After managing to string three consecutive wins, the Montreal Canadiens started seeing the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. During that (short) stretch, the team finally got some quality goaltending provided by Ben Scrivens, but in the matter of one game, the goaltender lost it all, allowing three goals on only eight shots against the Buffalo Sabres, a team who was playing its second game in as many nights.
As it sits, prior to Saturday’s games, the Canadiens find themselves six points back of the Tampa Bay Lightning for third place in the Atlantic Division and five back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild card spot. Further, every team ahead of them has games in hand and the team immediately behind them in the standings, the Philadelphia Flyers, have three games in hand on the Habs.
As it appears to be clear that league MVP Carey Price is nowhere close to a return, let’s just say that the hopes of seeing this team play past April are pretty slim, not to say impossible. This, however, does not mean that General Manager Marc Bergevin should or will remain inactive within the next two weeks leading up to the February 29th trade deadline.
TO DO NOW
The Canadiens still have too many defensemen at the NHL level and the team must ensure not to repeat the mistake they have made with Jarred Tinordi and ensure that Greg Pateryn gets regular playing time in order to continue to develop. A guy like pending UFA Tom Gilbert, a serviceable veteran defenseman, would be useful for playoffs’ bound teams in need of quality depth at that position.
While he was up to a great start to the season, it is unlikely that the team will offer a contract to Tomas Fleischmann, another pending UFA. Much like Gilbert, the veteran forward would be a great addition for teams looking for depth at the forward position.
Go all-in on Jonathan Drouin as the last thing this team can afford is to let Drouin, a local product, haunt them for years to come wearing a… Ottawa Senators’ uniform. In the prospect pool, while I like several of the young offensive prospects, my only untouchable would be Michael McCarron simply because you can’t teach size.
The Canadiens should keep the remaining three pending UFAs unless someone is willing to overpay for them. Scrivens didn’t cost much and the team needs him to finish the season with Mike Condon. Personally, I would like to see both Dale Weise and Paul Byron re-signed. They are quality depth players with tons of speed, guys who can fill-in from time to time by taking on higher roles for short periods of time, and they should both come rather cheap.
TO DO THIS SUMMER
I’ve been saying this for a couple of years now but this team cannot win with Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais as their top two centres. While Plekanec is great defensively and will put up some points, he tends to disappear when the going gets tough, during physical games and during the playoffs, much like Desharnais. Plus, Alex Galchenyuk MUST make the permanent move to the centre position as soon as possible.
Plekanec’s $6 million contract extension could prevent the Canadiens from getting in on some top UFAs this coming summer and Bergevin must explore all options to trade him, preferable for a top-6 scoring winger to play either with Galchenyuk or with Max Pacioretty, assuming they’re not on the same line.
While I’ve been defending Desharnais in recent years as he didn’t deserve the criticism he was getting, his play has been terrible for too long this season and I feel like it’s time to cut the bridge. Whether he has trade value or not is only to Bergevin to explore, but a buy-out this summer should definitely be envisioned.
Anyone not close to Steve Yzerman or Steven Stamkos pretending to know the status of the star player is a liar. Both parties are pretty good at keeping their cards to their chest but IF he decides to test the free agents’ market, the Canadiens MUST be ready to allocate a $70 million offer to him, and hope that his good friend PK Subban can convince him that Montreal isn’t as bad of a place to play as it has been this past season.
If Stamkos fails and Eric Staal tests the market, they should go after him, although for much less money obviously. If that fails, David Backes would be my third option for a big centre. This way, you’d have the new comer, Galchenyuk and Lars Eller as your top three centres, a huge improvement over what the team currently has.
Either way, Marc Bergevin has until training camp 2016 to make amend for a huge set-back season and he must find a way to pull the trigger on some quality moves.
Go Habs Go!