Montreal Canadiens: The Simon Desprès situation

Simon Desprès was the sole professional tryout to make it to the end of Montreal Canadiens training camp and could remain in the organization if he chooses.

The Montreal Canadiens didn’t dive as deep in the PTO well as other teams did. Management chose to sign Simon Despres to a tryout over the summer as he had aspirations to return to the NHL after a stint overseas in the KHL. Desprès has one of the more interesting stories as far as defencemen go.

He was a coveted prospect out of the QMJHL and established himself well in the AHL. Desprès improved earning more minutes with the Pittsburgh Penguins leading up to the 2014-15 season which was his best by far. His confidence with skating with the puck grew, and the physicality he brought to his playing style was more strategic than random.

Injuries derailed Desprès’ positive trajectory severely after being traded to the Anaheim Ducks. He was eventually bought out of the remaining year of his deal.

The Montreal Canadiens would be his vector to return to the game in North America. Desprès’ preseason had few ups and noticeable downs, but there is something of value in the defenceman. However, not enough to receive an NHL contract.

Reports from the likes of John Lu (TSN), Eric Engles (Sportsnet), and Arpon Basu (The Athletic) spread the word of an AHL contract offer to Despès’ camp. The 27-year-old has yet to make a decision as to whether he wants to take it and is considering his options.

It looks as if the Habs are preparing for the possibility of Desprès taking the deal. Monday’s trade which sent Matt Taormina and Rinat Valiev to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Brett Kulak could be a part of that. On the surface, the trade freed another contract spot which could’ve been a factor in the reluctance to give Desprès an NHL deal. Another thing to keep in mind is 2017 third-round pick Cale Fleury who is fighting for a professional contract as well.

Desprès did say after initially signing the PTO that he would welcome an opportunity to play with the Laval Rocket if it was a necessary stepping stone to return to the NHL. A minor league deal is a start, but he’d need another stretch of positivity to get the upgrade. His ‘weighing of options’ could stem from those possibilities.

There is also the chance of offers from other clubs. No word of something like this has come up at all, but it would be an interesting wrench in the plan if another team is offering Desprès an NHL deal. It wouldn’t guarantee him a spot on the opening roster; then again, a call-up is easier to facilitate within those circumstances.

Desprès could be completely back in his groove and deserve a call-up yet be passed over the other defencemen with NHL deals which can freely transition over. At the same time, that’s his mentality. The Montreal Canadiens may feel that he can provide a steady veteran presence on Laval’s blueline, especially with Taormina out of the picture.

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The likely choice seems to boil down to one of two options. Either Desprès takes the AHL deal, or he’s released and free to sign elsewhere. And he’ll need to decide soon with both leagues about to get going.