The Montreal Canadiens will not offer a contract to Mike Weaver before the veteran defenseman hits the open free agent market on July 1st. A window for teams to begin talks with upcoming free agents began today and runs until signings can occur on Canada Day.
The Habs have not been rumored to be in deep talks with any pending free agents, but they apparently will not even try to bring back Weaver, who was acquired at the trade deadline. Weaver provided excellent depth on the Habs blue line and became an integral piece of the penalty killing unit in the postseason.
According to Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, who is usually the first to have the inside scoop on Habs news, Weaver is just looking for too much cash for the Canadiens to bring him back.
Weaver was a solid veteran for the Canadiens third defense pairing, and was a great penalty killer. Though he was valuable, the truth is those types of players are fairly common in the National Hockey League, and Weaver is not worth much of a raise on his current 1.1 million dollar cap hit. At 36 years of age, if he is asking for anything more than 1.5 million, I would walk away as well.
The Canadiens have recently re-signed veteran defenseman Andrei Markov, but if they allow Weaver to walk, he will join Francis Bouillon and Douglas Murray as frequently used veteran defenders who will not return next season. This could not be better news for the future of the Montreal Canadiens.
As Bouillon, Murray and Weaver walk away, the door opens for Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi to finally mark their mark on the organization. Both young defensemen were first round picks by the Habs, and both have played sparingly in the past two years, but look to have a huge role next season.
The Canadiens traded up at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft to get the 22nd overall selection, and take the hulking Tinordi with the pick. After spending the next two seasons under the tutelage of Dale Hunter with the London Knights, Tinordi made his professional debut with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the 2012-13 season.
Offense was never the number one priority for the 6’6” and 227 pound defender, but his skating keeps improving, and the big blue liner is no afraid to jump into the rush with the Bulldogs.
Tinordi will really find himself most comfortable in the NHL as a physically intimidating stay-at-home defender. He made his NHL playoff debut a year ago when the Canadiens lost a first round series to the Ottawa Senators, and he looked very comfortable at that level. He also made the team out of training camp this season but was quickly sent down as he struggled early on.
Tinordi played well all season with the Bulldogs, and earned a promotion to the big club by the end of the campaign, and would suit up for 22 games with the Habs. Though Jarred was left in the press box during the Canadiens run to the Eastern Conference Final, he promises to be a huge part of the Habs blue line, both literally and figuratively, as early as next season.
Nathan Beaulieu was selected by the Habs with the 17th pick in the opening round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. At 6’2” and nearly 200 pounds, Beaulieu is not a small defender, but he will be at his best when using his blazing speed and great playmaking abilities.
Beaulieu made his debut with the Bulldogs and Canadiens during the 2012-13 season, and though his offensive numbers don’t jump off the page at you, he impressed with his speed, skill, smarts and stickhandling. He played most of this season with the Bulldogs, where he scored 27 points in 57 games on an abysmal Bulldogs team.
Nathan earned a call-up to the Habs late in the season, playing just one game against the Chicago Blackhawks in April. However, with the Habs facing elimination heading into Game 6 against the Boston Bruins, Beaulieu was thrust into the lineup. He collected an assist in that game, as well as Game 7, as the Habs came back and won the series against their hated rival.
Beaulieu displayed the confidence of a seasoned veteran as he rushed the puck up ice, and was able to get back to his defensive duties thanks to his incredible speed, acceleration and agility. He is a wonderful skater that catches the viewers eye each time he is on the ice, and looks to be a major contributor for the Canadiens in the fall.
It is difficult to say exactly what the Habs blue line depth chart looks like at this point, but Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges are locked up for next season. P.K. Subban awaits a new contract, but will surely return to be the Habs number one on the back end. That leaves two openings in the top six, and they should naturally be filled by the pair of first rounders.
If I were to draw up pairings for opening night right now, I would try out something like the following:
Tinordi – Subban
Markov – Emelin
Gorges – Beaulieu
This puts one offensive guy (Subban, Markov, Beaulieu) on each pairing with a defensive guy. It also spreads out the two rookies, and leaves the Russian duo of Markov and Emelin together.
The Habs should still be in the market for some depth on the blue line, but it is time to give Beaulieu and Tinordi a chance in the top six together, and just add a veteran defenseman who can be a number seven option who slots in when there are the inevitable injuries to the regular group.