Montreal Canadiens: Kent Hughes Doesn’t Think Habs Will Be In On Top Free Agents

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 19: Newly appointed general manager of the Montreal Canadiens Kent Hughes. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 19: Newly appointed general manager of the Montreal Canadiens Kent Hughes. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes was on the Melnick in the Afternoon show on TSN Radio yesterday afternoon. He had some interesting comments, including big news on the Habs upcoming free agency.

Hughes, like usual, was quite forthcoming with his responses as he doesn’t normally hold his cards as close to his vest as his predecessors. That’s not a shot at either Hughes or Marc Bergevin, but Hughes is definitely a little more fun for fans as he speaks his mind and is honest to the media about the team he is running.

He was asked about the team’s free agency plans and he spoke about the team’s current cap space being a hindrance to getting in on free agents. Obviously, with the team up against the cap, and having spent the most money in 2021-22, they aren’t in a position to be overly aggressive right now.

His direct quote was that he, “does not anticipate Montreal will be in the market for a five-star free agent.” A lot of media have linked Patrice Bergeron and Kris Letang to the Montreal Canadiens this offseason since they were clients of Hughes when he was an agent as recently as November.

After finishing 32nd in the NHL standings, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Canadiens to go after a 37 year old centre or a 35 year old defenceman that will want term and a considerable cap hit as well.

Sure, it would be nice to add Bergeron to help guide youngsters like Nick Suzuki, Ryan Poehling, and Cole Caufield or Letang to help out a young blue line by bringing leadership and experience.

But, it just doesn’t make sense with the Habs current situation in the standings and in the payroll department to go after a player of that caliber. This is obvious to most Habs fans, so it was nice to hear from Hughes that he isn’t going to try and rush this team into contending with short term band-aids on the shotgun wound that is the Canadiens roster.

It was however, nice to hear that Hughes does not plan on rushing his young defenceman. The future is bright on the blue with the likes of Kaiden Guhle, Logan Mailloux, Jordan Harris, Justin Barron, Mattias Norlinder and Arber Xhekaj all turning pro by the end of next season if they haven’t already.

Some of them will push for NHL jobs as soon as next fall, but Hughes commented in his interview that he does not want to rush any of them into a job they are not quite ready for. He then said if he does trade a player like Jeff Petry, he is likely to use some of that cap space to bring in a veteran defender to fill the void so it doesn’t have to be Kaiden Guhle playing top four minutes before he is properly prepared for that job.

That is music to Habs fans ears. It sounds like we can expect Petry to be dealt, but instead of being replace by Letang and the team finishes 22nd overall next year, a veteran like Ilya Lybushkin, Erik Gudbranson or even P.K. Subban could come in on a short term contract to bridge the gap to the prospect defenceman while allowing the Canadiens to stay in the running for Connor Bedard.

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