Juraj Slafkovsky shouldn’t feel added pressure despite signing contract extension

The Montreal Canadiens further solidified their intriguing group of forwards when they inked Juraj Slafkovsky to a new deal, but he should feel no pressure.
France v Slovakia - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Czechia
France v Slovakia - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Czechia / Xavier Laine/GettyImages

An extension for Juraj Slafkovsky was all but a foregone conclusion, and it happened yesterday, on Day 1 of NHL free agency. Overall, it was a move general manager Kent Hughes didn’t need to spend much time on the player he drafted roughly two years ago, especially following Slafkovsky’s breakout season. 

Checking out Slafkovsky’s production, he didn’t enjoy an ideal rookie season with just 10 points and four goals in 39 games. He basically averaged fourth-line minutes and was little more than an underwhelming player for an underwhelming hockey team. 

Fast forward to the first two months of the 2023-24 season, and in 29 contests, Slafkovsky didn’t look like he improved much, with two goals, seven points, a minus-7 rating, and a paltry 4.8 shooting percentage. If that didn’t cause at least a few to sound the panic button, I don’t know what will. 

Then, the final 53 games of the season happened, and Slafkovsky finished the year with 43 points and 18 goals, two of which were game-winners. Sure, he ended that stretch with a minus-12 rating, but look at his improved shooting percentage, which, in those 53 contests, sat at 16.4. 

You look at these numbers, and yes, you can be justified in saying, “Okay, so he had a good two-thirds of a season. He better feel some pressure that he can build on his 2023-24 season before that lucrative deal kicks in.” But I digress.

No added pressure necessary for Juraj Slafkovsky following extension

While it’s true Juraj Slafkovsky was only productive for two-thirds of a season so far, we need to remember that 2022-23 was basically a rushed learning experience for Slafkovsky, who played exclusively in Europe previously and, therefore, had to adjust to the North American game. His 2022-23 season was going to be a throwaway year, every bit as much as it was a throwaway year for the team. 

The 2023-24 season was all about growth, and even if Slafkovsky struggled through a rough start to the season, he broke out in the second half. If you ask me, the pressure was on for everyone, from Slafkovsky, to the coaching staff, and definitely Kent Hughes. But Slafkovsky already responded to that pressure well already, and he did so rather easily. 

That said, despite a new contract set to kick in next season, there should be no need for Slafkovsky to feel more pressure to live up to it. He responds well to pressure, and you can expect, especially with the Canadiens being a better hockey team in 2024-25, for Slafkovsky to build on what was eventually a successful 2023-24 campaign, and reach new highs. 

Once his eight-year extension kicks in, fans will have no doubt that, not only will he be one of the better players on the ice; they can expect Slafkovsky to take over games. 


(Statistics powered by Hockey-Reference)