Every offseason, each team in the National Hockey League faces changes to their roster, no matter where they finished in the standings the year prior. The Montreal Canadiens made a deep run to the Eastern Conference Final, but face the same tough decisions every team does this time of year.
Before we dive deep into who the Habs should target at the draft, via trade and during free agency, we first have to identify what is the team’s biggest need at this point. They have several unrestricted free agents such as Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta who could be back, and a few like Francis Bouillon and Douglas Murray who surely will not return.
Then there are the restricted free agents, such as P.K. Subban and Lars Eller. RFA’s are in need of a new contract, but rarely change teams as the Habs can match any offer they receive from another club. Also, the team that approaches an RFA from another team must return compensation in the form of draft picks if they get the player.
So, let’s assume Subban, Eller, Dale Weise and Ryan White are all brought back next season, which they surely will be. Now, let’s take a quick look at the Canadiens depth chart as it stands right now with RFA’s and without UFA’s.
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Gallagher
Galchenyuk – Plekanec – Bourque
Bournival – Eller – Briere
Prust – White – Weise
Tinordi – Subban
Beaulieu – Emelin
Gorges – Pateryn
Down the middle the Canadiens are fairly deep. With a solid point producer in David Desharnais and a pair of two way centers in Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller followed by Ryan White, a typical, physical fourth line center. Also, they have Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Bournival and Brandon Prust who can slot in at center if needed during the season.
On left wing, the Habs are led by the fourth highest goal scorer in the league last season. Max Pacioretty scored 39 goals this past year, and will lead the offense once again next season. Galchenyuk has shown plenty of flashes of offensive skill and will look to break out in a big way next season, he is a perfect second line winger at this point in his career. Bournival and Prust round out the left wingers as solid bottom line guys who can contribute small amounts of offense throughout the season. Both are solid penalty killers and play a big role for depth wingers.
The right side is where things start to get scary for the Habs looking ahead to next season. With Thomas Vanek and Brian Gionta becoming UFA’s, the team is left with big holes to fill. Currently, Brendan Gallagher fills the first line role and does a fantastic job on that line, but with Rene Bourque and Daniel Briere slotted behind him, the Canadiens will need an upgrade on the right side before next season. Dale Weise is a prototypical fourth line winger who can skate well, plays physical and scores the odd goal.
The Montreal Canadiens defense looks to be fantastic in about two years time. Right now however, they are carrying three rookies in their top six, which is a recipe for disaster in the NHL these days. Sure, Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi have done enough to earn a chance to be regulars on the blue line, but neither have solidified that position yet, and to throw Greg Pateryn into that mix is a huge risk.
It is possible that all three rookies perform admirably next season, but if it were up to me I would be looking to add a veteran defender in the offseason. If Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has faith in his young defensemen, and he should, then he would not be looking for a top pairing defender, but a solid veteran on a short term contract.
In goal the team is beyond set with Carey Price as the number one, Peter Budaj a solid backup goaltender and Dustin Tokarski waiting for his shot with the NHL team. In fact, they probably have one too many and will deal either Budaj or Tokarski before the season begins.
I believe the Canadiens biggest weakness right now is on right wing, but they could also use a little help on the blue line. They are not perfect on the left side or at center, but neither of those positions concern me very much.
We will get a lot more specific about certain players that can fill the Habs needs in the offseason, but first, Which position do you think is the biggest need the Montreal Canadiens need to fill before next season?
Which position is the Montreal Canadiens biggest need in the offseason?
- Right Wing (68%, 184 Votes)
- Defense (16%, 44 Votes)
- Center (11%, 29 Votes)
- Left Wing (5%, 15 Votes)
Total Voters: 272