The Montreal Canadiens signed Daniel Briere Thursday evening and then stayed away from Frenzy Friday altogether, aside from dealing for enforcer George Parros from the Florida Panthers.
There was nearly 400 million dollars committed to hockey players yesterday in new signings, and though it may be tough to see other teams in Montreal’s division add expensive talent, the Canadiens could prove to be the biggest winners by being patient and waiting for the right fit.
The Canadiens division next season includes former rivals, the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs. These five teams will be joined by the Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers.
The Bruins were able to swing a deal for Loui Eriksson before signing Jarome Iginla, the Senators traded for sniper Bobby Ryan, Toronto dealt for Jonathan Bernier and signed David Clarkson. The Red Wings made perhaps the biggest splash by bringing in Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson, and the Tampa Bay Lightning inked Valtteri Filppula.
Florida and Buffalo mostly stood pat as well, and the teams that added talent also lost some, but seeing them make all these moves while Montreal only brought in Briere, who most believe is over the hill, left me wondering who else is out there that can upgrade the Canadiens lineup. The answer is, there are plenty of options.
With Alexei Emelin injured for the beginning of the season, Bergevin may decide to bring in a defenseman, instead of forcing young players into the lineup. If so, he could sign a veteran to a reasonable contract by adding Ryan Whitney, who had a down year last season but has been a great defenseman for years. Also out there, is defending Stanley Cup champion Michael Rozsival and Doug Murray, both of whom could form a solid shutdown pairing with Francis Bouillon or Jarred Tinordi.
A few depth puck movers still without a deal include Ron Hainsey, Marek Zidlicky and Tom Gilbert. Not exactly blockbuster signings, but again, if Bergevin wants to ensure his young defensemen are afforded ample development time, these are the types of number 6 or 7 defenders that can be a stop gap for a season.
There are several options available as well if Bergevin is in the market for a 4th line center. Assuming he is wise enough to pass on Scott Gomez, there still remains Eric Belanger, Dave Steckel, Tim Brent or even former Hab Jeff Halpern who could help out by winning faceoffs and killing penalties.
Of course, the Canadiens are still searching for size and with players such as Brenden Morrow, Dustin Penner, Ryan Jones, Nik Antropov or Mike Knuble looking for a new home, there could be a fit in Montreal.
There are plenty of skilled players available, although after signing Briere, these may not be the best fit, but Derek Roy, Damien Brunner, Brad Boyes and Mason Raymond remain options.
One last option that stands out above the rest, which has a lot to do with his 1688 career points, not to mention his exceptional chemistry with Tomas Plekanec, is future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.
I am not saying all the aforementioned players would be excellent fits with the Canadiens, but they remain options and each one of them would fill a very specific need next season, not to mention they will not come with expensive, five year contracts.