Former Victoria Grizzlies captain Alex Newhook is on his way to Montreal.
Newhook, 22, was dealt from the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday for defenceman Gianni Fairbrother and the 31st and 37th overall draft selections in tomorrow’s NHL entry draft.
The deal comes as somewhat of a shock.
Newhook had just completed his second season in the NHL after being selected 16th overall by the Avalanche back in 2019, and helped the Avs to a Stanley Cup as a rookie, two seasons ago. But he didn’t quite take the step forward this season that Colorado had hoped.
After Nazem Kadri signed a 7-year deal with Calgary last off season, the Avalanche had a giant opportunity to play as the second line center behind Nathan MacKinnon—one Newhook would have hoped to fill.
Alas, Newhook wasn’t quite ready for that role and posted less points (33) in his 82 game sophomore season compared to his 71 game rookie campaign (30).
He only played 40 more seconds per game this year compared to his rookie season, and was eventually passed on the depth chart by JT Compher, who put up a career best season that saw him finish with 17 goals and 52 points.
Compher is now an unrestricted free agent, and perhaps shipping Newhook out the door frees up the necessary cap room to make a real run at retaining Compher.
Newhook himself is a restricted free agent and will be looking for a modest raise from his $925,000 entry level salary.
Colorado was ousted in the first round of the playoffs this year by the upstart Seattle Kraken, and deemed bringing in 31 year old veteran Ryan Johansen from the Nashville Predators as a preferable option at center ice rather than relying on growth from Newhook.
The Avalanche will certainly be looking for a much longer playoff run next spring.
Newhook joins promising situation in Montreal
Though Newhook will no doubt be caught off guard by the trade and a little miffed at being considered a spare part, there is a silver lining to be found in heading to Montreal.
Newhook will join a young team with low expectations and plenty of opportunity to earn significant ice time. He’ll be given a long leash make mistakes and learn, and improve overall at the NHL level.
Further, many current Montreal players rave about the developmental program and culture rookie head coach Martin St. Louis is building out in Quebec.
With young stars such as Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki to potentially play with, along with 2022 1st overall pick Juraj Slavkovsky and Kirby Dach – a 3rd overall pick himself— Newhook could find himself in a great situation to grow as a player alongside talented linemates.
The 22-year-old also fits in well age-wise with the rebuilding Canadiens.
But Newhook will do significantly less winning in Montreal than he had grown accustomed to in Colorado, as the Canadiens finished 28th in the league last season.
Montreal will have their work cut out for them before they can eventually compete in a crowded Atlantic division that features Stanley Cup finalist Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
We’ll see if Newhook can help them get over the hump and back into the playoffs.