Who Gets Left Out Of The Blueline Puzzle?

Washington Capitals v Montreal Canadiens
Washington Capitals v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages
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The Montreal Canadiens defence depth is an organizational strength. and for much of the 2023-24 season has been the focus of chatter.

During this rebuilding phase, there have been defensemen who have stuck around to help mentor the young guys. Kent Hughes stuck to his guns with David Savard, vowing not to move him unless the proposal knocked his socks off. He has recently spent time on a pairing with Arber Xhekaj and before that split time with Kaiden Guhle and Mike Matheson.

Needless to say, Savard has been a mentor and deserves a ton of credit for the work he has done alongside mostly U23 defenders. His competitive, team-first game has long endeared him to the Canadiens and set a great example for the future Habs blueliners. Blocking shots and killing penalties have become his bread and butter; and kept him in the lineup, though his lack of footspeed is apparent.

Matheson has been another player that is still in Montreal but seems like the next logical domino to fall. The Quebec local has been the Habs' best defenseman and, at points the best player, period. Munching minutes on the powerplay as the number one guy has been his role, and he has spent this season alongside Kaiden Guhle.

There is no question how important that No. 8 has been for the Habs; taking weight off of the developing defenders, providing them with a mobile, offensive-minded rearguard. Although he has made questionable decisions and is likely playing above his pay grade, you can't discredit what he has done. But like Savard, Matheson is a 30-year-old-plus defenseman on a rebuilding team that isn't likely to be competitive for another 2-3 years.

Last but not least for the defenseman who are 25 and over is Johnathan Kovacevic, who has served his bottom-four role immaculately. The rangy defender plays with a physical edge and is a jack of all trades but a master of none. A waiver claim from the Winnipeg Jets, Kovacevic is reliable defensively and makes a great first pass.

Aside from that. however, his game is limited offensively and sooner or later he is going to slip further down the chart. He is too good to play in the American Hockey League, so trading him might become a viable option in the future. Kent Hughes isn't likely to do too much talking to garner attention, 6 foot 5 mobile defenseman who are great in their own end generally are easy sells.

With some of the under 25 defenseman likely to get moved, it's hard to imagine that the veterans don't go as well. It will likely be done in a methodical way to avoid overwhelming their less experienced counterparts. But it seems inevitable that they stick around for more than two more years, there are some players that are soon to be knocking on the door.