Right now Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is looking for a solution to his remaining problem. Bergevin’s ingering problem is finding the talent to fill a gaping hole on his team’s right wing.
Bergevin has only three legitimate right wingers to turn over to head coach Michel Therrien in September training camp, Brendan Gallagher, Parenteau and Dale Weise. They need four.
While Weise has had some success moving up and down the lineup, his clear role is on the fourth line. Gallagher seems to have found a home on the Desharnais line. Depending on where Parenteau fits in during training camp, the very large hole is on either the second or third line.
This headache has plagued Canadiens GM’s the last five years and three GM’s.
On April 7, 2012, the final game of the Pierre Gauthier regime Brian Gionta was out with an injury and head coach Randy Cunneyworth’s right wingers were Erik Cole, Louis Leblanc, Mike Blunden and Brad Staubitz. Hardly a tribute to Canadiens depth. Bergevin took over the team and immediately brought Colby Armstrong in as a free agent and promoted Brendan Gallagher. He later traded Cole for Michael Ryder and then let Ryder go to free agency. Last July, the Canadiens signed George Parros and Daniel Briere. We all know how that worked out. For various reasons, the season became a juggling act with Ryan White, Travis Moen, Michael Bournival playing out of position and Patrick Holland, Louis Leblanc, Christian Thomas and Michael Blunden up from Hamilton for mostly unsatisfactory stints.
Knowing full well there was no internal solution and realizing the Canadiens didn’t have any kind of chance for a playoff run, or maybe even a playoff berth with only two productive right wingers, Bergevin made trade deadline deals to get Weise and then Thomas Vanek. Those moves helped the Canadiens make a 17 game playoff run.
Weise remains, Vanek’s gone. So are Gionta, Parros, Briere, White, Leblanc and Blunden. The top Hamilton right wing prospects are two 21 year olds, Sven Andrighetto and Jiri Sekac, the Czech kid the Canadiens just signed as a free agent. I love Andrighetto’s raw talent, but he has things to learn before he arrives in the NHL. I’m sure the same holds for Sekac.
So, Bergevin is back in what seems a neverending story.
From what we hear, he took a pretty good run at free agent Radim Vrbata, who eventually signed for a 5 million annual contract with Vancouver. Despite a current 16 million in space, with the Subban/Eller contracts pending, a contract like that might have placed the Habs in danger of going over the salary cap.
Without doubt Bergevin is looking at his options. In the free agent market there are still few. You might be able to milk another year out of 41 year old Daniel Alfredsson, but he seems to be thinking Detroit or retirement. Names like Lee Stempniak, David Moss, Todd Bertuzzi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikael Samelsson are still out there, mostly for good reason.
If Bergevin would like to take a low risk gamble, RW Peter Mueller is still available and really under the radar after spending last season with the Kloten Flyers in Switzerland. An Arizona first round draft pick, at the age of 19 the 6’2″ Mueller scored 22 goals and 54 points in his rookie year. Subsequently he went through four years of hellish concussion problems which completely derailed his career. After five head injuries, he has been symptom free for two seasons now. In the Swiss league last season he tied for the league with 24 goals in 49 games and was third in the league with 46 points. US hockey thought enough of his season that Mueller was the only non-NHLer on their 2014 entry at the World Championships in Belarus. What could a team lose by bringing him into training camp on a tryout contract?
Just one thought. I’m sure Bergevin and his brain trust have a few more.