Most hockey rumours aren’t worth the cyberspace they take up. However, once in a while there’s one that is impossible to ignore and the one floating around concerning the Canadiens interest in Winnipeg unrestricted forward Michael Frolik is one of those.
That the Canadiens have interest is probable. But then, so are at least nine other teams that met with Frolik and his agent Alan Walsh at the NHL draft in Florida last weekend which is reason to curb our enthusiasm.
Frolik would be a clear upgrade on P.A. Parenteau who’s contract was bought out by the Canadiens on Monday. He is the kind of versatile player that both Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien love. He’s 6’1”. He’s durable, can skate, has skill and an excellent wrist shot. He recorded 206 shots on goal last season, which would have ranked him fourth on the Canadiens. And he’s disciplined. Only nine minor penalties last season. Early in his career Frolik was prone to scoring droughts that would last over a month. That seems to be a thing of his past.
Frolik can not only fill a role as a top six forward but has been regularly used by his former coaches as a penalty killer and checker. One of his more fascinating statistics from last season – 3 power play goals and 3 shorthanded goals. Overall he had 19 goals and 42 points last year, his second straight 42 point year in Winnipeg.
Last June Frolik avoided arbitration and set himself up for unrestricted free agency by signing a one-year 3.3 million contract. Unless NHL general managers go crazy July first, most seem to think he’ll get something in the 4.5 to 5 million dollar neighbourhood annually. Bergevin can probably muster the financial wherewithal to make a deal like this work and he has shown he can be very persuasive when he sets his mind to it. So we’ll see how this one unfolds.
Like Tomas Plekanec, Jaromir Jagr and Tomas Kaberle, Frolik is a product of the productive Czech Republic’s Kladno minor hockey programme. He played junior in Rimouski and was a first round draft choice of the Florida Panthers (10th overall) in 2006. In February 2011 he was part of a five player deal that sent him to Chicago and a member of the Hawks 2013 Stanley Cup championship team. In that playoff run, Frolik was one of the Hawks top penalty killers and checkers and still managed ten points in 23 playoff games. After the season, caught in their annual salary cap juggling act, the Hawks sent him to Winnipeg for a third and fourth round draft pick.
Can he be signed? It’s possible. Plekanec has been a teammate at the Olympics and World Championships. He played junior hockey in Quebec and at times he’s reportedly trained in Montreal during the off-season. Clearing cap room by getting rid of Parenteau only days after meeting with Frolik in Florida certainly can get people to talking. The other thing that talks is money. It probably comes down to how much the Canadiens feel they want to pay. Bergevin may go to 5 million a year plus term. Anything more than that is probably out of the question.