Montreal Canadiens: How Soon Can Eric Staal and Cole Caufield Play With Habs?

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Cole Caufield Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Cole Caufield Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

Montreal Canadiens top prospect Cole Caufield saw his college hockey season end prematurely yesterday. We also saw the Habs pull off a trade to add Eric Staal.

Both players are likely to play for the Habs in the near future, but with all of these travel restrictions going on, how soon will we see them and how many games will they be able to play?

Well, the question became a little easier to answer yesterday.

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The Canadian Government officially announced yesterday afternoon, almost simultaneously with the Habs acquiring Staal and Caufield losing to Bemidji State to end his college season, that the quarantine period for players moving to Canada will be seven days. Before this, a player had to wait it out for two weeks in a hotel room before he was allowed to suit up for his new team in a different country.

The announcement yesterday makes things a little more straight forward.

Staal drove from Buffalo to Montreal earlier today and will begin his quarantine period immediately. He will have to wait seven days in a hotel room in Montreal and take a Covid-19 test every day. If he tests negative for seven straight days, he will be free to join the Habs.

If today is considered Day 1 of his quarantine, he will complete his duties next Saturday afternoon. The Canadiens are scheduled to play the Ottawa Senators that night, but I can’t see Staal joining the team for a game before any practice time.

That means, the first time we see Staal skating with his new teammates will be next Sunday, April 4th which is the day before the trade deadline. The Habs are home to Ottawa on Saturday, April 3rd and then play at home against the Edmonton Oilers on April 5th.

That’s when we will see Staal suiting up for the Canadiens for the first time. It means he will only have one practice and one morning skate with the team, but I think that would be enough for a veteran like Staal. He could be trusted to jump in and play a fourth line centre role with a couple of other veterans like Corey Perry and Paul Byron after a couple of skates.

Caufield is a different story. While Staal has played 1272 NHL games and has scored over 1000 points, Caufield’s next NHL game will be his first.

The 20 year old right winger hasn’t even decided to sign his entry-level contract yet. It’s only a matter of time, as he probably needs to head home to prepare to move to a new country after playing in Bridgeport yesterday. There can be a few things that a 20 year old college student needs to sort out before he just packs up and leaves campus for good near the end of a semester.

Having said that, it probably won’t be long before Caufield does sign a contract with the Canadiens. Then, he will have to move to Montreal and serve his seven day quarantine as well. The earliest he could possibly start this is tomorrow, which would allow him to join the team for its skate before facing the Edmonton Oilers on April 5th.

I think the Habs will allow Caufield to practice with the team a few times before playing in a game. His first chance to practice with them would be April 6th, ahead of games against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 7th and the Winnipeg Jets on the 8th. The Habs are then off on the 9th which would give Caufield a second opportunity to actually practice with the team.

Then, I could see him stepping into the lineup on April 10th, when the Habs host the Jets once again. The Canadiens would still have 15 games left to play which would give Caufield a chance to show if he is ready for NHL playoff hockey or not.

It’s kind of ironic that the NCAA national championship game is scheduled for April 10th. It’s a date Caufield would have had circled on his calendar as he would have been eying a national title for the Wisconsin Badgers.

Next. Caufield's college career comes to a close. dark

However, if he signs with the Canadiens in the next day or two, April 10th could be a huge day for Cole Caufield for a different reason.