WINNIPEG, MB — Now that the dust has settled, and we’ve seen another team crowned champion in the place of our beloved Habs, fans can start speculating on every off-season move and rumour possible. Whether you feel that the Blackhawks are a dynasty at the moment or not, I think we can all agree that Les Glorieux are currently falling well short of that discussion.
So far, Marc Bergevin has done a fairly good job of asset retention. He signed Jeff Petry to a long-term deal under his projected market value, and did the same to Torrey Mitchell on a shorter deal. He pulled some next-level wizardry and signed Nathan Beaulieu to a two year deal at an average value of $1 million per season.
Still left to sign are Jarred Tinordi, (perhaps) Brian Flynn, and most importantly, Alex Galchenyuk. Overall, with the season just recently completed, Bergevin has accomplished most of what fans wanted to see between now and the draft, with a few remaining pieces yet to fall into place.
The Canadiens are nearly at a full NHL roster, with 11 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goaltenders signed. When I look at the current players (and making the assumption that Galchenyuk signs shortly), my ideal line up looks something like this:
|de la Rose||Eller||Weise||Emelin||Pateryn|
Now I’m aware that some of you reading are already yelling at your screen, but please, hear me out. As I’ve stated in my previous articles on both Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, I believe they are both first line talents, and should be played as such to develop to their full potential. Max Pacioretty, I think by consensus among Habs fans, is a first line winger.
By moving Galchenyuk to centre, you see a more balanced lineup start to form. You can move David Desharnais to Tomas Plekanec’s wing, alongside P.A. Parenteau. This ices a defensively responsible second line, while still having a scoring touch.
The bottom six is up for some debate, but I like the idea of Dale Weise with Lars Eller and Jacob de la Rose, as they would logically play a strong cycle game, and Torrey Mitchell with Brandon Prust and Devante Smith-Pelly would be able to grind out the remaining minutes in a game.
The seven defensemen currently signed by the Canadiens rack up an impressive $28.7 million in salary, accounting for approximately 40 percent of the cap. I like the defense the team has at the NHL level, but looking at how Andrei Markov tapered off towards the end of the season and the playoffs, I think his ice time needs to be addressed.
Looking at Nathan Beaulieu’s playoff run, it’s starting to look like he’s ready to take a larger portion of minutes than he’s seen so far. Slating him in on the first defensive pair not only gives him needed experience, but also takes some of the weight off of Markov. By playing Markov less per game, it’s possible we see a rejuvenated General for the remainder of his contract.
With this lineup, Markov and Jeff Petry become a very capable second defensive pairing, able to play relatively large minutes, and without a dramatic need to shelter them. The combination of Alexei Emelin/Greg Pateryn/Tom Gilbert can be deployed to be a decent third pairing, with Jarred Tinordi hopefully signed to a two-way deal for some flexibility, if injuries arise.
This obviously doesn’t take any forms of trade into consideration. With the players currently being dangled as trade-bait, I’m not sure I like what happens to the Habs lineup if they make a strong play for them. According to many analysts, Chicago’s asking price for Patrick Sharp is a Top 6 player, a top prospect, and a 1st round pick. In the words of @WingingItMotown on Twitter, Chicago’s demands look like this:
“We want a younger, cheaper Patrick Sharp plus TWO other things and in return we’ll give you Patrick Sharp”
While this is a little simplification, it seems that their starting point would be someone like Gallagher, Charles Hudon, and a first round pick. To me, this is a high price to pay for an aging scorer when you have a controlled contract for Brendan Gallagher, at an incredibly team friendly rate.
This isn’t to say that Marc Bergevin shouldn’t look to improve his team, or that opening bids will start at what the offering team is looking for. It’s more to state that in the salary cap era, it’s hard to justify trading for the big name trade chip, and the more prudent approach tends to be develop from within.
Corey Desormeaux has written a number of excellent pieces in regards to the Habs scoring issues, both internally and externally. Most of these options will come at a high price, based on the market this off-season. With the Canadiens tight against the NHL cap of $71.4 million, it doesn’t look like there are many options available, barring a “salary dump” scenario.
At this stage of the off-season, the Habs seem to be destined to see what they are able to do internally, as Bergevin doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room to manufacture a contending team through the trade market.
The one nice thing about following the Canadiens since Bergevin’s arrival is that even if you don’t necesarilly understand the moves he makes, at least you never see them coming. He attempted to upgrade the team with the Thomas Vanek trade for a Cup run, and when the market did not warrant the price, like this year, he holds fast to pick up a couple of depth players.
Whatever happens between the draft and a busy off-season, I’m sure as Habs fans there will be much to discuss before the puck drops in October.