Habs in discussion with the Flyers?

What’s the Montreal Canadiens’ biggest need? You would have asked that question a year ago, many would have said “depth at the centre position”. After the outstanding work done by Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins last summer, very few would have the same answer if asked today. Instead, they will be pointing to yet another position that’s been seriously lacking for years: a quality top-4 left-handed defenseman to play with either Shea Weber or Jeff Petry. A guy who can log big quality minutes against the opposition’s top lines.

The good news? There are a few options out there if we believe what’s being thrown around the rumour mill. Some link the Canadiens to soon-to-be UFA Jake Gardiner but it is yours truly’s opinion that because there will be a high demand for him, he will be highly overpaid for what he brings to the table and his next contract has a good chance to become, with Erik Karlsson‘s, a huge albatros contract for whomever signs him.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Canadiens are better off giving assets to get the player that they want, but with a reasonable contract, than not giving assets by signing an overpriced free agent. Really, what they need is a stop-gap on the left side until Alexander Romanov can have an impact at the NHL level.

That is not surprising, at least not for me. Shayne Gostisbehere has seen his ice time diminish by the end of last season in Philly as he seemed to have fallen out of interim head coach Scott Gordon‘s good books. I really thought that the Habs would try to snag him at the trade deadline and who knows? There might have been talks about it and they could have agreed to keep talking this summer. It seems like they are talking now.

The Ghost Bear, as they call him, is a mobile, puck moving defenseman with a good offensive upside and while he’ll never be in the running for a Norris Trophy, he can hold his own defensively. He has a good stick and his foot speed allows him to skate out of trouble for the most part. Can he play against the top lines on the other side? The Jury is still out on that one.

Shayne Gostisbehere’s name is linked to the Canadiens

Is anyone surprised that the Flyers would be eying Andrew Shaw? Talk about prototype in Philadelphia: gritty, in-your-face forward who can cause havoc in front of the net? I would hate losing Shaw (or Paul Byron for that matter) but unless you were born yesterday or have been hiding under a rock your entire life, you should know that in order to get something of quality, you have to sacrifice quality heading the other way. The Habs had to sacrifice P.K. Subban, Mikhail Sergachev, Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty in order to get Weber, Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi, Tomas Tatar and top prospect Nick Suzuki. Also, the Habs are deeper on the wing than any other position so they would be trading from a position of strength, which is what you want.

Personally, I’d be more inclined to go with Nick Leddy, also rumoured to be available. Bergevin knows the 28 year-old veteran very well from their days in Chicago. Leddy is stronger defensively than Gostisbehere and he has tons of experience. He has three years remaining to his contract, with a cap hit of $5.5 million. In my opinion, he would be the perfect fit in Montreal, allowing just enough time for Romanov to properly develop.

June 15th

The past two seasons, Bergevin and the Canadiens have pulled the trigger on major trades on June 15th. Two years ago, Bergevin shipped Sergachev to Tampa Bay for Drouin. Last year, Galchenyuk was sent packing to welcome Domi to Montreal. The year before, June 24th was a big day when Lars Eller went to Washington for picks, and Shaw came to Montreal, also for picks. That year, the BIG trade happened on June 29th, a trade that some fans have yet to digest.

So the next few days, few weeks, will be very exciting if you’re a Habs’ fan. Keep a close eye on Bergevin but please, please take every rumour with a grain of salt, even the one mentioned above. The rule of thumb is: if it doesn’t come from Bob McKenzie, Pierre Lebrun, Elliotte Friedman or Darren Dreger, there’s a very good chance that it’s not true. Oh and one last thing: remember to follow this simple guide not to get caught up with fake Twitter accounts! Go Habs Go!

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Unsung Hero: Ti-Paul Byron

The Montreal Canadiens hit the jackpot when claiming Paul Byron off waivers. That, everybody knows. But it hasn’t always been easy for the undersized speedster, who has been told too many times that he wouldn’t be making it to the show. Too small and not heavy enough were the reasons he was given each time. But that didn’t stop him from pushing the envelope, proving doubters wrong and that, at every level that he’s played.

Let’s go back in time. It’s June 22nd, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio. In Nationwide Arena, it is with great anticipation that hundreds of young men aspiring to, one day, fulfil their dream to play in the NHL are attending the league’s 45th Entry Draft. Patrick Kane is the first name being called to the podium, selected by the Chicago Blackhawks. But it’s on the second day of the Draft that Paul Byron heard his name… finally. We are in the sixth round and 178 prospects have been called. It’s the Buffalo Sabres’ turn and they called Byron. Step one of the dream had finally come through.

Byron was drafted by the Sabres

On January 23, 2011, called up from Rochester, Byron played in his first NHL game against the New York Islanders in Long Island. He managed to record his first point, an assist, in his first game. Two days later, he scored his first NHL goal in his hometown, in Ottawa, against the Senators. He ended up playing six more games with the Sabres that season and was traded to Calgary on June 25th of that year, along with Chris Butler in exchange for Ales Kotalik, Robyn Regehr and a 2012 2nd round pick .

The Habs claimed Byron off waivers from the Flames

On October 5, 2015, looking to add toughness to their line-up, Flames’ management decided to try sending the Ottawa native down to the AHL and placed him on waivers. Not only didn’t he go down that season, but he has never even come close to being sent back down after the Canadiens put in a claim for him. Byron ended up playing 130 games with the Flames, managing 16 goals and 46 points in Cowtown. To this date, this waiver claim figures amongst GM Marc Bergevin‘s best hockey decisions since taking over the reigns in Montreal.

An impact player

Byron has some good memories of Columbus. Not only did he get drafted in that City, but he also just played his 400th game in the NHL against the Blue Jackets and to commemorate the milestone, he scored his 11th goal of the season in that game, helping his team edge Columbus by the score of 3-2.

Paul Byron is a warrior. Listed at 5-foot 9-inches and 163 lbs (those numbers might be generous), he has managed 64 goals and 116 points in 262 games with the Canadiens. Along with Brendan Gallagher, Byron is part of the Habs’ leadership group as an Assistant to team Captain Shea Weber. His relentless work ethics and the way he conducts himself on and off the ice, his outstanding defensive ability, his blazing speed and fearless attitude make of him a genuine impact player for the most storied franchise of the NHL.

Many would venture to say that he is likely one of the most underrated players not only on the Canadiens, but in the entire NHL. One thing we know for sure: management and coaches love him, fans love him and he genuinely loves playing in Montreal. Here’s hoping that he can be surrounded by quality player and raise the Stanley Cup over his head one day, wearing the red, white and blue number 41. Go Habs Go!