The Tyler Toffoli trade may be the most intriguing trade that the Montreal Canadiens have made in recent memory, and it just happened to be the first major move made by the new regime.
General manager Kent Hughes and executive vice president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton have been quite deliberate and clear about their intentions to build their long-term vision for the franchise.
With that, it made it clear that players on expiring contracts like Ben Chiarot should expect to be traded. Same thing for veterans like Jeff Petry, who will be moved if the team gets a package that helps both parties. No one would have batted an eyelash if either of those were the first moves. The fact that it was Toffoli means that Kent Hughes wasn’t lying when he said Dominique Ducharme’s firing was the first of “many” moves.
They have already said that they are not looking for bandaids to cover up issues. Rebuilding has become a weird word to avoid when discussing what the Canadiens are doing, with words like retool or reset being used in its stead. What everyone needs to understand is that this team is being rebuilt.
It doesn’t matter what word you use to call it, but Gorton and Hughes will make the Canadiens their team, and they understand it will probably take a few years to get there.
Gorton and Hughes are not interested in simply turning this hockey team into a quilt with mismatched pieces of fabric. If you don’t fit into their future plans, and they can get someone or something that can, they will pull the trigger. It’s one thing to say there will be many changes, it’s another to put your plan into action.
It means that everything we have known about the current version of the Canadiens can change. Players who have fit in may no longer fit in. We may even see that prospects the previous administration held dear no longer are viewed the same way.
There are still a lot of specifics that need to be figured out in terms of which players are sent out, and what exactly is brought in but we now know what the new braintrust of the Canadiens are thinking. They are all-in on the future. People may look at the incoming draft picks and prospects skeptical that they will amount to anything other than footnotes. That’s the thing with building with youth, after all. You’re only as good as your ability to turn the picks and prospects into NHL players.
Gorton and Hughes understand that, too. They are choosing that path anyway, and they are betting on themselves.