Speaking at a midseason review press conference in Brossard, Que., Hughes stressed that he “did not want to be transparent” about contract negotiations. However, the GM was clear that he wanted Caufield in Montreal for the forseeable future.
“One thing’s for sure is that we want Cole Caufield with us long-term,” Hughes said. “I think that Cole wants to stay with us long-term. The way contracts go, it could depend. We always want to keep a certain flexibility.
“It’s not to say that there any negotiating problems, so many things can happen, but if it’s open to everyone I find that there’s a lot of speculation that can become a distraction for the player and for the team. When the negotiations will be done and the contract will be finalized, I’ll be happy to answer questions, but to comment while the negotiations are ongoing is something we’d want to avoid.”
Caufield is in the final year of his three-year, entry-level contract and will become a restricted free agent next summer. In 45 games this season, the winger has already passed his career-high and has 26 goals in his sophomore campaign.
With an injury list that keeps expanding, Hughes preached balance and patience regarding some of his team’s potential trade bait. One of Montreal’s biggest names in trade speculation, Sean Monahan, was placed on long-term injury reserve Tuesday.
“I think that’s just balancing that you do, but we’re early in the season to be worried about that type of thing,” Hughes said. “Some guys have been injured, like a Sean Monahan, who’s on the last year of his deal. Not much you can do about it, and we’re going to see how his return to play and his return to health, and then we’ll have decisions to make on it.
“If somebody is injured and you can’t be traded, is what it is. It’s just part of the sport.”
One player who will stay put in Montreal, according to Hughes, is goaltender Samuel Montembeault. The 26-year-old started the last five games, posting a 3-2-0 record and making at least 36 saves in all but one game.
“We want to keep him, he’s doing really well lately and he’s still a young goaltender in the NHL,” Hughes said. “It’s tough to think that we can predict Sam’s future with a small sample size, but we obviously see he’s got a certain potential.”
Added Hughes, “we see the potential, so he’s clearly going nowhere.”