While many deadlines have been pushed back due to the delayed start to the season, one that hasn’t is the June 1st signing deadline for certain prospects. That has now come and gone with the Canadiens relinquishing rights to three of their youngsters.
Players drafted out of the CHL typically have two years to sign their entry-level deals and the same rules apply to non-CHL North American-born players that don’t have a college commitment. Players drafted from countries that have transfer agreements with the NHL have four years to sign. These are the categories that the three now-former prospects found themselves in. (College players have a different signing deadline, August 15th.)
The most notable player on the list that the Habs are losing is Joni Ikonen. A second-round pick in 2017 (58th overall), he looked to have a lot of offensive potential but just couldn’t stay healthy. Over the past three seasons, he managed to play in just 36 games and had a limited role with Ilves in Finland this season. With the limited ice time, it would have been hard for the Canadiens to commit to a two-year, entry-level deal. Ikonen has another year on his contract in Finland and if things go well, he could try to catch on somewhere as an unrestricted free agent.
Then there’s Jacob LeGuerrier. A fifth-rounder in 2019 (126th overall) out of Sault Ste. Marie, the pandemic really hurt his chances of getting signed. Instead of going back to the Greyhounds for his final season and having an opportunity to play a big role in all facets, that league never got going. The defenceman got to spend time in Laval but Joel Bouchard rarely trusted him as the 20-year-old suited up just four times. When players on AHL contracts and tryouts started to play ahead of LeGuerrier, the writing was on the wall.
The third player on this list is Kieran Ruscheinski, the player that made everyone go ‘Who?!” when the Habs selected him with the 206th pick in 2019 as a selection dedicated to the late Elmer Benning. He has spent the last two seasons in a limited role with Salmon Arm of the BCHL and while the size was intriguing, the rest of his game didn’t come around. Worth noting is that if there is a college commitment that we’re just not aware of (that information isn’t always made public), the Habs would retain his rights but as far as I can tell, that isn’t the case.
The Habs don’t have anyone whose rights are set to expire in mid-August so the next window to watch for is June 1, 2022, when 2018 second-rounder Jacob Olofsson will have to be signed by in order for Montreal to retain his services.