Canadiens Have Holes to Fill and Questions to Answer Going into Next Season.
This has obviously been a miserable season for the Habs — a team expected to make a Cup run. Now that the season is over a little early, we look to the next one. This starts on April 30 with the NHL Draft Lottery where three teams can climb the board and get a chance to reshape their franchise. This format emulates that of the NBA. As it stands, the Habs have the ninth best chance to get the first pick overall and a chance to get their hands on Auston Matthews. However, let’s leave this draft speculation for another day.
Let’s take a look at what the Habs have going into next season. The salary cap should rise to roughly $74M, but that will be officially announced in the coming weeks.
According to www.capfriendly.com, the Habs have a little more than $60M tied to 17 returning players on one-way contracts. GM Marc Bergevin may or may not choose to move any of these players, but this is where we are at this point. They also have P.A. Parenteau’s last buyout year on the books for $1.33M for the upcoming season. This brings the cap up to $62M for next season.
Let’s break this down, shall we?
Pacioretty – Galchenyuk – Gallagher
Desharnais – Plekanec – Flynn
Matteau – Eller – Byron
Markov – Subban
Emelin – Petry
Beaulieu – Pateryn
The Habs had a great two months out of the gate as Breandan Gallagher got off to a flying start and was on pace to obliterate last season’s career highs before he decimated his promising season. He put up 19 goals and 21 assists in just 53 games.
Paul Byron and Alex Galchenyuk were some of the most useful players in the lineup, both having career years. Byron got 11 goals in 62 games and was a constant threat on the penalty kill picking up three goals short-handed and helped fill voids on either wings anywhere in the lineup.
Galchenyuk hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his young and promising career. He ended the season as the hottest goalscorer in the league making a home for himself at the face-off circle on his off-wing rifling one-timers through opposing goalies.
Even though Pacioretty failed to improve or match his past seasons’ goal tally, he still scored 30 goals on an off year, not to mention that he picked up 34 assists for a new career high. That first line should be able to carry the Habs throughout next season, but the rest of the offensive unit has some serious holes, especially on the wings.
Plekanec, Eller and Desharnais are all proven centres that can play at worst on the third line, but there are two spots for three players heading into what should be a very interesting summer for Bergevin. The Habs have an abundance of players that can play a solid role on the bottom two lines on offense. The second line needs some serious work if the Canadiens hope to return to prominence.
Although the Canadiens allocate a lot of their cap space to their defensive corps, they did not get enough production from the back-end. P.K. Subban put up his usual point totals despite missing time with a concussion at the end of the season, but he did have a career-low six goals this past season.
Andrei Markov had some trouble on and off the ice, but he seemed to put this behind him as the season came to a close. With he and Alexei Emelin as the only regular defensemen in the lineup at times, he was able to lead the way and turn a floundering power play to a more respectable one while finding chemistry with Galchenyuk and setting him up on many one-timers.
Jeff Petry had a season to forget as he looked awful in all three zones and battled injuries.
Nathan Beaulieu showed why he was drafted in the first round back in 2011, but he needs to add more muscle to his frame in the offseason as well as work on his constancy. He has the opportunity to transition into the Habs first defensive pairing as Markov nears the end of his great career.
These top six defensemen form one of the best corps in the league, but it is a bit pricy. If the Habs would like to add a big piece to their offense, perhaps moving a player from the blue line may be a solution to make some cap room.
In the Crease
Carey Price. When he plays, the Canadiens are among the best teams in the league. When he doesn’t — well, we saw how this season turned out. The Habs go as Price goes. It is expected that Price will be ready for training camp, but the Habs may need to provide him with a competent backup to alleviate some of his workload.
For his first season in the league, Mike Condon did a decent job, but he cannot carry the most important franchise in hockey when the best player in the world is out for a while. These goalies do not grow on trees, but Bergevin and his staff really need to take a close look at what’s available to them this offseason. I wouldn’t think they would want another injury to sidetrack their entire season again.
This summer will be very important for the Habs organization with the lottery draft for one, but also with addressing the issues in the lineup that have been overlooked since Bergevin has taken over. As of July 1, he can sign Galchenyuk to an extension. With the second half of the season that he had and the progression that he has been making, the price will be a lot higher than his $2.8M he is making a year.
On a more somber note, I would like to pay my respect to all those who have been touched by Charlie Hodge.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) April 17, 2016