Whether it’s through the NHL trade market, free agency or the waiver wire, Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes continues to clean up the mess left behind by his predecessor, Mark Bergevin. While other NHL general managers like Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving continue to paint themselves into a pickle because they surrender to the now and not the big picture, Hughes is playing the long game with patience, due diligence and the knowledge he gained as a longtime NHL player agent.
“Not to go off topic of Kent, but even look at Bill Zito too right?” an NHL executive source opined to Montreal Hockey Now Friday night. “I mean Kent and Bill, they’ve been on the other side. They see the predicaments GM’s continue to put themselves in and both of them have come in and cleaned up the messes the guy before they left. I look even more at Kent and I see a guy with a vision and he’s just starting the path to get there but he’s doing it right.”
Obviously, Kent Hughes didn’t just suddenly lose his two best players coming off a division title and his team isn’t in a win-now mode like Treliving and the Flames clearly are. However, as of now the new Canadiens general manager has a plan, and by all accounts he is willing to stick to it regardless of pressure from above or externally. The moves Hughes has made on the NHL trade market so far are gaining notice from his peers.
“Let’s make one thing clear, [Calgary Flames general manager] Brad Treliving did his best on the NHL trade market to clean up the mess he found himself in last month. By no means does Treliving not deserve some empathy or credit for locking up [Jonathan Huberdeau] and getting [Mackenzie] Weegar too. One could argue they may even be a better team than when they had [Matthew] Tkachuk. He did what he had to do in an untenable situation but why was he in that situation?”
Treliving went all in on the 2021-22 Flames team he assembled and took the chance that he might not be able to sign Johnny Gaudreau and misread the major gap he had in talks with Tkachuk. Now he’s locked into an eight-year, $84 million contract with Jonathan Huberdeau that carries a $10.5 contract for a 29-year-old.
“Agents can see this before it happens better than GM’s can because they don’t constantly have pressure from ownership or the fans or the media,” the source said. “If guys like Zito and Kent can convince ownership to trust them, they have the upper-hand right now.”
That seems to be the case for Hughes and Geoff Molson right now and that’s why the belief around the NHL seems to be that by the time the 2022-23 season begins, contracts like that of Josh Anderson or Christian Dvorak, maybe even Jake Allen, could be moved on the NHL trade market and off the books freeing up more cap space for the Canadiens.