Montreal Canadiens Hire Kent Hughes As General Manager

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The Montreal Canadiens have hired Kent Hughes as their 18th General Manager. He was signed to a five-year contract on Tuesday.

Former Agent Kent Hughes Named General Manager

Born and raised on Montreal’s West Island, Hughes knows very well the responsibility he is taking on even if he has been living in Boston for the past two decades. He played hockey growing up, reaching college level in Vermont. He shifted gears, eventually heading up MFive Sports with Anton Thun before they merged with the Montreal-based Quartexx Management. While he represented players across the league, that local connection shouldn’t be underplayed. It’s a market unlike any other, and bringing in someone who understands it intimately is essential.

From Player Agent To General Manager

Hughes has a history with Montreal’s Executive Vice President Jeff Gorton. When Gorton was the Boston Bruins Vice President, Hughes was a player agent and he negotiated Patrice Bergeron‘s second contract with the Bruins. More recently than that, Gorton drafted Hughe’s son, Riley, in 2016 when he was the New York Rangers GM. That shows that they do have a relationship other than being in the same general business.

Kent Hughes started his career representing Quebec-born players. He made his biggest splash early representing Vincent Lecavalier. Lecavalier eventually earned over $100 million for his 17-year career. Bergeron hasn’t done badly by being represented by Hughes either, with $92 million in earnings. He could well have gotten more, but negotiations and compromises to keep Bergeron in Boston reduced the total. Not a bad sign for future negotiations with agents coming to the Canadiens.

Hughes With Plenty to Do

This hiring comes at a brutally difficult time for the NHL’s most storied franchise. The club was struggling at 6-15-2 when they swept out the front office. The change didn’t correct their course, unfortunately. An overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on January 13th left the Habs at a historically low at 7-24-5. And on this team, “historically low” means something. The last Canadiens’ team this bad was in 1939-40, where they finished the 48-game season at 10-33-5. That’s a .260 points percentage, barely below the 13th’s .264.

This being Montreal, all eyes turn to the men in goal. Jake Allen has been doing what he can, but he’s mostly been a human shield for Cayden Primeau. Primeau is close but should be getting starter’s time with AHL Laval this season rather than backing up in Montreal. As for the suddenly-starting Sam Montembeault… He’s not getting much help but an NHL starter probably isn’t going to be his role.

Hitting the Ice in All the Wrong Ways

Montreal is missing personnel well beyond all-star Carey Price. They have a ridiculous SIX regulars on the standard injured reserve list and two more on the long-term one. Two skaters have managed to play in all of their first 36 games. Fortunately, one of those is leading scorer Nick Suzuki. Unfortunately, he’s leading the scoring with just seven goals and 19 points.

It’s unfair but also the nature of sports that winning brings heightened expectations. Last season’s incredible run to the Stanley Cup Final – where Suzuki led the team with seven goals and 16 points in just 22 games – is now a burden. Some of that burden is financial or will be when the injured players return. The team’s previous management obviously believed that they were ready to return to the playoffs regularly, and signed some deals accordingly.

With nearly everyone on the team underperforming, it’s almost impossible to tell how various gambles will pay off. But early returns aren’t looking good. What exactly this new management team, led by their new general manager, does about it is going to be the talk of the town. They may well be able to shake off the expectations raised last season. But in Montreal, there’s 103 more to live up to.

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