Kent Hughes

BROSSARD – With the calendar turning over to July on Monday, the NHL’s free agency market opened at noon. And while the Canadiens didn’t make a big splash with unrestricted free agents – signing just one player, forward Alex Barré-Boulet, for one season – they did spill some ink locking in 2022 first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky to an eight-year contract extension in the afternoon.

Shortly afterward, general manager Kent Hughes met the media at the CN Sports Complex to discuss the day’s events. Here are a few highlights from his press conference:

Please note that answers have been modified for clarity and conciseness.

Hughes on Slafkovsky’s eight-year extension:

The negotiations have been going on for a month with his agent Gerry Johannson. We drafted Slafkovsky first-overall. He’s very important for the future of the Montreal Canadiens. For his part, Juraj loves Montreal – he loves the city, he loves playing here – so the objective was always to see if we could get a long-term contract, whether it be eight years or seven, even six. Finally, we agreed on eight years today.

Hughes on the Habs mostly standing pat on day one of free agency:

We looked at certain players. For us, the complication is that we have so many good young players coming up. It doesn’t worry us to pay a player, but the term of the contract is probably the most important thing for us. I think in the case of [Jonathan] Marchessault, it was more that we didn’t want to go to a four- or five-year deal.

We didn't go into today thinking we had to accomplish things we wanted to. I think what happens in free agency, and it's natural, is if you go in overly committed to coming out with something, then sometimes you come out with something that you look back on and wish you didn't. So, we wanted to enter the day with discipline and say, if we can do this under these parameters, we'll do it. Otherwise, we're fine to continue to wait and see if something materializes, either via free agency later or via trade first.

Kent Hughes on Slafkovsky's eight-year extension

Hughes on how different provincial/state tax rates don’t affect free agency as much as some might think, because players get taxed at those different rates when they’re on the road:

Ultimately, guys [on teams located in jurisdictions with no provincial/state tax] do end up paying state income taxes. If you're playing in a division with California teams in it... they get paid on, generally, a 186- or 187-day schedule. So, it's not like they're in [town] for three days out of 365. Every day basically, is two days’ worth [when factoring in counting days in between games and travel days]. It's not as significant as some people think it is.

Hughes on Alex Burrows’ decision to step down from his position as an assistant coach in order to spend more time with his family:

He’s going to work as a consultant. He’s going to work in Laval a lot, at the player development level, but also developing the coaching staff. Since he’s spent a lot of time here in Montreal, he knows how we want to do things. He’s also going to spend time with me, Jeff, and the coaches in Montreal.

Hughes on what the Canadiens are looking for in a new head coach for the AHL’s Laval Rocket:

I think we’re looking for the same qualities in a coach that we were looking for when we hired Martin [St-Louis]. I talked about it and firstly, he has to have a good hockey mind, he has to be a good communicator, have a certain intelligence, a certain confidence, but also enough confidence to take feedback from others and also be able to go against advice sometimes, when you really think your point of view is better. At the end of the day, we want our coach in Laval to focus on development.