Boucher: The CH maneuvered well during the trading period
Our columnist has seen young defender Justin Barron in his soup for a long time.
Philippe Boucher played 17 seasons in the NHL, scoring 94 goals and 300 points in 748 games. The native defender of Saint-Apollinaire has notably had two seasons of 40 points and more. He made the All-Star Game in 2007, and lifted the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in his final NHL season in 2009. A first-round pick (13th overall) of the Buffalo Sabers in 1991, he successively played for the Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars and Penguins. At the end of his playing career, he held management positions with the Rimouski Oceanic, the Quebec Remparts and the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Philippe has agreed to work with the NHL.com team to cover various current hockey topics.
The new leaders of the Montreal Canadiens maneuvered well before the trade deadline. I always say that I’m more interested in the return than the players who are traded. I really liked defender Ben Chiarot and striker Artturi Lehkonen, but the return for each has been impressive. It was for the majority of the five transactions that the Jeff Gorton-Kent Hughes duo concluded.
I’m well placed to comment on the Lehkonen trade because I know very well the promising defender obtained in return, Justin Barron.
As a joke, I’ll start by saying that I thank him for helping teach me the basics of being a general manager in junior hockey.
In his draft year in the QMJHL, in 2017, we saw him very big with the Quebec Remparts. It was on him that we wanted to set our sights from the first round. His agent knew that and was okay with it. However, the day of the repechage, at the very beginning of the first round, his agent came to tell me that he would not come to play for us. I told him that I was going to select him anyway.
Moments later, I noticed the Halifax Mooseheads staff milling around their table. The Mooseheads made a trade to get ahead of their selection and choose Barron.
A few years later, when a player’s agent told me not to draft his player, I answered him: “No problem, I understand”, but I chose him anyway! I had subsequently mentioned to the agent that I had already been shot once and that it would not happen again.
I loved Barron. Chief recruiter Christian Vermette and I had often spied on him. I would have liked him to wear the colors of the Remparts.
He had a superb career in the QMJHL with the Mooseheads and a good start in the American League this season. By chance, I saw him again at work this season. My son Matthew wore the colors of the Avalanche school team for a few games and I obviously paid attention to his game. He does that very well. He plays the same hockey as in the junior.
You will have to be patient with him. The organization is full of several defense hopefuls, if we add Kaiden Guhle, Logan Mailloux and Jordan Harris. It is not said that it will work for all four. But good if it works.
It has been said that Barron will come and play a few games with the Canadiens and that he will definitely play in the American League playoffs.
It’s a great plan. We will see what he can do and, after an off-season of preparation, he will have the chance to earn a position. But if that doesn’t work out, there’s nothing wrong with him having to start next season in the American League. There is no rush, patience is the key.
We have acquired a complete defender who will play in the NHL, in all situations. They say he is a student of the game. We went to get a hockey player, I tell you.
The Canadiens made hockey trades. It reminds me of a junior team starting a performance cycle again. The Canadiens reached the Stanley Cup Finals last year and traded veterans to stock up on draft picks and prospects.
Gorton and Hughes were not responsible for the personnel movements of the past few years. They owed virtually nothing to anyone. It is up to them to redefine the own identity they want to give to the team. March 21, 2022 allowed us to see where they are going and to better understand the ideas they will put forward. It will have been a significant day for the future of CH, in the short and medium term.
Watch out for the Wild
As for the entire trading period that ended Monday afternoon, I want to tip my hat to Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin.
The Wild signed the brilliance of the last day by getting their hands on veteran goalkeeper Marc-André Fleury.
The Wild are not the most talked about team, but they have gained credibility since Guerin took over. He came up with a plan and he made it clear before the season that we were going for big honors in Minnesota.
Guerin learned his trade as an assistant GM for several seasons and, as a former player, he knows how to identify what it takes to win. He knows better than anyone the contribution that Fleury can make to a team. The three of us won the Stanley Cup together in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The addition of robust forward Nicolas Deslauriers is also very important for the Wild.
That said, I remain convinced that the Avalanche will be the team to beat in the playoffs. General manager Joe Sakic knows he’s got the big deal in hand, and he’s looked to tough defender Josh Manson and Lehkonen as two supporting players who are essential to a team’s success.