Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin made it a habit of his to bring former Canadiens players back for a second tour of duty with the organization.
During his first season at the helm of the Habs ship, Bergevin brought Francis Bouillon, Jeff Halpern and Michael Ryder back for a second chance in Montreal, and it became clear earlier this week, the trend could have continued with Maxim Lapierre.
In an interview with TVA Sports, Lapierre said he did everything he could to return to the Canadiens, but he did not factor into their plans. Max was a free agent his summer, ultimately signing a two year deal with the St. Louis Blues.
Lapierre was a second round pick by the Canadiens in 2003 and played the first five and a half seasons of his career in Montreal. Lapierre maxed out at 15 goals and 28 points in the 2008-09 season, but was mostly known for his excellent speed, and shutdown abilities as a fourth line center.
This past season in Vancouver, Lapierre was counted on to kill penalties, win faceoffs, which he did at slightly over 50 percent, and play a defensive role behind Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy. Max is also not afraid to throw his 6’2 and 207 pound frame around, averaging well over two hits per game last season.
Lapierre is very well known for being able to get under his opponents skin. He goes out of his way at every possible turn to get a late jab, either with his lip or stick, at one of the opposing teams best players.
I think that Lapierre would have been an excellent fit for the Canadiens. Having let Halpern walk via free agency, a void was left behind as fourth line, checking center, and Lapierre would have filled that role perfectly.
As the Canadiens roster currently shakes out, either Ryan White or Gabriel Dumont will be their fourth line center on opening night. Both of these options are unproven at the NHL level, and are likely both better suited as wingers anyway.
Also, Tomas Plekanec stands to do most of the heavy lifting as defensive and penalty killing center for the Habs, and has shown in the past to run out of gas come playoff time when he is forced into such duty.
With Max admitting he had a strong desire to return to Montreal, his home province, he likely would have signed for even less than the 1.1 million per year that the Blues agreed to pay him for the next two seasons. The Canadiens currently have plenty of room under the salary cap to fit such a contract.
I think that Lapierre would have complemented the current Canadiens roster quite well. Not only would he have upgraded their fourth line, but his faceoff and defensive abilities would have freed Plekanec up for more of an offensive role, which would have made the Canadiens a much better team.