Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes confirmed to reporters, including TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, today that center Christian Dvorak will not make his season debut until at least November. At a minimum, he will miss the first nine games of 2023-24 after undergoing knee surgery in mid-March.
Hughes said last week that Dvorak, 27, was not yet cleared to play and needed to have an additional consultation with his surgeon. He declined to give a timeline at that moment, but the team now has additional clarity on the status of his recovery. He is behind schedule, as the team initially expected Dvorak to be ready for the start of 2023-24 when he went under the knife over six months ago.
The Palos, Illinois, native has two seasons under his belt as a Hab after coming over from the Arizona Coyotes via trade during the 2021 offseason. Since then, he’s occupied the team’s second-line center role behind Nick Suzuki when healthy – a key caveat given he’s only played in 120 out of 164 possible games in Montreal. Even when in the lineup last season, he struggled heavily, posting ten goals and 18 assists for 28 points in 64 games. That works out to 0.44 points per game, his lowest scoring rate in a full season since putting up 0.42 points per game in his rookie campaign, 2016-17.
All that means Dvorak is slated for a diminished role this season when he does reach full health. Unless the team moves him to the wing, he could very well end up as Montreal’s fourth-line center or even occasionally sitting in the press box. Behind Suzuki, Kirby Dach and Sean Monahan are currently projected to center the second and third lines. They both produced at a higher rate and averaged more ice time than Dvorak in 2022-23. Dvorak has played some left-wing at the NHL level in the past, though, and he could still find himself in a top-nine role if names like Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Juraj Slafkovsky haven’t done enough to demonstrate they belong on the team’s top three lines through the first month of the season.
A silver lining here for Montreal is some potential increased salary cap flexibility. If they deem Dvorak is set to miss a little bit at the beginning of November as well, that would translate to him being out of the lineup for at least ten games and 24 days. That makes him eligible for long-term injured reserve at the beginning of the season, and combined with de facto retired netminder Carey Price’s $10.5MM cap hit, Dvorak’s $4.45MM cap hit could add more options for Hughes to manage Montreal’s books out of the gate for the most efficient use of LTIR relief.