The Montreal Canadiens are coming off yet another early playoff exit, as the number one seed in the Atlantic Division lost to the first wildcard team the New York Rangers in six games. The Canadiens have been one of the better regular season teams over the previous ten seasons. Having been to the playoffs in eight out of the last ten seasons is very impressive, and it should have been nine out of the last ten, but in 2015-16 they lost their franchise goaltender Carey Price due to injury, and it led them down the path of one of their worst seasons.
Montreal has been very disappointing though when it comes to the postseason as they have not made it out of the Eastern Conference since they won the Stanley Cup Final in the 1992-93 season. There have been talks about changes being made in Montreal and it started in February last year when the Canadiens hired Claude Julien to be their new head coach before firing Michel Therrien. Montreal wanted to go into a defensive system that Julien runs, and in the postseason it did not work out. The Canadiens offense struggled in the postseason and their defense was not as good as it was during the regular season.
There are definitely moves that need to be made in Montreal in order to be considered contenders for the Stanley Cup Final next season, but they have a lot of work to do this off season. The wheels are already in motion following the acquisition of Jonathan Drouin for top blueline prospect Mikhail Sergachev and trading 24-year-old Nathan Beaulieu for a 3rd round pick. With that being said here are 8 moves that Montreal needs to make this off season and 7 moves that they should avoid.
15 Need - Sign Martin Hanzal
Martin Hanzal seems like a perfect fit for the Montreal Canadiens. They are in desperate need of a top six center and Hanzal is a player that can win you a lot of faceoffs in important situations and he can help some of their top six talent at forward. Hanzal is not knowing for his scoring ability, which the Canadiens desperately need, but he plays in all three zones on the ice and is effective in all aspects of the game.
Imagine Hanzal centering a line that has both Pacioretty and Drouin on it, sounds like a match made in heaven. He can win the faceoffs that will put the two scorers in good positioning for them to be able to score. Even for Hanzal who is only thirty a five year deal worth around $4 million per year sounds like a perfect fit for Montreal.
14 Avoid - Signing Joe Thornton
Nothing against "Jumbo Joe" because he has been a great player since entering the National Hockey League in the 1997-1998 season, but father time is catching up to him and you saw it last year. The former number one overall pick in the 1997 NHL Draft will be 38 by the time the 2017-18 season starts so there is no reason why Montreal should sign Thornton. Nothing against his talent because he has been one of the more talented players since he entered the league, but Montreal should not sign a 38-year-old center.
The Canadiens need to focus on the future, and not think about the current moment. They have a good young core to build around, but they need to find the right pieces to help them get out of the Eastern Conference. Montreal has the direction that Claude Julien will take them, but it does not involve Joe Thornton.
13 Need - Usage Of Their Prospects
The Montreal Canadiens have some young talent that they should really be looking to incorporate in this upcoming season's rosters. Some names include goalie Charlie Lindgren, and forwards Mike McCarron and Nikita Scherbak. Lindgren should be in consideration as Price's backup this season, and needs to get some NHL experience under his belt due to the potential of losing Carey Price after the 2017-18 season. Yes, the Canadiens still have Montoya under contract, but in all honesty a younger goalie like Fucale needs the chance to prove if he is an NHL goaltender or if he is a bust.
Montreal needs to use their prospects to see if they are able to play at the NHL level, rather than waste them while they try and make the Stanley Cup Final with the same talent year in and year out. With younger wingers like McCarron and Scherbak it will help Montreal give themselves not only a different look of their team as a whole, but it just might help fill in some gaps that need to be filled in.
12 Avoid - Not Taking Advantage Of Cap Space
The Montreal Canadiens at the moment have roughly $25 million in cap space, and they should not let any of it go to waste. With all the slots they need filled they can use that cap space to not only sign talent in free agency, but to be able to sign talent that they already have. Using the cap room that they currently have for now and for the next couple of years they are poised to be able to pay some players good amount of money to come play in Montreal.
Looking at the numbers shows that Montreal is one team in the NHL that is really poised to make an impact during the offseason as they will be threats to contend for the Stanley Cup again. Now with their recent history of the lack of playoff success it is hard to believe that they will contend, but if the right moves are made anything can happen.
