BUFFALO, N.Y. — Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes disagrees with the perception that NHL players don’t want to play in Montreal, noting that winger Cole Caufield was happy to commit to the team long-term.
Caufield signed an eight-year, US$62.8-million contract extension with the Canadiens on Monday.
“I often hear people say that guys don’t want to play in Montreal, and I disagree with that,” Hughes said on Thursday at the NHL draft combine. “Players are happy to be in a good environment when they’re playing hockey.
“It’s important to note that Cole wanted to be here. It sends a message to others that good players want to play in Montreal.”
Caufield’s salary falls just under what Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki will make over his own eight-year pact. Hughes said it was important that Suzuki remained the highest-paid forward in the organization.
He also mentioned that Caufield’s contract value respected the current market for talented players who opt for long-term deals after their entry-level contracts expire.
Hughes also addressed questions about the prospects available in the draft, scheduled for June 28-29 in Nashville, Tenn. In the first round, the Canadiens hold the fifth-overall pick and the Florida Panthers’ pick, which will be either the 31st or 32nd depending on the outcome of the Stanley Cup final.
The Canadiens expect to be able to select a promising prospect with the fifth pick, but Hughes admitted to having some reservations about Russian player Matvei Michkov.
“With the Russians, there’s a geopolitical aspect and also questions about their contracts,” Hughes said.
Michkov is still under contract with the Kontinental Hockey League’s SKA St. Petersburg for the next three seasons.
“We’ll see,” Hughes said. “First, we need to evaluate him as a player and compare him to other available players. Then, we need to do our homework on the other aspects. These are all factors that come into the equation.”
Hughes and the Canadiens’ staff have been in Buffalo for several days already, conducting interviews with a number of prospects. The event will conclude on Saturday with physical tests.