Assuming there is a mild Canadiens interest in what’s out there on the free agent market and also making the assumption that that interest would be directed toward improving the Canadiens top three forward lines, here are some of the options.
The Canadiens have only three natural right wingers on their current roster, Brian Gionta, Brendan Gallagher and Ryan White. Alex Galchenyuk played there most of last season but he’ll inevitably be moved to centre, I would think around mid season.
There are five notable free agent right wingers available if Bergevin feels the urge.
Nathan Horton – Boston – 6’2” 229 lbs. Age 27. Big guy who uses it well. Great shot. Seems to come alive in the playoffs. This year in 22 playoff games playing beside Krejci and Lucic he had 7 goals, 12 assists. He was also a ridiculous plus-20, the best playoff rating in 28 years. He had 13 goals in 43 regular season games. There are some concussion issues. Faces off-season shoulder surgery. He’ll want long term (5 years) at big money (6 million). Not sure that kind of commitment is the direction Bergevin wants to take but his name has surely came up in organizational meetings.
David Clarkson – New Jersey 6’1” 205 lbs. Age 28 – Not as big as Horton but plays a big man’s game. Likes to create goalmouth traffic. 30 goal potential. Led New Jersey with 15 goals last season. Now seems determined to make a team change.
Jarome Iginla – Pittsburgh – 6’1” 200lbs. Age 35. The idea is fascinating. 500 goal scorer but may be fading fast. He’ll probably want first line money and at this stage he’s probably closer to a third line player. He’ll won’t get the 7 million he earned last season.
Pascal Dupuis – Pittsbugh – 6’0” 200 lbs. Age 33 – It’s going to be very profitable after piling up the points on a line with Sydney Crosby. Still, he has an all round game. He’s looking for big money which is why the Penguins who have cap problems, are reluctant. So should the Canadiens, but he’s a local kid which may count for something.
Jaromir Jagr – 6’3” 240lbs. Age 41. Every year he’s available his name is brought up in Montreal, mainly because of his proven international chemistry with Tomas Plekanec. But first Bob Gainey, then Pierre Gauther passed on him. The Bruins picked him up at the trade deadline from Dallas and I haven’t heard a complaint about his play despite his age. Took a page from the Chris Chelios playbook and became a fitness junkie over the last few years and his play, while not on the superstar level of an earlier time, far belies his age. His 16 goals last season would have tied him for the Canadiens team lead. In his two seasons since returning from Russia he has played 118 gmes with 35 goals and 89 pts. He brings size, a realistic attitude about where his game is at this stage of his career, no anticipation of a long term contract and an oft-stated desire to play in Montreal. This is the third time the Canadiens have had the opportunity. Is the third time the charm? I can think of a worse forward unit than Plekanec, Jagr and Bourque.
Free Agent Centres –
Vincent Lecavalier – Tampa Bay – 33 years old – 6’4” 225lbs . Recently injury prone. Diminishing skills. No longer a super star, but still a top six forward. Canadiens met with him over the weekend and probably put an initial offer on the table. Considering his age, I can’t believe the Canadiens would offer more than three or four years at between 4 and 5 million a season. He’ll get a lot more than that elsewhere. Still, who would you rather have centering Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher – Desharnais or Lecavalier?
Daniel Briere – Philadelphia – Age 35 – 5’10”. Bought out by the Flyers. Highly skilled but another small centreman is not what the Canadiens need. Last time he was a free agent he didn’t want to have anything to do with the pressures of being a member of the Canadiens and signed with the Flyers despite a major offer. His family situation dictates he attempt to sign with one of the New York area teams or perhaps Washington, all relatively close to Philadelphia.
Mike Ribeiro Washington – Age 33. Also small. And a pariah in the Canadiens dressing room when Bob Gainey literally unloaded the so-called “Three Amigos” (along with Theodore Dagenais) back in 2006. I haven’t seen that his attitude has changed much in the ensuing years.
Patrick Elias – New Jersey – 36 years old. I have trouble believing that the Devils won’t come up with a way to re-sign him. When you think of the Devils over the years you think Martin Brodeur and then you think Elias. Would love to have him on my team, but the Canadiens don’t have the need for the same reason they will ignore the other small centres. Wherever he goes, he won’t be getting the six million he got last season.
Stephen Weiss Florida – Age 29 – Skilled undersized playmaker at 5’11”. Reliable playmaker. Canadiens need some size at centre ice so he is not on their radar. That season ending wrist injury might make general managers pause.
Tyler Bozak – Toronto – Age 26. Two way player. Face-off specialist who, as the 40th ranked scorer among NHL centremen, is reportedly looking for a five million dollar annually on an eight year contract. One of the younger free agents. Still may improve. Maybe somebody will give him what he wants, just not the Canadiens.
Free Agent Left Wingers
Valteri Filppula – Detroit 28 years old – 5’11” 200 lbs – Puck possession player. Highly skilled. Hard worker. Good skater. Played centre a lot with Detroit and had a good faceoff percentage. Looking for five million plus in his next contract. The Red Wings like him, but not that much. Neither will the Canadiens.
Ryane Clowe – NY Rangers – Age 30 – 6’2” 225 lbs The Rangers loved his size when they acquired him from San Jose at the deadline for two second round and a third round draft pick. At the time he had 0 goals in 28 games for the Sharks. He scored 3 in eight games with the Rangers and then suffered another concussion during the playoffs. His size will get him a pretty good contract. But 6.3 million for three goals last season? That’s Scott Gomez territory. I would be surprised if there’s any Montreal interest if only because of skating deficiencies.
Brendon Morrow – Pittsburgh – Age 34 – 5’11” 205lbs. Montreal connection. Guy Carbonneau is his father-in-law. Not so sure I know where his game is right now. He made his reputation for being tough around the net. Didn’t show much of that in Dallas and Pittsburgh last season. He has taken a beating over the years and he may be an old 34 right now.