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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5 Big Market Teams Will Be Aggressive

Reset, retool, rebuild, reload… all terms used by NHL General Managers to qualify the state of the franchise that they manage when their team is going through some fairly major changes with their on-ice product. Each one has a slightly different connotation but in all cases, you’re looking at some sort of revamp, whether it is to trade a few veterans for quality youth, completely gut the team and start over or something in between. All of those options come with some growing pains, some dry bread seasons before, hopefully, return to being a Stanley Cup contender.

This upcoming off-season is not going to be any different from any other one but there are five teams in particular that fans and media members should keep a close eye on. Five teams that can afford to spend to the Salary Cap ceiling and usually do so, but they are nowhere close as they are going through some sort of metamorphose. Those teams promise to be big players, throwing big dollars at the top pending UFAs… or even some RFAs.

5- MONTREAL CANADIENS

Projected Cap Hit$63,380,476
Projected Cap Space$16,119,524

This is the second consecutive year that the Canadiens will be trying to make a splash on July 1st. This past summer, they were planning on offering big dollars to John Tavares until he decided that he wasn’t even going to listen to what they had to say. This summer, the number of quality UFAs is much greater and Marc Bergevin is planning on being heard from by the likes of Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene, amongst others.

4- NEW YORK RANGERS

Projected Cap Hit$61,963,609
Projected Cap Space$17,536,391

Like that’s any news, right? The New York Rangers are always a force to recon with on the UFA market as more players want to play in New York than anywhere else in the league… or so it seems. This time however, they have the cap space and just like Montreal, the Rangers are ready to throw fist-full of money to some of the key pending UFAs. Don’t count out the possibility of Jeff Gorton signing a quality RFA to an offer sheet either and something tells me that the Toronto Maple Leafs better look over their shoulder for Mitch Marner

3- CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Projected Cap Hit$59,830,128
Projected Cap Space$19,669,872

It seems like not so long ago, the Blackhawks were strapped against the cap but it doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Still, their core of players making most of the money is aging and their production, particularly on defense, is starting to diminish. Whether they decide to trade some of them away or not, the Hawks have plenty of cap space to add to an already pretty potent lineup and if I’m Erik Karlsson, Tyler Myers or Jake Gardiner, I’m expecting a phone call from Stan Bowman.

2- VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Projected Cap Hit$51,439,165
Projected Cap Space$28,060,835

The Canucks have been hard to read for a few years now. They’re not going through a complete rebuild, but they’re going younger while adding puzzling veteran elements, sometimes overpaying based on the market. The likes of Loui Eriksson ($6M), Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle ($3M each) are examples of that but even then, the Canucks have tons of cap space. There seemed to be a disconnect when team owner Francesco Aquilini fired President and long term Canucks Trevor Linden citing a philosophical difference. Linden wanted to continue building through the draft while Aquilini wants to put bums in the seats by being competitive. Expect GM Jim Benning to receive clear orders to get at least one prominent player through free agency this summer.

1- PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Projected Cap Hit$46,842,499
Projected Cap Space$32,657,501

Last but not least, keep a very close eye on the Flyers. They have shown in the past that they’re not afraid to throw offers to RFAs (Ryan Kesler and Shea Weber are two) and they will be aggressive on the free agents’ market. It’s not the willingness of spending money that’s lacking and team President Paul Holmgren will receive free reign to spend from majority owner Ed Snider who, like Aquilini in Vancouver, can’t stand the long rebuild through the draft, prompting the dismissal of Ron Hextall. Chuck Fletcher is an experienced GM with pocket loads of money and there is no doubt that they will be one of the most aggressive teams on the market this summer.

KEY PENDING UFAs

Here is a list of the pending Unrestricted Free Agents for the summer of 2019. Some will re-sign with their respective teams but the number of quality UFAs is high this year in comparison to the last couple of summers. I have separated them in groups, forwards (by points), defensemen (by ice time) and goaltenders (by wins).

Which ones would you like to see with the Canadiens, or who do you believe would accept to play under the scrutiny of the Montreal market? From looking at these lists, I personally think that there are a few forwards that could help while the elusive Top-4 defenseman might have to be acquired through trade. Go Habs Go!

Data from CapFriendly.com. * Jimmy Howard signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings today