Canadiens Roster: Questions That Still Remain

Nov 11, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin speaks at a press conference before the game against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 11, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin speaks at a press conference before the game against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /

The Canadiens have likely done all or most of their free agent shopping but some questions still linger in regards to the roster.

It’s been a crazy few weeks for the Canadiens. Marc Bergevin acquired Andrew Shaw and traded Lars Eller at the draft. He dealt superstar defenceman P.K. Subban for superstar defenceman Shea Weber just days before free agency. And finally, Bergevin added some much needed scoring depth by signing Alexander Radulov.

All told, Bergevin has made the Canadiens a tougher team to play against. He has also partially answered the scoring issues that plagued the team throughout most of last season. Despite these additions, the Canadiens still have some lingering questions that still need to be answered.

Who is the Canadiens 2nd Line LW?

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As of right now, the Canadiens have a rather large hole on their 2nd line. Though Bergevin addressed some of his secondary scoring issues with the Radulov signing, the team still lacks a true 2nd line winger to flank Plekanec and Radulov.

Internally, the Canadiens have several potential options but none of which come with extended track records at the NHL level. Charles Hudon was 2nd in team scoring down in St. John’s and posted 2 assists in his first 3 NHL games last year. Daniel Carr quickly established himself as a net front presence in his first NHL look and posted 21 points in 24 AHL games before scoring 6 goals and 9 points in 23 NHL games.

Martin Reway and Artturi Lehkonen were signed to their entry level contracts earlier in the off-season and both have strong track records in Europe. Both are 21 and are set to take part in their first NHL training camps in the fall.

As of right now, it appears as though Andrew Shaw could be the front runner for that spot. He’s the most established and proven option and the Canadiens just inked him to a 6 year contract last week. He’s not a prototypical 2nd liner and likely should be on the 3rd line. However, his style of play is similar to Brendan Gallagher and if Shaw can prove to be as effective as Gallagher, it could help the 2nd line immensely.

Who will Shea Weber be paired with?

By now we all know that Weber was acquired for Subban. We also know that he’s been one of the best defenders in the NHL for 10 years now. What we don’t know is who he will be paired with.

In Nashville, Weber logged most of his minutes with Roman Josi. Both are great players who posted very good surface numbers. But dig deeper and you’ll see both struggled with puck possession when together. No one can really explain it but it appears as though they would have been more effective apart than together despite the success.

Related Story: Canadiens Trade P.K. Subban for Shea Weber

I think most will assume that Weber will play next to Andrei Markov on the teams top pairing. I would be hesitant to put these two together. Markov has clearly lost a step while Weber isn’t the most fleet-footed defender in the NHL. Much like Markov, Alexei Emelin just doesn’t have the foot speed needed to pair next to Weber.

That leaves Nathan Beaulieu and Mark Barberio. Between the two, Barberio posted stronger possession numbers but I think we can all agree that playing Barberio 25 minutes a night would be a massive mistake. No disrespect to Barberio but he just isn’t a top pairing defenceman.

Which brings me to Beaulieu. Since Subban was dealt, Beaulieu is by far the Canadiens best skating defender. He has also developed into a solid top 4 defender and most believe he has the potential be a top pair player.

Last year, Beaulieu had below average possession numbers but those numbers were dragged down by Tom Gilbert. When paired next to Subban and Jeff Petry, Beaulieu was a possession machine which leads me to think he could continue that next to Weber.

Who will backup Carey Price?

In one of the more surprising moves, Marc Bergevin added established backup goaltender Al Montoya. Most had just assumed Mike Condon would slide back into that role with a healthy Price back in the lineup.

I do see the logic behind adding Montoya. Condon ranked near the bottom in most goalie categories last year. It also creates competition for that spot which is good for all involved. In fact, this will be the 3rd straight season the Canadiens will have a battle for the backup goalie position.

If I had to guess, the Canadiens will probably go with Montoya as Price’s backup. Not only are they paying him nearly double what they’re paying Condon, he has a strong track record as a backup. That could leave Condon battling it out with Charlie Lindgren and Zach Fucale for starts in St. John’s or he could be plucked off waivers if exposed.

Next: Canadiens Sign Chris Terry and Philip Samuelsson

Are the Canadiens done in free agency?

With the depth additions of Chris Terry and Philip Samuelsson, the Canadiens now sit at 48 contracts. They’ll soon be at 49 once Phillip Danault signs which will leave them with just 1 available contract remaining.

Marc Bergevin likes his roster flexibility which leads me to believe the Canadiens won’t be adding another free agent. Of course, if a free agent like Jiri Hudler were to agree to a 1 year, $1 million dollar contract(highly unlikely), obviously Bergevin should add him.

As it sits right now, I think any more additions would come via trade. He’ll likely sign some free agents to PTO’s(Professional Try Outs) like he did with Tomas Fleischmann last year but that’ll likely be the biggest guarantee he’ll give to a remaining free agent.