesting comment by the coach. He did get a good look at Romanov in the summer, but to basically declare that this rookie is going to crack the lineup long before next season’s training camp is pretty bold.

It also means the Canadiens will have to expose another young defenceman to waivers. It is clear the team will keep Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Ben Chiarot and Joel Edmundson in town. They also really like Brett Kulak’s play in the postseason and will have a roster spot for him. Romanov makes six already.

Then they have to decide between Cale Fleury, Noah Juulsen and Victor Mete. Fleury does not need waivers so he is almost guaranteed to be sent to the Rocket. However, both Mete and Juulsen would have to be exposed to waivers before they could be demoted.

The Habs could keep one of them as the 7th defenceman, but it makes no sense to carry eight and have two blue liners sitting every game. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense to lose Mete or Juulsen for nothing.

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So, if Romanov is going to crack the opening night lineup, I would fully expect a defenceman like Kulak or Mete to be dealt before next season begins. There is no rush, but I just don’t see how all of these defenders fit in the organization to begin next season.