Habs Mailbag: What exactly is GM Hughes doing with Cayden Primeau?

Stu Cowan also answers reader question about who he thinks will be the next Hab traded and which prospects will make the team next season.

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Why is Cayden Primeau still in the NHL?

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— Michael Nadler

Canadiens GM Kent Hughes believes Primeau can be an NHL goalie and didn’t want to risk losing him on waivers to another team by sending him down to the AHL’s Laval Rocket. Hughes believes another team would claim Primeau, which is why the Canadiens have carried three goalies all season.

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Samuel Montembeault has shown this season that he can be a No. 1 goalie and Hughes rewarded him in December with a three-year, US$9.45-million contract extension that kicks in next season. Hughes believes Primeau can be Montembeault’s backup — at least until Jacob Fowler is ready to play in the NHL. The Canadiens selected Fowler in the third round (69th overall) of last year’s NHL Draft and as a 19-year-old freshman at Boston College he has a 24-5-1 record with a 2.21 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.

Primeau has only played in 13 games this season, but has looked much better than he did in his previous NHL stints, posting a 5-6-1 record, a 3.06 GAA and a .901 save percentage. In three games with the Canadiens last season, Primeau had an .852 save percentage. In 12 games the season before that, he had an .868 save percentage.

If Hughes can’t move Jake Allen before the March 8 trade deadline, I’d expect him to be traded during the off-season with Montembeault and Primeau as the two goalies to start next season. Their combined salary-cap hit would only be US$4.04 million.

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Who will be the next Hab that will be traded?

— Colin Crewe

I would say David Savard.

The Canadiens are loaded with young defencemen and will have to make room for prospects who are on the way up, including Logan Mailloux, Lane Hutson and David Reinbacher.

But Hughes won’t give the 33-year-old Savard away before the trade deadline and the Calgary Flames didn’t get as much as many would have expected when they traded 34-year-old defenceman Chris Tanev on Wednesday.

Calgary received 20-year-old defence prospect Artem Grushnikov (selected 48th overall at the 2021 NHL Draft), the Stars’ second-round pick at the 2024 draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2026. If the Stars do not advance to the Stanley Cup final this year, then the Flames will not receive the third-round pick.

If Hughes gets an offer he likes, I expect he will trade Savard before the deadline. If not, Savard might be more valuable at next year’s deadline when he will be in the final season of his contract with a US$3.5 million salary-cap hit.

Savard showed how valuable he can be at the trade deadline when Tampa Bay acquired him in 2021 and he helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup, averaging 14:07 of ice time in 20 playoff games.

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Do you see Joshua Roy, Logan Mailloux and Owen Beck in the Canadiens’ lineup next season?

Joe Capriglione

I would say Roy will definitely start next season with the Canadiens, Mailloux probably will be in Montreal, while Beck seems more likely to start with Laval.

Roy has already shown this season that he can play in the NHL with a very high hockey IQ. We are seeing why Connor Bedard — the No. 1 overall pick at last year’s NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks — said Roy was one of the smartest linemates he ever played with when they won a gold medal together with Team Canada at the 2023 world junior championship.

Mailloux has had a very impressive rookie season in the AHL, with 11-23-34 totals in 52 games with Laval, and looks ready to get his first taste of the NHL.

Beck has had a very impressive season in the OHL, posting 29-34-63 totals in 46 games with the Peterborough Petes and Saginaw Spirit. A year playing in the AHL — like Mailloux did this season — makes sense to me as the next step in Beck’s development.

Having said that, if Beck performs well during training camp next season and during the NHL preseason, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him make the team since the Canadiens are desperate for more offence from their forwards.

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