The Montreal Canadiens have several forwards scheduled for unrestricted free agency later this month, and it’s not clear how many they will be able to retain. Phillip Danault, perhaps the one with the most leverage in any negotiation, seems destined to hit the open market. Though rumors had emerged linking Danault to the Seattle Kraken, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports and Eric Engels of Sportsnet have both confirmed that the two sides didn’t even speak about a potential deal.
Still, with Danault, Joel Armia, Corey Perry, Eric Staal and Tomas Tatar all pending free agents, the Canadiens have some work ahead of them to fill up the forward ranks. David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period tweets that the team has been “actively exploring the forward market” and notes that Montreal has even inquired about Anthony Beauvillier of the New York Islanders. Beauvillier is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent, but is also a huge part of the Islanders forward group and part of the team’s protected list for the expansion draft.
The recently-turned 24-year-old forward scored 15 goals and 28 points in 47 games this season for the Islanders, a pace that would have shattered his previous career highs if the season wasn’t shortened. If he can continue that development, there’s a real chance that Beauvillier can become a true top-six difference-maker. That would of course interest the Canadiens, but whether they can pry the young forward out of New York is a different question.
Montreal only has six forwards (including Jonathan Drouin) under one-way contracts for the 2021-22 season at the moment, meaning they can reshape their group however they see fit this summer. Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki will be back on their entry-level contracts, and new deals seem likely with restricted free agents Artturi Lehkonen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. But there will be a real opportunity for a free agent or trade target to come in and make an impact next season, especially if the Seattle Kraken end up shocking the world and taking Carey Price’s $10.5MM cap hit off the books, or if Shea Weber is unable to play and spends the year on long-term injured reserve.
After a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, most teams bring back mostly the same group to try and climb the mountain once again. In Montreal, things could look very different in 2021-22.