11 Need - Dump Andrew Shaw
Having Andrew Shaw under contract until the 2022-23 season is not a good thing for Montreal. Shaw is set to make $3 million next season to go along with a $2 million potential signing bonus. The Canadiens need to move on from the 25-year-old center in the worst possible way. He does not make any big contribution to the Canadiens especially when he is in the penalty box. Shaw's style of play used to fit Montreal's style, but now with Claude Julien as the head coach he does not fit into his plans.
Shaw needs to take his talents elsewhere, and the Canadiens should buy him out or trade him. The Canadiens' Stanley Cup window could be dwindling down and you don't want a guy like Shaw to be a huge reason why. Without Shaw the sky is the limit for Montreal, but with him leads to problems that could hurt your future plans of winning a Stanley Cup.
10 Avoid - Letting Andrei Markov Walk
I understand that Andrei Markov will be 38 turning 39 when the 2017-18 season starts, but he was one of the better defenseman for Montreal a year ago and they need him on the roster for the 2017-18 season in order to be successful. The former sixth round pick in the 1998 NHL Draft has been with Montreal his entire career and looks to have at least two more years left in him. Montreal should sign him to a two year deal for around $4.5 million per season and they will be set.
Letting Markov walk gives away one huge piece on their defense, and it makes it hard to think that Carey Price will actually have some help in front of him. Besides Markov, and Shea Weber in the playoffs Montreal's defense was subpar against the Rangers. Markov is a key piece to Montreal's potential success and the Canadiens should not let him walk this off season.
9 Need - Take A Chance On Drew Stafford
The Canadiens need some help at forwards especially when it comes to talent that can put the puck in the net, and they should look no further than Drew Stafford. The 31-year-old winger can help Montreal with their lack of goal scoring in big moments, and it will come at a very low cost for that type of talent. The former 13th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, can come and be beneficial for Montreal especially at the price that they can get him for.
A 2 year $6 million dollar contract for Stafford is a gold mine for Montreal. His ability to be able to score twenty plus in a season is a big help for Montreal, and it can help create opportunities for other players as well. Montreal should look at taking a chance of signing Drew Stafford because he could thrive in Montreal and help them be able to put up goals on the scoreboard.
8 Avoid - Going After Old Veteran Wingers
Alright so let's explain what I mean by old veteran wingers. I mean guys that are the age of 35 and over that have been in the league for a very long time. Players like Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Sharp, Shane Doan, Patrick Marleau are examples of what I mean by old veteran wingers. Montreal has a win now mentality and I understand that, but signing one of these guys might cost you more than it would to sign a younger talent. The Canadiens should focus on signing wingers that have more than two years potentially left in their career.
Montreal has the cap space to sign veteran talent, but why overpay old wingers when you can pay younger guys to do the exact same thing? Look for the Canadiens to make an impact, but at a certain cost this offseason. No 35-year-old or older winger should be signed by Montreal this offseason.
7 Need - Strip Max Pacioretty Of His Captaincy
Montreal's new look should involve a new captain especially since Pacioretty is not the right fit as captain for the Canadiens. I'm not taking anything away from Pacioretty, because he is a talented player and can score a lot of goals for Montreal, but his leadership is not his strength and it has shown. Montreal can give him an "A" on his jersey, but they should not give him the "C" again next season.
In the two seasons that Pacioretty has had the "C" on his jersey Montreal has not won a playoff series, and missed the postseason one time. Looking ahead for the future of the Montreal Canadiens Pacioretty is signed for the next two seasons, but there is no proof that he will stay in Montreal long-term. There is a captain on the Montreal Canadiens and it is not Max Pacioretty. Shea Weber is locked in long term and was a captain in Nashville for a long time, so the switch should be a no-brainer.
6 Avoid - Signing A Backup Goalie
The Montreal Canadiens are set for goalies at the moment, but they should not waste any of their cap space on a backup goalie. With already having Al Montoya under contract, and the potential of Charlie Lindgren and Zachary Fucale in the system, there is no reason why the Canadiens need to waste money on another goalie. Montoya played alright at times last season, and helped Price get a day off when he needed it.
