General managers and coaches seem to be happiest when they have fierce competition for roster spots on their teams. Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien should be ecstatic at the battle shaping up at training camp for their final two or three spots on their defence.
With Wednesday’s signing of Jarred Tinordi, the Canadiens have ten defensemen on their off-season roster. In order to get down to the usual seven (three pairs and a spare) to start the season, they are going to have to ask waivers on three.
During the off season the Habs had four defensemen who qualified for restricted free agency, Nathan Beaulieu, Greg Pateryn, Morgan Ellis and Tinordi. They also signed Mark Barberio. Each would be required to go through the league’s waiver process should the Canadiens wish to send them to their farm club in St. John’s.
Going into training camp this is the Canadiens Defense depth chart –
Right Defence – Left Defence
P.K. Subban – Andrei Markov
Jeff Petry – Alexei Emelin
Tom Gilbert – Nathan Beaulieu
Greg Pateryn – Jarred Tinordi
Morgan Ellis – Mark Barberio
Although he may surprise us in camp, it’s understood that Mark Barberio, who came to the Habs as a Tampa free agent will clear waivers and start the season in St. John’s. He’s a left shot and will fill a glaring organizational need since six of the seven defensemen on the IceCaps roster are right hand shots. The once promising Morgan Ellis is also unlikely to draw waiver-wire interest.
Eight remain with only seven spots available. Among the junior members of the defence who would you sacrifice?
Beaulieu and Pateryn seem to have established themselves. Each now has a one-way NHL contract. That leaves Tinordi as the numbers-game victim.
Many have already written Tinordi off as a lost cause. I’m not one of them, but he has shown unquestionably to be the least-NHL ready among the prospect group. Still, put a 6’6”, 220lb. former first round draft choice with an 850-thousand dollar cap hit on waivers and see how fast a rebuilding team like Buffalo, Toronto, Phoenix or Edmonton grab him up. Assuredly, Bergevin would not let him go with nothing in return even if it means ultimately settling for a draft pick.
But what happens if Tinordi has a breakthrough and makes the team along with Pateryn and Beaulieu. That would mean a veteran would have to be sacrificed. It obviously wouldn’t be one of the big three, Subban, Markov or Petry. Alexei Emelin has a no-trade clause for three of the remaining four years on his contract. Tom Gilbert on the other hand will be paid 2.8 million in the final year of his contract and could garner some interest in the market. All is speculation of course and two months ahead of training camp.
The Canadiens have spent a big part of their last four drafts building up their depth on defense. Now it starts to pay off.
Note – Among the defensemen under Canadiens contract and expected to play for St. John’s this season, only Mac Bennett (and probably Barberio) is a left hand shot. The six right-hand shots include Darren Dietz, Morgan Ellis, Dalton Thrower, Brett Lernout plus free agent signings Ryan Johnston and Joel Hanley. (Canadiens 2015 first round draft pick Noah Juulsen is also a right hand shot. He will be going back to junior hockey).