Now that the Carolina Hurricanes have officially matched the offer sheet handed out to Sebastian Aho last week, Montreal Canadiens fans are eagerly awaiting to see general manager Marc Bergevin’s next off-season move will be.
Having already signed defenseman Ben Chiarot and forward Nick Cousins to relatively cheap contracts, the Canadiens still have lots of cap space and draft picks at their disposal to add another goal-scorer to their forward group.
While Bergevin may consider pursuing more offer sheets this summer, here’s a look at some remaining free agents the Canadiens could be targeting.
Little was known of Dzingel when he broke into the league with the Ottawa Senators, but after putting up back-to-back 20-goal seasons, the Columbus Blue Jackets added him for their playoff push at last season’s trade deadline. While Dzingel didn’t have the greatest success in the post-season, the Jackets let him walk and the reason for doing so is because Dzingel might not be as productive as it seems.
Still unsigned, this is one unrestricted free agent that is likely fielding a lot of offers from multiple teams who mull over whether or not Dzingel is worth what he’s asking for. The Canadiens would be wise to at least consider Dzingel as an option.
Dzingel is a speedy forward who plays among the top two scoring lines or could be used as an effective third-line forward with goal-scoring ability. If this sounds all too familiar to Canadiens fans, its essentially what Andrew Shaw provided before being dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks for draft picks. Although Dzingel is far less gritty than the rugged Shaw, he’s a great skater with a good shot and offensive instincts, in addition to being far less injury-prone, too. The only problem is Dzingel is arguably the best available unrestricted forward free agent to be had today, so his price tag may be too costly for a lot of clubs. But would the Canadiens be a team willing to table a competitive offer?
If Bergevin is eyeing more toughness and grit for his roster, Micheal Ferland would be an improved version of Saw. Similar in playing style, Ferland shows sandpaper and a nose for the net in his game. He’s also familiar with playing on a team’s top line, having once been a linemate of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan with the Calgary Flames. Ferland’s big frame and willingness to battle in the corners of the rink create space and scoring opportunity for his teammates.
Ferland, however, could be one of those reckless players that the Canadiens aren’t interested in. Bergevin not only traded Shaw and Nicolas Deslauriers for the purpose of freeing up roster space, but also to signal perhaps a lesser need for skaters who play with an edge. Is Ferland someone who the Canadiens might pass over? Or would signing him give fans the impression that the Canadiens have added a player who can score as well as protect their smaller forwards on a consistent basis?
Ferland has a lot to offer a team, and should the Canadiens be in fact avoiding adding anyone who could be a liability to the team, they might want to reconsider their stance on this player. Having scored 17 goals and 40 points last season, Ferland is more than just a bottom-six forward and is likely relishing an opportunity to prove his worth and value to a club looking to add a power forward via free agency.
The biggest name left unsigned is without a doubt restricted free agent Mitch Marner of the cap-strapped Toronto Maple Leafs. Would the Canadiens be daring enough to possibility fork over four years of first-round picks to their bitter rivals should an offer sheet be accepted? This would be something that fans would have no issue with, but management would lose sleep over. Then again, the Canadiens have had stellar drafts over the past few summers, so is getting Marner worth the risk of losing four firsts?
I believe Bergevin and the Canadiens’ offer sheet for Aho was a bold move, but also showed the club’s limit to how much of the future the team is willing to give up for a restricted free agent. It also goes to show that some players might even be using offer sheets to their advantage, which gives Bergevin even more incentive to focus on some unrestricted free agents instead. Those types of signings, it should be noted, won’t cost the Canadiens any draft picks either.
The Maple Leafs have set themselves up nicely to be able to lock-up Marner for the foreseeable future if they don’t have to break their bank for the player. But, if somehow, some way, the Canadiens were able to land Marner, Bergevin will have finally silenced his critics once and for all and have provided the Canadiens with a legitimate superstar that fans have been asking for since he took over as GM.
Do the Canadiens Need to Do More This Summer?
Did Bergevin acquire a left-handed defenseman? Yes, but it wasn’t necessarily someone who could play with captain Shea Weber. The Canadiens brass could be thinking they already have that player on their roster in Victor Mete.
Did Bergevin replace Shaw’s roster spot? Presumably he did just that with the signing of Cousins. And while Max Domi had nothing but praise for the addition of a former teammate, most Canadiens fans were left feeling unsatisfied.
Was the Canadiens’ offer sheet just simply a show of force? Is Bergevin serious about mortgaging future assets for a young superstar? Fans will have to wait to see what’s next for their team, because after dreaming about Aho in a Canadiens sweater, Bergevin must now prove just how serious he is about reeling in a big-name free agent to the city of Montreal. Anything short of that and fans will only be left further confused by the direction this franchise is headed.
Born and raised in Montreal, QC, Canada, Sean Garland has been following the Montreal Canadiens since 1998. A graduate of Carelton University in Ottawa, ON, Sean began writing for All Habs before launching his own hockey blog where he wrote articles concerning the entire NHL. He joined The Hockey Writers in the summer of 2019, where he continues to share his unique insights with fellow fans and readers.