Stephane Waite, Antti Niemi (Photo by Montreal Canadiens)

by Chris G, Digital Radio Producer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

LAVAL, QC. — Is it only me or is everyone anxious for the start of the 2018-’19 season? The Canadiens have already made several changes and there are more to come. I expect the next big announcement to be made during NHL Entry Draft weekend. Do you want to be on site at the draft when it happens? Win a pair of tickets to the draft in Dallas courtesy of Allhabs.net. Click for here details.

Here are my top 5 takes of the week:

      1. Max’s future – Marc Bergevin was recently interviewed by 98.5FM’s Martin McGuire and was asked about Max Pacioretty’s future. He was very non-commital towards the captain saying that everything is possible in the future including a trade (audio below). I am even more convinced than I already was that Pacioretty will be traded before the start of the season. If he’s still with the Habs on July 1st, Max will be eligible to sign a contract extension with the team. If I were in his shoes, I would start negotiations at 7-years at $7-million per season, which is the contract the Evander Kane signed with the Sharks. If Canadiens sign him at that price, it’s because Pacioretty agreed to a hometown discount to remain in Montreal. Unless he has another disappointing season next season, Pacioretty will easily be able to get more than Kane when he hits free agency.
      2. Bouchard & Ducharme – As I wrote in the last Take 5, I wasn’t expecting Joel Bouchard to join the Laval Rocket as head coach. At his press conference, I saw how passionate Bouchard was about coaching. It also makes sense now because we found out that he will remain an owner of the QMJHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armanda. An NHL schedule would have made it more difficult for him to remain close to his junior team. Bouchard is a good hire for the Rocket.  Along with Dominique Ducharme, the Canadiens signed two coaches that the public wanted signed.  If you’re in the group that think that they were signed because they speak French, don’t include me. Ducharme and Bouchard both had important roles with Hockey Canada, and they could have chosen anyone from across the country and they selected the two Quebecers.
      3.  Succession plan – I’ve written in the past that I was disappointed that the organization didn’t have the next head coach or general manager working for them. With the signing of Bouchard and Ducharme, there has been a complete 180 degree turn for a succession plan at the head coach position. The question now has turned to who will replace Claude Julien when the time comes. I know it’s way to early to answer this question, but my feeling right now is that Ducharme is being groomed to be the next head coach. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Canadiens plan to have Ducharme coach the Laval Rocket a year from now after shadowing Julien for a season. This would be a similar development path that Pascal Vincent is on with the Winnipeg Jets.
      4. Niemi contract extension – Antti Niemi signed a one year contract extension. I thought that this was a possibility since the Canadiens didn’t trade him at the trade deadline. Surprisingly, Niemi was the team’s best and most consistent goalie this season. I think that this is a low risk signing by Bergevin, and the team now has three NHL goalies in their depth chart. If Niemi doesn’t perform, he can be placed on waivers and Charlie Lindgren can be Carey Price‘s backup. I did read on social media that some of you may be concerned with the message that it sends to Lindgren. The message to Lindgren is that he will get to play a lot of games and make a NHL salary whether he plays in Montreal or Laval.
      5.  Waite causes panic – In an interview with Mario Langlois on 98.5FM, Stephane Waite said that Carey Price was bothered by the fan base that was negative with him (audio below), and that the ovation that he received at the end of the season made him feel loved. I think that it was obvious that the relationship between Price and the fan base was difficult this season, but I was surprised that Waite actually spoke about it so openly on record. Was it a slip up or is this part of the new transparency policy of the team? One thing that is certain is that Habs Twitter blew up when Waite’s comments started to make the rounds on social media. With his new contract set to begin on July 1st, the pressure on Price will be immense and the fans will need to be on their goalie’s side to help him remain motivated to win for the logo on the front of his jersey.

Leave your comments below. I am looking forward to interacting with all of you.