Can Marc Bergevin’s task be any plainer? While defense and goaltending can be termed adequate, the team’s forward units outside of the Desharnais line, are filled with holes. Assuming that Scott Gomez is going to be marginalized one way or the other, here’s what Bergevinn can depend on :
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Pacioretty Desharnais Cole
????? Plekanec Gionta
????? Eller (RFA) Bourque
????? Nokelainen (RFA) White (RFA)
Three gaping holes, maybe more if you also question the futures of Rene Bourque and Petteri Nokelainen with the team. Only Max Pacioretty is established on left wing. And of course, three restricted free agents to deal with.
An easy solution for two thirds of the left wing problems would be re-signing unrestricted free agents Travis Moen and Mathieu Darche. Restricted free agent Blake Geoffrion is a left winger who, if the team can live with his skating deficiencies, might fit it on the third line. Should Aaron Palushaj be forced to play his off wing? In the AHL Palushaj showed signs of top six talent but in his frequent recalls he was misemployed as a fourth line checker. For development purposes, he, and the Canadiens, would be better served letting him attempt to dominate offensively in the AHL before recalling him. The same could be said of Louis Leblanc, who is a natural centre and sometimes rightwinger. Gabriel Dumont may be a fourth line solution but he’s listed as a centre with a righthand shot. The borderline forwards in Hamilton, Andreas Engqvist, Ian Schultz and Joonas Nattinen are all works-in-progress. Adding it all up, there is little in the organization that will, in the short term, improve the Canadiens miserable offense.
That leaves trade and free agency. Free agency is black and white. The list is there for all to see. The trade market is another matter. We can all dream of signing Zack Parise but that’s against all odds. It’s a thin crop but Olli Jokinen is out there (although he’s a centre) along with Alexei Ponikarovsky, Torrey Mitchell, Shane Doan, Paul Gaustad, Dustin Penner, Kristian Huselius, P.A. Parenteau and Ryan Smith to name some of the more prominent. Take your pick.
For the record here’s next season’s projected defence
Gorges Subban (RFA)
Markov Emelin (RFA)
St. Denis (RFA) Kaberle
What to do with Yannick Weber? Or for that matter, Kaberle and his contract? Each has value on the power play’s second unit. Neither is particularly well-rounded defensively. Brendon Nash has a lot of respect within the organization but hasn’t played in a year. He could bring size and a puck moving ability to the defence if he shows any NHL readiness at training camp. With current numbers and the junior talent coming into the farm system, we probably can expect some kind of trade between now and early October.
Carey Price and Peter Budaj. The Canadiens have always had a veteran goaltender in Hamilton capable of coming up in case of injury. In recent years it’s been Marc Denis, Curtis Sanford, Drew MacIntyre and last year Nathan Lawson. Lawson is an unrestricted free agent again, so the Canadiens will have to address that issue during the summer.