Montreal Gazette

Should the Canadiens retire the jersey numbers of Shutt, Lemaire, Ferguson?

- Stu Cowan

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I have been to a few Canadiens games when they retired jersey numbers and it's quite something to see. I don't understand why No. 22 — for both John Ferguson and Steve Shutt — has not been retired and I don't understand why Cole Caufield is playing now with No. 22. The same thing with No. 25 for Jacques Lemaire. Can we start a petition for this? Bernie Mlynarski

If Shutt and Lemaire played for teams other than the Canadiens I'm pretty sure their numbers would be hanging from the rafters of the home arenas where they played. Not so sure about John Ferguson. To me, the first requiremen­t for having a player's number retired is that he's a Hall of Famer — something Shutt and Lemaire are, but Ferguson isn't. I would put Shutt ahead of Lemaire in line for number retirement since he still shares the team record for most goals in a season (60) with Guy Lafleur. But at the top of my list would be No. 6 for Toe Blake. He's in the Hall of Fame as a player after winning two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens and one with the Montreal Maroons and then he won eight more Cups as head coach of the Canadiens. Blake was part of the famous Punch Line with Maurice (Rocket) Richard (No. 9) and Elmer Lach (No. 16), who have both had their numbers retired by the Canadiens. Blake should join them.

What will the top six forwards look like next year for the Canadiens when Kirby Dach is back from his knee injury? Juraj Slafkovsky and Dach had good chemistry when they played together and Dach played great with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield as well.

Marc St. Pierre

I would expect the No. 1 line to start next season will still be Suzuki between Caufield and Slafkovsky. However, that could change depending on what player or players GM Kent Hughes might acquire before next season and what happens at the draft. If Hughes can acquire a player like Trevor Zegras, that would change things. But picking from the players the Canadiens have now, I can see Dach playing between Alex Newhook and Joshua Roy on the second line to start next season. If you had to name seven defencemen who would be playing for the Habs in two or three years, who would they be?

Peter Arvanitaki­s

Mike Matheson still has two more seasons left on his contract, so let's go with two years instead of three. I can see the seven defencemen in two years being Matheson, Kaiden Guhle, Jayden Struble, Arber Xhekaj, Logan Mailloux, David Reinbacher and Lane Hutson, presuming the later three develop like team management hopes they will.

Have we given up on Brendan Gallagher, or does the team expect him to bounce back and earn his US$8 million this season and US$9 million next season? This contract must be addressed more seriously even though it's not Kent Hughes who extended it.

Michael Langille

I don't think the Canadiens have given up on Gallagher, but they do realize he has become a very expensive third- or fourth-line player.

As head coach Martin St. Louis has said many times, Gallagher continues to be someone who can bring other players into the fight. His work ethic and compete level are always there and he remains a well-respected leader on this team. But the wear and tear on his body with the style of game he plays has really started to show at age 31.

If the Canadiens were to buy out Gallagher at this point it would still have a big impact on the team salary cap moving forward. According to Capfriendl­, the Canadiens would save US$6.5 million in cash by buying Gallagher out. They would get a small salary-cap break next season with a buyout, but the salary-cap hit would be $2.166 million in 2025-26, $4.666 million in 2026-27 and then $2.166 million again for 2027-28, 2028-29 and 2029-30.

At this point, with three seasons remaining on his contract with a $6.5-million cap hit, it seems like the Canadiens are better off to keep Gallagher.

 ?? POSTMEDIA FILES ?? Steve Shutt, pictured above, is tied with Guy Lafleur for the Canadiens' record for goals in a season with 60.
POSTMEDIA FILES Steve Shutt, pictured above, is tied with Guy Lafleur for the Canadiens' record for goals in a season with 60.

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