Montreal Canadiens 2021-22 NHL Season Preview

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·4 min read
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The 2021-22 NHL season is coming and it’s time to take a look at all 32 teams. Over the next month we’ll be examining best- and worst-case scenarios, looking at the biggest questions, breakout candidates, and more for each franchise. Today, we preview the Montreal Canadiens.

2020-21 Season Review

• Record: 24-21-11 (59 points) fourth place in North Division
• Postseason: Lost Stanley Cup Final in five games to Lightning
• Offensive leader: Tyler Toffoli (52 games, 28 goals, 16 assists, 44 points)

• Free Agent Additions: David Savard, Christian Dvorak (trade with Arizona), Mike Hoffman, Mathieu Perrault
• Free Agent Subtractions: Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Hurricanes offer sheet), Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault

Biggest question facing the Montreal Canadiens?

• Have they done enough to replace what they have lost?

The Canadiens stunned the hockey world this postseason by going on a shocking run all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, beating Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vegas along the way. Carey Price played a huge role in that, but a couple of the players that contributed are no longer going to be around this season. Phillip Danault, a consistent Selke Trophy contender, is now in Los Angeles. Tomas Tatar did not play much in the playoffs but has been the Canadiens’ leading scorer the past three seasons, is now in New Jersey. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a Hurricane after signing a restricted free agent offer sheet. They will also be without veteran defender Shea Weber, whose career seems to be in jeopardy at this point thanks to injuries.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

That is a lot of talent either leaving or not being available.

There is also the inevitable regression that might come from a player like Tyler Toffoli who had a career year.

Hoffman can score goals, but they might lose a little on the defensive end with him. Dvorak might be a short-term upgrade over Kotkaniemi, but he does not have the long-term upside. Weber to Savard is a pretty big downgrade on the blue line.

Then there is the fact they are going from the North Division back to an Atlantic Division with Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto, and Florida. Finishing above fifth place is going to be a real challenge.

What’s the salary cap situation?

The Canadiens are pressed right up against the upper limits of the league salary cap and have a lot of long-term contracts on the roster. They will get some relief with Weber going on LTIR, but beyond that they do not have a lot of flexibility in future seasons while players like Nick Suzuki and Alexander Romanov are restricted free agents after this season (and Cole Caufield in two years).

They have 11 players signed for at least the next three seasons, with eight of them counting more than $4 million against the salary cap. Most of those players are in their late 20s or 30s. That includes the $18 million they have committed to Price (34) and Weber (36).

Breakout Candidate

• Cole Caufield

The obvious breakout candidate here. We only saw Caufield for 30 games last year (10 regular season, 20 playoffs) but they were very exciting. He scored eight goals and 17 total points in those games, which comes out to a 22-goal, 45-point pace over 82 games. Not bad for a 20-year-old in his first taste of NHL action.

He is one player on this team that has game-breaking ability and superstar potential. He can be a one-man highlight reel when he is on the ice and should be considered one of the early favorites for the Calder Trophy.

Best-Case Scenario

If Carey Price and Jake Allen give them quality goaltending they are going to have a chance to compete every night, and there is a solid core of forwards in place here. Suzuki and Caufield taking big steps forward will be the biggest X-factor here, as will the return of Jonathan Drouin. Brendan Gallagher is one of the most underrated players in the league and an elite play driver, so you know his line will perform, but they also need Toffoli to duplicate his 2020-21 performance and for Josh Anderson to find some consistency. Making the playoffs in this division is going to be tough, and expecting a repeat of last year’s playoff run is expecting way too much, but they should be competitive.

Worst-Case Scenario

While Price is clearly still capable of putting the team on his shoulders and carrying it for long stretches of time, he does not do that as consistently as he once did. If the goaltending is not there for this team, it is going to make it awfully difficult to stay competitive in that division. Even with young talent like Suzuki and Caufield at the top of the roster.

PointsbetMontreal Canadiens Stanley Cup odds

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More 2021-22 NHL Season Previews

Minnesota Wild: 2021-22 NHL Season Preview Los Angeles Kings: 2021-22 NHL Season Preview Florida Panthers 2021-22 NHL Season Preview

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Montreal Canadiens 2021-22 NHL Season Preview originally appeared on NBCSports.com