Richard Labbe of La Presse reported in the Saturday edition that Andrei Markov is close to agreeing ot a new Canadiens contract. Good news, if true. After 13 seasons with the team he is a close to a team cornerstone as there is. At the age of 35 with a couple of major knee surgeries in his past, he’s slowed a bit, but Markov on most nights is still the smartest player on the ice and his value off the ice cannot be underestimated.
Which brings us around to the future makeup of the Canadiens defense. And the future is not now. Soon, but not now. As this is being written, the Canadiens have only two veteran defencemen under contract, Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin.
There are four members of last season’s Canadiens defense, including Markov, eligible for unrestricted free agency on July first. There may be an effort to sign Mike Weaver but Francis Bouillon will turn 39 in mid October and Douglas Murray can be replaced with a defender off last season’s Hamilton roster.
P.K. Subban will be getting a contract in one form or the other so the returning defensemen, barring activity in the trade market, should be Subban, Markov, Emelin, Gorges and maybe Weaver. If the Canadiens carry seven, that leaves two opportunities for members of last year’s Hamilton Bulldogs defense to earn a spot on the season opening roster.
The obvious choices are Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi but there seems to be some question in people’s minds (including mine) about their NHL readiness. At times Beaulieu seemed overwhelmed during the Ranger series and Tinordi was not dressed at all during the playoffs. They are terrific prospects but remember this; we’re dealing with a 22 year old (Tinordi) and a 21 year old (Beaulieu) looking to fill a position that usually takes four or five years to master at the NHL level.
Anyone who watched the Hamilton Bulldogs on a regular basis last season will tell you that Greg Pateryn was the closest to being NHL-ready of any in their defense group. Why he wasn’t re-called by the Canadiens is anyone’s guess.
Pateryn, a right shot, has NHL level skating ability, size (6’2” – 220lbs), and has discovered a scoring touch from the blueline (15 goals last season, second among defencemen in the AHL). Unlike Tinordi and Beaulieu, Pateryn, who turns 24 next week, is mature both physically and mentally after four years at the University of Michigan (where he picked up a degree in kinesiology) and two years in Hamilton.
Right shot playing on the right side is useful but some say not critical in today’s NHL. Where it seems to be problematical is on his off-side point and is forced to go to his backhand in order to keep puck along the boards inside the line. Alexei Emelin, who grew up a left defenceman, seems to be most uncomfortable when forced to play to the right of Markov. Until Mike Weaver arrived on the scene at the deadline, on the entire Canadiens defense only P.K. Subban was a right shot.
Training camp will tell the readiness of not only Pateryn but also the Beaulieu and Tinordi. My guess is, Beaulieu and Tinordi get a little more time in the minors. Pateryn becomes the sixth defenseman and Davis Drewiske (remember him?) is given a chance to become the seventh man.
Drewiske suffered a shoulder injury in training camp last year and missed most of the season after surgery. After being medically cleared, he was sent to Hamilton in March where he finished the season.
At this moment in time Beaulieu and Tinordi are considered part of the roster along with veterans Emelin and Gorges. The cap hit for the four is 7.9 million. The salary cap budget for the total Canadiens defense should be in the neightbourhood of 23 to 24 million. Assuming that Markov and Subban take up 14 million of that between them, there won’t be much wiggle room to fill out the rest of the group. Those low cost entry level contracts belonging to Pateryn, Beaulieu and Tinordi are going to be very important; especially Pateryn who comes in at a low $562,000.
The Canadiens Defense Depth Chart
Left Shot Right Shot
Josh Gorges P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov Mike Weaver
Alexei Emelin Greg Pateryn
Davis Drewiske Darren Dietz
Jarred Tinordi Morgan Ellis
Nathan Beaulieu Magnus Nygren
Mac Bennett Dalton Thrower
What They Earn and their Contract Status
Current Free Agents
Andrei Markov UFA 2014 (earned 5.75 million in 2013-14)
Mike Weaver – UFA 2014 (earned 1.1 million 2013-14)
Francis Bouillion UFA 2014 (earned 1.5 million 2013-14)
Douglas Murray – UFA 2014 (1.5 million in 2013-14)
P.K. Subban – RFA 2014 (2.875 million 2013-14)
Alexei Emelin – UFA 2018 – (4.1 million)
Josh Gorges – UFA 2018 (3.9 million)
Davis Drewiske UFA 2015 ($637,500)
Greg Pateryn – UFA 2016 ($562K) **
Nathan Beaulieu RFA 2015 (1.275 Million)**
Jarred Tinordi – RFA 2015 ($1,082,500)**
Magnus Nygren – RFA 2015 $925K**
Morgan Ellis – RFA 2015 $900K**
Darren Dietz – RFA -2016 $900K**
Mac Bennett – RFA – 2016 $900K** ##
Dalton Thrower – RFA 2017 $726,667** ##
** – Two Way NHL/AHL contract ## – Entering First Professional Season