Habs to Make At Least One More Move

Lower salary cap and the league going with younger players are two of the reasons making this year’s last few days prior to hockey season more interesting than ever. Is it because teams are asking too much for their assets in trades? Or is it that they know that several teams are in a bit of a bind, being either over the cap or having too many players still at camp, having to place some on waivers? One thing is for sure: it’s neither the quantity nor the quality of players on waivers that’s lacking.

As for the Canadiens, there you have it folks! As predicted by many of us, and contrary to what some Habs’ fans believed, both Charles Hudon and Charlie Lindgren have cleared waivers and the team announced that they are sending them back to Laval. It’s a huge personal disappointment for Hudon I’m sure, while the Lindgren situation will be interesting to watch as he seems to be the odd-man out in Laval. That said, Marc Bergevin and his team still have some work to do, some difficult decisions to make. But before we get into that, let’s have a look at the Canadiens’ picture here.

According to Capfriendly.com, Montreal has around $4 million of cap space available, but that’s with a 25 men roster including Noah Juulsen who is injured. Juulsen is waiver exempt so he will likely be sent to Laval when healthy since he didn’t have a chance to earn a spot yet. This leaves the team with 24 players with someone in the neighbourhood of $5 million of cap space. As teams cannot carry more than 23 players, this means the Julien and Bergevin duo will have to cut one more player off the roster before the season starts on Thursday in Carolina.

Charles Hudon

Further, the Canadiens have a total of 48 players with professional contracts. The NHL limit is 50 so they have to tread carefully, particularly with players on waivers. There are a few ways to “unload” contracts, like trading contract for contract (let’s say two players for one) or players for draft picks or prospects yet under contract. So that’s not the end of the world.

When A.J. Greer was placed on waivers by Colorado yesterday, I was thinking that he would be a good pick up on waivers for Bergevin and his team. A former 2nd round pick (39th overall), the Joliette, Quebec native is only 22 years old and stands at 6’3″ and 210 lbs. Greer has great size and strength, and was projected to become a true power forward at the NHL level. He displays both a quality level of skating and a nasty disposition. Can rile up opponents, too, making him a focal point for teams that line up against him (which helps his own teammates). He is not a natural goal-scorer and the jury is still out on his long-range upside but he can and will drop the gloves if or when need be, something few Canadiens’ players can do. But he wasn’t claimed.

One of my Twitter followers, Daniel Labrecque, brings up a good point when it comes to the number of contracts so it remains possible that a Hudon or Lindgren trade for Greer could still be consumed by both teams. In a one for one trade, the Habs would remain at 48 contracts instead of 49 if they claimed him.

Another interesting player who was placed on waivers today by the Anaheim Ducks is Daniel Sprong, a 22 year old right-winger who had 14 goals in 47 games last year with the Ducks. The question is if other teams who finished lower than Montreal will put a claim in, which would kill the Canadiens’ chances of getting Sprong. But then again if he clears, the Ducks might be willing to trade contract for contract. That said, I have a feeling that they would like to keep him as a quality depth player so my gut tells me that if he clears, he will not be traded.

Who stays, who goes?

As it stands at the time of writing this, here’s how I personally see the team composition. Please note that the lines are for the sake of seeing how many players the Canadiens have and who has earned a spot. Claude Julien certainly can and will have different line combinations, and they are going to change from game to game.

Drouin – Domi – Suzuki

Tatar – Danault – Gallagher

Byron – Kotkaniemi – Weal

Lehkonen – Thompson/Poehling – Armia

Extra: Cousins and one of Thompson/Poehling

Mete – Weber

Chiarot – Petry

Kulak – Fleury

Extra: Folin

Price – Kinkaid

This lineup means that the odd-man out would be Mike Reilly… or if the Habs decided to go with eight defensemen and 13 forwards, it’s Cousins that I would remove as in my humble opinion, Nick Suzuki, Ryan Poehling and Cale Fleury all earned a spot with the big club. Note that it is possible that they send one or two of them down to Laval temporarily to give Bergevin time to make room for them at the NHL level. But all three have clearly showed that not only they are NHL ready, but they can have an impact. For those reasons, I think that Bergevin is not done and he will complete a trade in the next few hours or days.

As I’m heading out hunting with no internet connection and/or cell service, a lot can and will happen by the time I come back. And that’s exciting folks. Are you ready for Thursday? Go Habs Go!

Three Keepers: One Net

The year: 2005. As a lockout cancelled the games of the 2004–05 NHL season, the draft order was determined by lottery on July 22, 2005. One by one, teams were eliminated and we were down to five teams still in the hunt to get the grand prize: the number one overall pick, franchise player Sidney Crosby. When NHL assistant-commissioner Bill Daly pulled out the next card, the disappointment of Habs’ fans could be felt around the world.

That year, Canadiens’ General Manager Bob Gainey took the hockey world by surprise by picking, at number five overall, goaltender Carey Price. Many were hoping that they would pick Anze Kopitar and others wanted… Gilbert Brule. But why pick a goaltender at number five when you had, in your net, Jose Theodore, only a couple of years removed from a Hart Memorial and Vezina Trophy? The hockey world was baffled. Not so much today with perhaps the exception of Theodore himself, who seems to carry (no pun intended) a grudge against the organization to this day, but that’s a whole different story.

Jump ahead to today and with Price entering the second of an eight-year, $84 million contract, there seems to be a line-up of quality prospect goaltenders within the Canadiens’ organization trying to make a name for themselves in hope to, one day, take over from the winningest goaltender in the history of the NHL’s most successful franchise.

Log jam in Laval

With the Habs signing veteran backup Keith Kinkaid, the oldest prospect of this group, Charlie Lindgren, will have an uphill batter if he wishes to pierce the Canadiens’ opening day roster. While Kinkaid had a lackluster season with the NHL’s 28th overall New Jersey Devils last season with a 3.36 goals against average and a .891 saves percentage, the 30 year-old veteran is only a year removed from a couple of good seasons as a backup. It is highly unlikely to see the Canadiens go with three goaltenders at the NHL level, which means that Lindgren would have to clear waivers in order to report to the Laval Rockets in the AHL.

Charlie Lindgren’s days with the Habs are likely counted.

However, the Rockets already have two young, promising prospects in Michael McNiven and newly signed NCAA star Cayden Primeau. The problem? Players need to play in order to develop, and that applies to goaltenders as well. But there’s only one net on any given night. The AHL season consists of 76 games so sharing the duties with two prospects will result in each one starting about 38 games. Add one more goalie and you’re down to around 25 starts each, which is far from enough for any given prospect goaltender to properly develop.

We’re only in mid-August but the Canadiens’ rookie camp will be starting in a few weeks, followed by the team’s main training camp with the first pre-season game scheduled for September 16th against Kinkaid’s former team, the New Jersey Devils. A lot can happen until then and Habs’ GM Marc Bergevin isn’t afraid to go against tradition in making trades in the Fall, even major ones, as we saw a year ago when Max Pacioretty was sent packing to Vegas. Could Lindgren find a new team by training camp? It’s entirely possible. Would he clear waivers if sent down? At 25 years old and with the statistics that he has had, one would think that he would. But the net in Hamilton must belong to McNiven and Primeau. There’s simply no room for Lindgren who should be the odd-man out. Go Habs Go!