The Montreal Canadiens are off to a remarkable start to the 2016-2017 with a record of 11-1-1 after 13 games, and not just because of the play of goaltender Carey Price. The Canadiens are practically firing on all cylinders, and if they could in some way detach David Desharnais from Max Pacioretty (or from the team all together) for the remainder of the season, I trust they’d be that much improved overall.
When it comes to defense, Shea “Man Mountain” Weber has looked phenomenal, with 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) including three game winning goals. Throughout the first 13 games of the season, Weber has been partnered briefly with Nathan Beaulieu but most often with Alexei Emelin. However it seems that the Canadiens are shopping for another defender, one who will most likely play alongside Weber on the left side, or at least in a top-4 role.
The following defensemen could hypothetically fill that defensive position.
Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks
Cap hit: two years at $4 million
During the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Montreal Canadiens were said to have been among the most interested in Cam Fowler, which of course fueled many rumors that P.K. Subban was on his way out of Montreal. I don’t believe I have to add what happened with P.K. Subban, so… moving on!
Cam Fowler is a young, puck moving defenseman selected 12th overall during the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, with over 400 games of NHL experience who could take over for the aging Andrei Markov, and instantly slot in next to Shea Weber as the Habs top pairing. Fowler is a player I can see the Habs keeping an eye on as the team looks for cap relief once Simon Despres returns from the LTIR. With four goals and four assists already this season, averaging just over 24 minutes per game, he’d be a welcomed addition to the Habs blue line.
Michael Del Zotto, Philadelphia Flyers
Expiring contract: $3.875 million
Another team that is dangerously close to the cap, the Philadelphia Flyers could be encouraged to move Michael Del Zotto for some much needed cap relief. On the other hand, they’re more likely at this point to place Andrew MacDonald and his $5.0M contract for the next four seasons on waivers to achieve that.
Del Zotto made his 2016-2017 season debut against the Canadiens on Saturday, picking up an assist on a Shayne Gostisbehere goal, as well as with dishing out seven hits. Speaking of hits, since joining the Flyers, Del Zotto has dished out over 300, as well as 200+ blocks, while averaging over 22 mins per game. He may not be an offensive juggernaut, but someone who could certainly take a few shifts from the aging Andrei Markov, and with an expiring contract, it could very much pay off for the Habs at the right price.
Dmitry Kulikov, Buffalo Sabres
Expiring contract: $4.33 million
The Habs have been no stranger to Russian players lately, so Dmitry Kulikov could be a natural fit to the Habs blue line. Drafted 14th overall by the Florida Panthers during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Kulikov plays a solid “stay at home” style of defense, and is no stranger to playing physical or blocking shots. Kulikov was also named to Team Russia’s World Cup of Hockey roster with Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin.
Once again, another player who is unlikely to move at this point in the season with Zach Bogosian out “for weeks” with a knee injury, and injuries to Evander Kane and Jack Eichel, the Sabres are unlikely to throw in the towel just yet, but it’s more than likely coming, meaning Kulikov could be moving at the trade deadline. I would much prefer a trade early in the year rather than a “rental player,” but we shall see what Marc Bergevin has up his sleeve.
Michel Therrien has stated multiple times that there is no reason to panic at this point in the season, but with Markov already looking like he’s lost a step (the only member of the Canadiens roster that is current a minus), and Carey Price having to face a high number of shots lately, a defensive upgrade could be coming sooner than later to not only lessen the load on Markov, but on Shea Weber as well.
Of these three players, would you be interested in seeing any suit up with the Montreal Canadiens this season? Is there a defenseman not listed you’d like the Canadiens to acquire? Please leave a comment!