Plus the market for goaltenders is not the best, and there is not a guy that sticks out as a perfect fit to backup Carey Price. Montreal should focus on there depth at forwards, and at defense rather than goalies. Look for the Canadiens to be all set when it comes down to goalies, and for Montreal to avoid signing another one.
5 Need- Re-sign Alexander Radulov
Alexander Radulov was worth the entire $5.75 million last season for the Montreal Canadiens, and they need to be able to re-sign him long term. Radulov was a key part of the Canadiens regular season success, and in 76 games he tallied 18 goals to go along with 36 assists for a total of 54 points. He was second on the team in points during the regular season, and led the team in points during the playoffs.
He was a key asset in Montreal's success in 2016-17, and they desperately need him to return next season to help Montreal do the same. The 30-year-old should get at least a four year deal from Montreal worth at least $6 million per season. Radulov has earned that big of a contract and without him the Canadiens would have most likely gotten swept by the Rangers this postseason.
4 Avoid - Extending Tomas Plekanec
Tomas Plekanec has played with Montreal for his entire career, but his time as a Montreal Canadien seems to be coming to an end. The former third round pick in the 2001 NHL Draft will be 34 next season and will be set to make $5 million before becoming a free agent the following year. Plekanec was not effective for the Canadiens last season, and Montreal and Tomas need to go their separate ways. In 78 games last season he tallied 10 goals to go along with 18 assists for a total of 28 points.
Those numbers are definitely not what the Canadiens needed last season, and he looks like he will do more of the same for the 2017-18 season. The talks of Plekanec getting extended after this season should not be even talked about, as the Montreal Canadiens should move on from Plekanec and let him walk after this year, or move him if given the chance.
3 Need - Sign A Veteran Defenseman
Montreal's defense definitely needs an upgrade as players such as Jordie Benn, Alexei Emelin, and others were sub par not only during the playoffs, but for the regular season as well. With the names of veterans that are on the free agency market, and with the cap room that the Canadiens have there is no reason why they shouldn't take a risk with one of these guys. No they shouldn't go after Kevin Shattenkirk, but some names they should take a shot at are Mark Streit, Dan Girardi, Dennis Wideman, and players of that nature.
Those players are yearly veterans that are on their last legs and they could be a big time help for the Canadiens for a present day push. The yearly veterans can also help Carey Price out in the long run as well, as they can help Price by letting him take fewer shots a game.
2 Avoid - Trading Away Alex Galchenyuk's Rights
Alex Galchenyuk is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason and the Canadiens should do everything in their power to make sure that he is still wearing a Montreal uniform come opening night. At first their were rumors going around about the potential trade of Galchenyuk that would trade his rights to Tampa Bay for Jonathan Drouin's rights. Well the Canadiens got Drouin's rights and signed him long term without having to get rid of Galchenyuk, so that should mean that Montreal should sign Galchenyuk long term correct?
It should mean that especially since they are giving Drouin around $5.5 million per season, which means Galchenyuk should be getting close to $6 million per season and it should come from Montreal. If Montreal decides to move on from Galchenyuk and trade his rights away it will go down as one of the biggest regrets in Montreal Canadiens' history.
1 Need - Signing Carey Price To A Long-Term Extension
One of the best goalies in the league is Carey Price, and he is set to become a free agent after the 2017-2018 season. That is scary to think about if you are indeed a Montreal fan, so what should the Canadiens do they should sign him to an extension. Without having to go through the whole 2017-2018 season with doubts about Price potentially leaving, why not sign him long-term during the off season and giving him the deal that he so well deserves.
Without Carey Price the Montreal Canadiens struggle as a whole, he is the glue that keeps the team together and should be getting paid like it. Price should be the highest paid goalie in the National Hockey League, and Montreal should be smart enough to realize that. Carey Price agrees to a long-term extension with the Montreal Canadiens is the type of breaking news that Montreal's fans would love/need to hear this off season.
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