We’re in hockey’s annual administrative dead-zone, the period of time between the end of the regular season and preparations for the entry draft followed closely by that week before July first when teams can talk to prospective unrestricted free agents.
Anything you hear about the secretive Canadiens is strictly rumour and speculation be yondthe announced signings of European 2013 draft choices Artturi Lehkhonen and Martin Reway and on Thursday the return of Kirk Muller to the coaching staff.
In the days ahead we will hear that unrestricted free agents Tom Gilbert, Ben Scrivens and John Scott will be seeking work elsewhere. At best, defenseman Victor Bartley will be offered a two way contract. That leaves a more interesting decision to made on the also undrestred right winger Mike Brown.
The Canadiens, rightly as it turned out, decided that Brandon Prust’s career was nearing an end and traded him to Vancouver last summer. Who knew his toughness would be missed as much as it was. Brown finally filled that role when he came via waivers from San Jose at the deadline. In his fourteem games with Montreal he had three fights and he didn’t pick his spots in any of them; fighting tough opponents Chris Nei of the Senatorsl, Florida’s Shawn Thornton and the Sabres Nicolas Deslaurier. I would think are some thoughts of offering him a deal since there is nobody else in the organization that can fill the policeman role.
Bergevin is also dealing with restricted free agents Phillip Danault, Daniel Carr, Lucas Lessio and Sven Andrighetto along with defensemen Darren Dietz, Joel Hanley and Mark Barberio. Managing those contracts on what will probably be an unchanging salary cap will be another high-wire act.
In the meantime ……..
Kirk Muller turned down an offer to remain as a coaching assistant in St. Louis to return to the Canadiens as associate coach.
What the hell is an ‘associate coach’?
With J.J. Daigneault, Daniel Lacroix and Clement Jodoin merely ‘assistant’ coaches, we have to assume Muller moves into to a slot right next to Michel Therrien on the food chain. In the five years he was with the Canadiens in his previous life, Muller was noted for his rapport with the players while at the same time working closely with coaches Guy Carbonneau and Jacques Martin. We’ll see how that works out with Michel Therrien.
THE DREADED POWER PLAY
Speaking of semantics, last September the Canadiens hired Criag Ramsay to be a coaching ‘consultant’ mostly to try to bring life to the gawdawful power play. Nobody listened to him much and by the end of it, the Canadiens power play ranked 25th in the league. It was the fourth time in the five years since Muller left to become head coach at Carolina that the the power play ranked in the bottom half of the league and the third time they were 23rd or worse. In the five seasons between 2006 and 2011, under Muller’s supervision the power play ranked first twice, second, seventh and thirteenth. Any questions?
THE 2013 DRAFT BUMPER CROP
Hockey people consider Canadiens Director of Amateur Scouting Trevor Timmins one of the best in the business. Others selectively find statistics that prove the opposite. For what’s it worth, I think Timmins has been very good and 2013 may be his finest hour. With the signing of Lehkonen (2nd round) and Reway (4th round) all eight 2013 draft choices are now under Canadiens contract. Three, Mike McCarron, Jacob de la Rose and Sven Andrighetto have already played some NHL games. Zach Fucale is considered a top prospect. The jury is still out on forwards Connor Crisp (3rd round) and Jeremy Gregoire (6th). Prior this draft, 2007 was Timmins high water mark with the selections of Ryan McDonagh and Max Pacioretty in the first round, Subban in the second and Yannick Weber in the third.
LEHKONEN & REWAY
Left wingers Artturi Lehkonen and Martin Reway have signed their entry level contracts but don’t expect them in a Canadiens lineup in the short term. Lehkonen has a year to go in a contract extension he signed with Frolünda of the Swedish League. If he makes the Canadiens out of training camp the contract year will be voided. Unless the Canadiens can make a deal with Frolünda, they cannot send him to St. John’s even if that were their desire. The Canadiens will be looking for at least some more muscle on his 176 lb. 5’11” frame before facing the NHL grind. He can do that just as easily in Sweden as St. John’s.
Reway also has a size issue. He’s only 5’8” and his North American hockey experience is only those 109 games with Gatineau in the “Q” before playing the last two seasons in Europe. He is already resigned himself to a stint in St. John’s this season to get used to the North American game..
THE ELUSIVE RUSSIAN
Every day the story has changed on the availability of 29-year old KHL centre Vadim Shipachyov. We first heard he had filed papers to acquire his free agency despite a year remaining in his SKA St. Petersburg contract and was opening negotiation with a number of NHL teams including the Canadiens. Next we heard the KHL had belatedly inserted a rule demanding Shipachyov play until mid KHL season before getting his release. Then last week there was word that St. Petersburg had increased his KHL paycheck and he would be staying. And if all else fails, there seems to be a verbal buyout agreement of 700-thousand dollars if an NHL team wants a contracted player that badly. All wheels-within-wheels when it come to dealings between the leagues. Shipachyov has indicated his desire to play in the NHL and his North American agent is former Canadien Petr Svoboda.
I have a feeling we haven’t heard the last of this one.
Barring the strong possibity of a trade or two, Timmins will have seven picks in this year’s entry draft – ninth overall in the first round, 39th and 45th (Minnesota via Buffalo) in the second round, plus the 100th, 124th and 160th picks. They traded away their 5th and 7th round picks to Buffalo but acquired Vancouver’s 5th in return for Zack Kassian.
If Bergevin can engineer it, I imagine he will to trade up with either Vancouver or Edmonton in order to get secure Pierre-Luc Dubois of Cape Breton. The 6’3” Dubois is a Ste. Agathe native and is currently listed number one among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting and is expected go somewhere between 5th and 7th.