Canadiens’ Decision on Kirby Dach Front and… Center

Montreal Canadiens center Kirby Dach. (David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports)
Montreal Canadiens center Kirby Dach. (David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports) /

With Sean Monahan out of the line-up due to injuries, the Montreal Canadiens are giving Kirby Dach another test at center. This should come as no surprise as team General Manager Kent Hughes said, in a recent interview, that in spite of the success the 21 year-old is having on the top line’s right wing with Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, the organization still sees him as a center.

As we see this whole picture develop, one cannot help having flashbacks to the way the team has developed the last two young centers of the organization. Alex Galchenyuk was deemed, by Michel Therrien and Claude Julien, to be better suited on the wing. Jesperi Kotkaniemi never was able to take the next step and become a franchise top-2 center before signing his offer-sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes, with whom he still can’t live up to expectations.

This is a new management, it’s true, and it should bring a glimmer of hope that the coaching staff is doing the right thing both for Dach and the Canadiens’ future. But also, the former Blackhawks’ third overall pick is showing the most upside since Galchenyuk’s 30-goal season back in the 2015-2016 season.

Monahan’s future

Right now, the Canadiens are doing well to give him the spot duty at center. Before coach Martin St-Louis decided to give him a shot on the top line right-wing, Dach was alternating at the center position with Monahan. Sometimes, Monahan would play the wing with Dach at center. Other times, it was the opposite. But Dach’s lack of success in the faceoff dot, combined with having to compete with an excellent all-round center like Monahan, made the decision to keep the former Flames in the middle that much easier.

But Monahan is a pending UFA and who knows what the future holds for him within this organization. At the start of the season, the writing was clear in the sky that the Canadiens completed that trade for the first round pick they also received for taking Monahan’s contract from the Flames. Everyone thought that if he could return to form, he would be dealt at trade deadline for, hopefully, another good pick or prospect. But he has done so well, and he is fitting in so nicely with the team, that the Canadiens are now toying with the idea of extending him.

Options available

With Nick Suzuki already in place, where would that leave Dach? The Canadiens do have many options available and the situation can change in a heartbeat. But here are some options, regardless, with many more potential scenarios available.

1- Trade Monahan: Of course, if they traded Monahan at trade deadline, then Dach could permanently slide back to center, at least until the end of the season. Unless of course they picked up another young center in the trade, ready to jump into the NHL…

2- Trade Dvorak: Christian Dvorak has two more years left to his contract after this season, carrying an affordable $4.45 million cap hit. If the Canadiens chose to re-sign Monahan, there could still be a spot left for Dach at center for the remainder of the season.

3- Pierre-Luc Dubois: I know, some people are tired of hearing his name as he has been so heavily in trade rumours this past off-season. But the fact that Dubois’ agent has been vocal about his client’s desire to play for the Canadiens, you know that there have been discussions between them and the Jets. This is still an option that could be explored closer to trade deadline, or during the off-season.

4- Young center through trade: Here’s where I’m going with this. The Canadiens have been linked to the two Alberta teams for Josh Anderson and Joel Edmundson, in particular. It has been both reported and speculated that the targets by Montreal would be 21 year-old Jakob Pelletier from Calgary, and 20 year-old Xavier Bourgault from Edmonton.

5- Status quo: This is a bit less likely, but the Canadiens could decide to keep the status quo and ride with what they have for the rest of the season, keeping Dach with the dynamic duo of Caufield and Suzuki, and give him the spot duty at center in case of injuries. This would then force them into a decision during the off-season, when more team can wheel-and-deal.

You may have different ideas of potential scenarios which could be just as good, feasible or desirable as the five above-mentioned, and no one would be surprised. What we do know is that Monahan is having a bounce-back season (so far) and that the Canadiens are reportedly toying with the idea of extending him although no decision has been made. We also know that we can anticipate a few trades from now until trade deadline as it is unlikely that this team will be in a playoffs’ position by then.

In the meantime, we can only hope that Dach, who has been a great surprise so far this season, continues developing and producing at this pace. In any case, the Canadiens will be glad that they have taken that gamble on him at last summer’s Draft.

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