Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was busy on the first day of the NHL draft, picking a top-prospect defenceman after dealing away a star forward.
Bergevin sent Montreal's third-round pick (78th overall) and forward Max Domi to the Columbus Blue Jackets for right-winger Josh Anderson Tuesday in a trade that he described as being "a good fit" for both teams.
“It’s a need for Columbus, it’s a need for the Montreal Canadiens. They need another centreman and we needed to add some size and grit on the wing," he told reporters on a video call Tuesday.
Domi, 25, is set to become a restricted free agent this week. He had 17 goals and 27 assists in 71 regular-season games with the Canadiens this past season, plus three assists in 10 post-season games.
The total was down from the career-high 72 points (28 goals, 44 assists) Domi registered over 82 games in 2018-19.
Sometimes players simply go through a rough spell, Bergevin said.
“There never was a time that we tried to make it hard on Max. He went through a tough year, he struggled," the GM said. "I still believe he’s a very good hockey player and I wish him the best in Columbus, I really do.”
Anderson played just 26 games last season after having shoulder surgery in March. The 26 year old has 65 goals and 50 assists in 267 NHL games and is also set to become a restricted free agent this week.
“We feel comfortable that at the end of the day, we’ll be able to agree on a contract (with Anderson)," Bergevin said.
The Habs added to their prospect pool Tuesday, picking defenceman Kaiden Guhle 16th overall in the NHL draft.
The 18 year old from Sherwood Park, Alta., admitted that he has a bit of a mean streak on the ice — a character trait that he said comes from wanting to win.
"I think it's just my competitiveness that really brings it," said Guhle, who won a Western Hockey League championship with the Prince Albert Raiders in 2019.
"Ever since we won, all I've been thinking about is winning. … I think that's part of the reason I play like that. I'll do anything to win."
Last season, he registered 40 points (11 goals and 29 assists) in 64 games with the Raiders.
The competitive streak runs in his family. Guhle said his older brother, Brendan, a defenceman with the Anaheim Ducks' American Hockey League affiliate, hates losing, too.
"You don't want to get shown up by your older brother. Your older brother doesn't want to get kicked around by his younger brother. So I think we're both very competitive like that and I think that helped us a lot," said the younger Guhle. "That's definitely a big reason why I compete so hard."
Kaiden Guhle, six-foot-two and 186 pounds, described himself as a "very good skating two-way defenceman."
"I like to be hard on other teams' best players. I like to make a good first pass, jump into the rush, use my skating to my advantage," he said.
The first-overall pick in the 2017 WHL draft, Guhle said he didn't look up to specific defenceman when he was growing up but instead looked at pieces of their games.
"Like (Canadiens captain) Shea Weber, he's got a mean streak to his game. He's gritty, I like to take that from his game," he said.
Montreal still has a lot of work to do at this year's draft, which resumes with rounds two through seven on Wednesday. The team has a total of 10 picks, including Nos. 47, 48, 57, 98, 102, 109, 136, 171 and 188.
The Habs picked right-winger Cole Caufield 15th overall at the 2019 draft. The 19-year-old from Mosinee, Wis. spent last season at the University of Wisconsin where he put up 19 goals and 17 assists in 36 games.
The draft was supposed to be a hometown affair for the Canadiens this year but the event was first delayed, then moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2020.
The Canadian Press