The offseason has barely begun and Montreal Canadiens fans are already as tense as can be. With Briere gone for Parenteau, Subban’s contract still not yet settled and Bouillon, Murray and possibly Weaver and Gorges gone, the team appears to be making significant changes that will test their remaining players and hopefully building toward another playoff run, for the third year in a row.
What will the next move be for the Habs? As Free Agent Season opens up (different from Duck season, folks) breakdowns of the season turn to potential trades and deals with Unrestricted Free Agents floating around out there. With that in mind, I spent some time looking over the UFAs to see who would both fit with Montreal and bring something intriguing to the table.
5.) Steve Ott
Ott is a strong, aggressive forward who I see either really clicking with Montreal’s scrappy, skill-over-force style of play or really hating it. It’s lucky the only power I have over these teams is the power of speculation, huh?
Ott is not huge himself, but his style of play would sure make you think he is, occasionally taking bad penalties in order to get a punishing hit in. As he’s hitting 32 he’s not quite over the hill. He would bring in some leadership Montreal lost with Briere, but might not be worth the trouble in that regard. His real value comes in his defensive skill, something the Canadiens might want to take advantage of if they do plan on letting a large chunk of their defensive roster walk.
4.) Daniel Alfredsson
Alfredsson is notable in that, while he’s much older than your average hockey player at 41, he’s still a truly effective player. He’s known for being good on both the penalty kill and the power play and brings a background in hard work to the table.
On the minus side, as he’s gotten older, Alfredsson’s speed has dropped. He might not be able to keep up with a speedy team like Montreal, even with his skill and dedication to the game.
3.) Brooks Orpik
I know, I know, I’m focusing on the defense here, but it’s really hard not to when you see your team make so many changes in that department. Orpik could be a great pair with a player like Subban (Bergevin willing), who will push forward with the puck and push up. Orpik likes to hang back and keep the crease clear, and with the Penguins set to clean house this could be Montreal’s opportunity to snatch him up for less than he might have gone for even just a year ago. Age before beauty, after all.
The downside to Orpik could also be his defensive experience. If Montreal’s looking to form a new stable and groom their…ponies…to their specifications (that metaphor got away from me) by moving up their younger players who’ve been developing on their farm team then Orpik’s age (34) and time spent in other teams’ systems might nudge Bergevin towards a ‘no’ rather than a ‘yes.’
2.) Jarome Iginla
Iginla is chasing a Cup, and Montreal could be the one to give it to him. With the Bruins dangerously close to dead money under the new salary cap of $69 million, there’s a strong possibility they won’t be able to pay him what Montreal could as one of the smartest-spending teams in the league.
Iginla is a smart, seasoned player who would bring a lot to the team. One must keep in mind his age, however. At 37, his attitude toward physical play could catch up with him more often than not. Yes, he’s currently a Bruin, but don’t let that bad taste in your mouth keep you from considering him. He’s a strong player in his own right (and he’s only spent one year in Boston).
1.) Jussi Jokinen
There is a solid case to be made for Jokinen. He’s a playmaker, a great two-way player, and his skating would fit well with Montreal’s. The downside I see to him is his size: Jokinen comes in at 5’11” and just under 200 lbs. As we saw in Montreal’s draft picks, the team appears to be making a concerted effort to go for size over skill (though skill was still certainly a priority) even if Bergevin et al could not resist the allure of Daniel Audette, he of 5’8″ fame. Jokinen was an important player for Pittsburgh and found the back of the net more often than not in the postseason. Whichever team picks him up will likely be happy with his performance.