Seven big Montreal Canadiens storylines to watch for in 2020

Montreal Canadiens' Jonathan Drouin celebrates after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Montreal, Saturday, October 26, 2019. (Graham Hughes/CP)

MONTREAL — We’re done looking back.

The year 2020 is around the corner and it’s now time to look forward.

Understanding that we’re likely omitting some potential big news items that are bound to come to fruition regarding the Montreal Canadiens—we didn’t bother predicting what will happen at the February trade deadline or in free agency come July—we’re doing our best to look ahead to the major happenings in and around this team over the next 12 months.

For the purposes of this exercise, we’re going in chronological order. Here’s what we expect to be headline news around Montreal in the New Year.

Cayden Primeau returns to Montreal

Unless the Canadiens acquire a goaltender on the trade market, there’s a good chance Primeau will return for spot duty behind Carey Price.

The 20-year-old recently posted a .931 save percentage and won one of his first two NHL starts. And though he may be young and inexperienced, we suspect there’s more trust in his ability to do the job than there is in Keith Kinkaid (1-2-1, .874 save percentage with Laval) or Charlie Lindgren (7-6-2, .893 save percentage with Laval).

Primeau could be on a yo-yo between Montreal and Laval depending on the Canadiens’ schedule. The idea is for him to play as frequently as possible, so splitting his time between the NHL and AHL makes sense—especially since he doesn’t have to pass through waivers.

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Jonathan Drouin returns from wrist surgery

Drouin had seven goals and 15 points in 19 games and was playing some of the best hockey of his career when he snapped a tendon in his left wrist.

He hasn’t played since Nov. 15 and he had surgery on the 18th of that month to repair the damage. Drouin was then given a timeline of approximately eight weeks for recovery.

That would give the speedy left winger a chance to play on Jan. 18, when the Canadiens welcome the Vegas Golden Knights to the Bell Centre.

But since that will be Montreal’s last game before the bye week, we suspect Drouin could be more likely to return on Jan. 27 against the Washington Capitals.

Whenever the Canadiens get the Ste. Agathe, Que., native back, they have to hope he looks like the player he was to start the season. It will be understandable if it takes Drouin time to find his game—the nature of his injury and missing so much time in the middle of the season makes it a probability—but the intensity of the playoff race will demand he find it quickly.

If Drouin can manage to do that, it will have a huge impact on where the Canadiens land in the standings when all is said and done. Either way, his return to play will be one of the biggest stories between January and April.

Shea Weber at all-star amid a developing case for the Norris Trophy

Expect the big defenceman to make his seventh NHL All-Star appearance, and we’ll just go ahead and assume he’ll be a candidate to win his fourth title in the hardest shot competition.

It means two days of rest out the window, but at least Weber will have four days off before having to report to St. Louis on Jan. 23.

There’s little doubt Weber will receive the nomination as Montreal’s representative, and there’s even less that he’s earned it.

While there are no guarantees of a Norris nomination for the Sicamous, B.C., native, if he continues to play as he has through the first three months of the season, there’s a good chance he’ll be recognized as a finalist at least.

Weber’s a three-time Norris Trophy finalist who’s never won the award. He’s currently on pace for a career-high 26 goals and a career-high 65 points.

Cole Caufield signs with Canadiens

The 15th overall pick in 2019 is a standout in his first season with the NCAA’s Wisconsin Badgers (12 goals, 20 points in 18 games), but we’d be shocked if he’s there for a second one.

Expect Caufield to sign his entry-level contract with the Canadiens as soon as his season with Wisconsin ends.

Alexander Romanov signs with Canadiens

The Canadiens feel confident they’ll get the 38th overall pick in 2018 to leave the KHL’s CSKA Moscow as a free agent this spring.

Expect Romanov to be in a Canadiens uniform next fall.

Draft Day in Montreal

We’re not sure how many picks the Canadiens will be making (or where they’ll fall in the order) yet, but they currently own 12 picks in the upcoming draft, which is being held in Montreal.

The potential for fireworks from the hometown team is considerable.

Contract watch for Max Domi, Victor Mete

Without knowing what the Canadiens have planned for unrestricted free agency, what they plan to do with Domi will have considerable impact on every other decision that follows.

Domi has produced well, he’s made it very clear he wants to play in this market, he is 25 years old and arbitration eligible. He’ll have a good case to have his $3.15-million salary doubled on a short-term deal.

And if the Canadiens want him on a long-term deal, they’ll have to buy years of unrestricted free agency eligibility from him. It could prove very costly for the team.

This is going to be a tough negotiation even if both parties want to continue the relationship. And no matter how it ends up, it’s going to be a big story in Montreal.

Domi isn’t the only notable RFA to re-sign either. The 21-year-old Mete will have his entry-level deal expire and is in line for a raise.

Will the Canadiens sign Mete to a new long-term deal or will they bridge him instead?

We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s a big piece of the puzzle that has to fall into place over the coming months.


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