The Habs’ Summer Shopping List

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Fair to say that the 2017-2018 season of the Montreal Canadiens has been a huge disappointment. Going from a 103 points Division title to a lottery team at the very bottom of the league is as big of a disappointment as what’s felt in Ottawa and Edmonton, amongst other places in the league. We can look at every reason for this lackluster season but one wouldn’t have to look very far. When you are without your best players for long periods of time, and when they are there but not producing to the level expected of them, your team will be in deep, deep trouble… as were the Habs this year.

Carey Price suffered from Chronique Fatigue Syndrome and his goals against average of over 3.00, and a saves percentage of just over the .900 mark, all well below respectability, will go a long way in explaining the team’s lack of success. Further, if you add to that the fact that Price’s best protection, stud defenseman Shea Weber, broke his foot in game one and had to call it a season a quarter of the season in, plus the team’s top goals’ scorer Max Pacioretty finished the season with a total of 17 goals in 64 games, and the team barely breaking the 200 goals for mark on the season, well… you have what you got.

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Carey Price waives at the Bell Centre crowd after an emotional ovation.

Needless to say that for the team to hope getting back to the success they have accustomed their fans to in the past 6 years under Marc Bergevin, those players will have to return to form. In a league where parity is as high as it’s ever been, in a cap era where substantial trades are extremely difficult to complete in-season, the Canadiens’ GM has his work cut-out for him in order to address some serious issues.

Team captain Pacioretty has been rumoured to be traded by trade deadline, and the return for him would be substantial, particularly considering what the Colorado Avalanche received for a less productive Matt Duchene. But how would trading your best offensive player, or best goals’ scorer, the guy who, since 2012, has scored the most goals in the NHL after only Alexander Ovechkin, would sit with a disgruntled fan base?

Let’s take a look at what is likely to be the to-do list of Bergevin and his associates this summer, at least in my opinion…

1- Find an assistant-coach to replace Jean-Jacques Daigneault

Under Daigneault, the Canadiens’ defense has never looked great. He couldn’t figure out P.K. Subban and certainly didn’t have his respect. The penalty-kill is second worst in the NHL and no one seems to know what they’re doing out there, leaving Price and any other goaltender out to dry in way too many occasions. My personal choice would be to get Larry Robinson behind the bench, but I doubt that he would want to get a role requiring such commitment at this point in his life. Still, I would ask him first, before considering anyone else. Otherwise, leave the choice up to Claude Julien as it’s his team to coach anyway. Either way, Daigneault needs to go and be replaced by someone better and with fresh ideas.

2- Bring in one, possibly two offensive centres

Isn’t that simple? Yeah, right! There is no doubt that Bergevin knew his team’s need last summer but he was unable to get his hands on that elusive centre. He was rumoured to be very interested in Duchene, but backed out when the price became too rich for his blood, and rightfully so! However, he cannot afford to go another season without improving at that key position and rest assured that he will do everything to get a top-end centre this summer. His job will depend on it. If he makes it to free agency, John Tavares will be his prime target, but he could find what he’s looking for in Winnipeg too.

3- Possibly a defence partner for Weber

This is something that was lacking from day one, even when Weber was skating on one leg. Weber is one of the most feared defensemen in the NHL, THE or one of the most efficient shut-down defensemen in the game, but in order to maximize on his qualities, he needs a good skating, puck-moving defenseman to complement him. Just like Subban needs a good stay-at-home defenseman to cover for his high-risk plays, it’s something that Bergevin needs to address. Unless he feels like he has what he needs in either Victor Mete or newly acquired Mike Reilly, that is. Something tells me that he would rather have his young guys deeper in the depth chart and acquire a veteran for the first pairing, especially if he wants his team to contend.

4- New coaching staff in Laval

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Dominique Ducharme would be a welcomed addition in the Canadiens’ organization.

