Where do the Canadiens go from here?

Trading veterans away cements that the team isn't going to contend and that is a bitter pill to swallow for the Canadiens roster.
Detroit Red Wings vs Montreal Canadiens
Detroit Red Wings vs Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

It was another year of growth for the Montreal Canadiens; hope was for a better finish, but a top-five draft selection was a definite need. 

The Habs are looking more likely to get the latter, after another year that ended near the basement of the league. With the fifth-best draft lottery odds, Kent Hughes is hoping to draft an impact player. Regardless of the position, he is aware that the surplus of defence prospects makes it possible for him to facilitate a trade for a forward should he opt to draft a defenseman. 

Let’s assume that he does add a forward, Kirby Dach returns healthy and Alex Newhook or Joshua Roy rounds out the second line. With the blueline group a year older and Lane Hutson in the fold, the offence improves a bit. Factor in that Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau will have a full season splitting starts, which should help them find some traction in the crease. 

Without adding anything, the team would likely improve their rank in the standings. But Hughes and Jeff Gorton have been transparent with their plan to make some moves to improve the roster. Having that in mind, it’s not inconceivable to believe they can push for a wildcard spot or at the least put themselves in a battle for one. 

Losing Dach early in the season set the team back, even if he hasn’t scratched his ceiling yet. Should he find success in 2024-25 offensively, the Habs will improve offensively by a few percentage points. Keep in mind Newhook is still growing and Roy’s NHL locker is still being broken in.

With the young core another year older, Nick Suzuki is trending up, as are Juraj Slafkovsky and Cole Caufield. Kaiden Guhle, Jayden Struble and Jordan Harris also took great strides this season, so expectations for next year will increase. Any year that the season doesn’t go how the players would hope is disappointing, but veterans being dealt to contenders solidifies that the Stanley Cup is still out of reach. 

With this season used as a year for growth, the lessons learned will be helpful next year. For that reason, it’s easy to see the team take a big step forward; becoming more competitive and harder to play against. Using the past two seasons as fuel, the Habs will certainly want to clinch a playoff berth to remedy the feelings they’re experiencing with another early offseason. 

I don’t expect the team to be in the mix for the top of the Atlantic division, but definitely in the mix for a wildcard spot.