Needless to say, it hasn't been a lot fun watching the Canadiens for the last month or so. For one, the team isn't winning. They aren't playing very well either, and their brand of hockey hasn't exactly been "easy on the eyes". Even worse, some of the veterans look like they've been plagued with the Benjamin Button disease, and there appears to be no solidarity amongst the players (how many times do the young players on this team have to keep getting nailed, boarded, hit to the head, before someone stands up on their behalf?).
But hey, it's a sunny day out, Spring is just around the corner and I figured we'd lighten up the mood around here a little. One thing the Canadiens do have going for them is a legitimate crop of upcoming, exciting, young prospects. Yes, Nick Suzuki's porous play, his lack of effort and grit is concerning. KK's skating is God-awful and he will have to improve his balance and core strength. And Romanov has shown that he is prone to turnovers and poor decisions for several games now. But still, the talent is there in all three cases. And, logic would dictate that in 2/3 years, all three will be an integral part of this franchise.
So what will this team look like at the start of the 2023/2024 season? I started by making the assumption that Shea Weber and Carey Price will have either retired or been dealt (perhaps wishful thinking- just don't want to imagine what Weber could look like 3 years from now) and that the current group of UFAs will NOT be resigned.
On defense, Jeff Petry would be 35 years of age and, given his style of play, and the fact he's been generally spared from injuries during his career, one would assume he would still be a top 3 d-man on this team (will he still want to be here if his two buddies are gone by then is something to consider obviously). I suspect the Canadiens will lose Ben Chiarot to the Kraken this summer (or at least let's hope so). Joel Edmundson would still be in his prime years in 3 seasons and likely a reliable bottom-pairing defenseman. The other four spots would likely be filled with some of these budding prospects the Canadiens boast. Alexander Romanov would likely be on the top pairing, possibly playing alongside Jeff Petry.
On the second pairing, Kaden Guhle, assuming his development goes as expected, would likely be paired with one of Jordan Harris, Mattias Norlinder or Jaden Struble (who would need to make the transition to right D). Let's assume Harris gets the nod. That would leave Edmundson and Norlinder as the bottom pairing. Struble could be the 7th man, although a player like Josh Brook, who is coming into his own down in Laval, could have a say in this.
Up front, Gallagher, Anderson, Toffoli and Drouin would likely be the veterans leading the way. Suzuki and Kotkaniemi would presumably be established centremen in the league by then (the Canadiens would have a massive problem on their hands if this weren't the case). The rest of the spots would be filled by some of the team's current pool of prospects: Caufield, Poehling, Evans, Ylonen and perhaps even Luke Tkuch and Jan Mysak.
So, even though it's highly likely there will be personnel movement before then, let's take a look at the projected 2023/2024 Montreal Canadiens:
Would this be a Stanley Cup Contender? Hard to say. Hopefully a few free agents will have been added to the team by then. Either way, feel free to share your own projected lineup, I'd love to hear it!