Enough of the Sylvain Lefebvre experiment. Since he’s been there, the farm has missed the playoffs every year and the number of players moving up and making an impact are minimal, if any. The best candidate for the position would be Team Canada Junior head coach and current coach and GM of the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Dominique Ducharme. Having him in the organization would groom him to potentially become a good replacement for Julien down the line, and would bring some fresh blood and new ideas to a development teams needing some sort of boost.

There could be more than that happening in what promises to be not only a very busy off-season for the Canadiens, but a career defining one of Marc Bergevin. He has Geoff Molson‘s support and confidence to address the team’s needs, but he cannot afford another summer like he had a year ago. Expect a lot of movement, or at least some very important movement at this year’s draft, while the Canadiens are in an excellent position to make some noise. Go Habs Go!

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Montreal Canadiens picks at the 2018 Draft (Source: CapFriendly.com)
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2017-2018 Last Call For The Habs

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One week, seven days… that’s all that’s left for several teams around the NHL to add or unload some players through trades, at least for them to be eligible to play in the playoffs. Yes, the 2017-2018 trade deadline is upon us and so far, only one trade of significance has happened, when the Ottawa Senators and Los Angeles Kings danced together with key players in the deal, Dion Phaneuf and Marian Gaborik, switched uniforms. If history repeats itself, and there’s no reasons to think it won’t, many more trades should be expected as teams are looking at beefing up in hope for a long playoffs’ run.

Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens are in sales’ mode, sitting 29th out of a possible 31 teams, and while many names are or have been mentioned in trade rumours, they only have one key pending free agent to speak of: Tomas Plekanec. In my opinion, out of the Habs’ players names out there, he’s the most likely to find himself given a chance to play hockey while his current teammates are either watching the playoffs or resting somewhere warm comes April.

Not too long ago, NHL Insider Bob McKenzie was speculating on Plekanec’s value and his best guess was that the Canadiens’ forward could fetch a third round pick but, if a team was desperate enough, he might get Bergevin a second round pick. Others have reported that due to their lack of depth at centre, the Canadiens could very well be tempted to offer the veteran centre a contract extension which, if you think about it, would also make sense. You see, Plekanec is a true pro. He wears an “A” on his jersey for a reason and while he’s definitely not worth the $6 million he’s getting paid, he could be very useful at, let’s say, half of that salary. Is it possible that Bergevin could have a talk with his player informing him of his interest in re-signing him on July 1st, but give him a chance to play some significant games this upcoming spring while getting an asset in return? Very much so.

After Plekanec, don’t be surprised if Bergevin tried to revamp his defensive corp. Guys like Jordie Benn, David Schemko and Joe Morrow are all a dime a dozen but contending teams do like to add veteran depth to their roster in the event of potential injuries. One or two of them could very well find a taker by next Monday.

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Max Pacioretty will likely stay put until the NHL Draft.

As for the other names mentioned in trade rumours, fully expect Max Pacioretty to be in the Habs’ line-up against the Flyers on February 26th at night. The same goes for often mentioned Alex Galchenyuk, he who has been playing some better hockey for the past few weeks, and for Andrew Shaw, a rumour coming out of left field if you ask me.

Shea Weber

Speaking of coming out of left field, former Lightning GM Brian Lawton threw a bomb when he mentioned that Canadiens’ defenseman Shea Weber could get traded by trade deadline.

For what it’s worth, don’t hold your breath on this one folks and that, for two reasons: for one, Bergevin is taking way too much heat from some people for pulling the trigger on that trade and two, just like for Pacioretty or any other key player on the team, he would fetch much more at the draft due to the fact that all teams will have cap space by that time.

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* Oilers pick could become a 4th if Al Montoya plays two more games this season * If the Kings qualify for the playoffs, the Canadiens will receive their own 2018 4th round pick back which was part of the Dwight King trade.

One thing is for sure though, it should be an action-packed week once again as teams flex their muscles and prepare for a playoffs’ push. But because there just aren’t as many quality pending UFA’s available, you can expect more “hockey trades” like the Phaneuf/Gaborik one this season… and with few quality UFA’s in his line-up, that’s what Bergevin is hoping for. Go Habs Go!!!