The Montreal Canadiens showed some promise with their showing in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. But if the team wants to be taken seriously as a perennial playoff contender, there is more tweaking to be done with the core.
And it may mean having to move Max Domi.
The same forward who was acquired by the Canadiens with the hopes he would thrive given a new change of scenery back in the summer 2018. The same forward who fans clamoured to see more minutes for in this year’s postseason, only to post just three assists in 10 games. Of course, this came after a 17-goal, 44-point campaign through 71 regular-season games.
If you take stock in a player removing their team affiliation from their Twitter and Instagram bios, perhaps there is reason to believe the Canadiens and Domi are on course to part ways.
Even before the social media changes, rumours had already floated around the 25-year-old. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested the Pittsburgh Penguins as a destination should the team consider trading him.
General manager Marc Bergevin may not have outright said he would be putting Max Domi on the chopping block, but he certainly didn’t say the forward was guaranteed to be staying in Montreal either, despite mentioning some details about his restricted free agent status.
“He’s better suited to answer regarding his performance,” said Marc Bergevin on Max Domi. “Max has a lot of potential. I can’t speak for his future. He’s an rfa for two more years...”— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) August 22, 2020
If the Canadiens are going to move on from Domi, but also want to improve their core, it means he’ll likely have to be packaged with a prospect and/or a high draft pick. You have to give to get in this league.
The Habs’ defence, backed by Shea Weber, Ben Chiarot, and Jeff Petry, could always use an upgrade. Even if it may make Victor Mete, Xavier Ouellet or possibly playoff standouts Brett Kulak and Ben Chiarot expendable, and it could put less pressure on Alexander Romanov when he eventually joins the squad. But the more pressing need for the Canadiens is on the wing, specifically a finisher. It’s a position Domi gradually slipped into as the post-season went on, but one in which he failed to make much of an impression.
The team is coming off a series where they were frustrated by a defensive Philadelphia Flyers team (whose higher-profile players like Claude Giroux struggled to score). Montreal had high-danger chances, but, much like most of the regular season until Ilya Kovalchuk came on board, it lacked a player who could consistently bury those opportunities. It didn’t help that Brendan Gallagher was hurt, while Tomas Tatar has shown he is not the most reliable scorer in the playoffs.
Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau could make sense even if he is slightly older than Domi. He’s at least tapped into his potential. Pittsburgh’s Jason Zucker has a high cap hit at $5.5 million, but he can put pucks in the net. Those two teams are likely looking to make changes after having disappointing playoff campaigns.
There’s no guarantee the Habs will move on from Domi. But, there are potential replacements for him if Bergevin is willing to make that move. He is in a position of strength with the prospects and draft-pick capital at his disposal, and he can move a forward who might once again use a change of scenery to advance his career.