After a remarkable season that was akin of a wild roller coaster ride ended in a game 5 Stanley Cup Final defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning on would have hoped the adversity the Canadiens faced during the season would soon come to rest. The adversity rages on for the Canadiens as we now enter the offseason.
The Montreal Canadiens undoubtedly faced more adversity than most of the other teams in the NHL on a variety of fronts. First the high ride of early season success with a crash back to the earth that cost then head coach Claude Julien his job. Then the “ok” play to stay in the hunt with interim head coach Dominique Ducharme but never re-establishing the early season dominance. Finally wrapping up the regular season with key injuries to important players that we’ve since learned are far more significant than originally believed.
The Canadiens season paired with the postseason run of upsets and triumphs along the way to the Stanley Cup Final certainly painted the picture of a season that was on for the ages. While the defeat added to the agony of a cup drought that is closing in on its third decade the adversity the team overcame along the way gave a sense of pride and accomplishment regardless of the final outcome.
With the season now in the rear view mirror, hope for a departure from the adversity at least on most fronts was to be expected. What we now see is that will be the furthest from the case. Surely the adversity rages on and stronger than before.
Jonathan Drouin remains absent from the team since taking his leave of absence back in March with no timetable or expectations of his return. He has been left unprotected in the upcoming Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft.
Free agent center Phillip Danault and the team are nowhere in negotiations on a new contract and the end result is he being left unprotected in the upcoming expansion draft. With the two sides not expecting to reach a deal, his time in Montreal is all but surely done.
We learned that Captain Shea Weber is dealing with foot, ankle, knee as well as thumb problems that has been dubbed as career threatening. The reports are he is dealing with decisions on quality of life over hockey and by the very least would be expected to miss all of next season if he was to make any return. As the others above, he has been left unprotected.
The next dagger to strike is now the news of Carey Price and his injuries that caused him to miss the 19 of the final 21 regular season games before his triumphant playoff run. We knew he was dealing with a lower-body injury and then a concussion and now reports are pointing towards the need for surgery to his hips and/or knees. The news casts doubt on whether he may play the upcoming season as well and even more doubt as there are multiple issues that need to be figured out. Like the others, he has been left exposed which sent shock throughout the hockey world and leaves the Kraken with an incredibly difficult decision to make.
As difficult as a decision it is for the Kraken, the probability that the Canadiens will be without a major group of key important figures on the team. While word amongst the league is other teams are furious over the Canadiens actions of late notably with Weber and Price, Marc Bergevin and the club have to take care of their team first and foremost.
If Price and Weber are done for the season or not is a major hurdle for the club to jump over. For Price, the team holds 5 more seasons of a cap hit of $10.5M and with the extent of his injuries being tied to a critical element of a goaltenders strength, the chance to get out of the contract without being crippled by a buyout is far too enticing to pass up. Sure the Canadiens can and will use LTIR to their advantage but that only goes so far.
For the Canadiens, the next few days leading into the expansion draft and the NHL Entry Draft where they hold a haul of picks (11 total) will be a cloudy period. Once they emerge and drive into free agency, we’ll see just how much adversity Marc Bergevin can take on again and steer the club out of as they try to build upon the season that was.Embed from Getty Images