Canadiens Can Target These 4 Defensemen to Play the Right Side

The Montreal Canadiens will start the season with a glaring hole on the right-side defence. Right now, they have only three NHL calibre players on the right: David Savard, Chris Wideman and Justin Barron. Barron is also a rookie with only seven NHL games under his belt. The Habs are in a rebuild and not looking to make a playoff push, but they still want to be competitive and add depth for the future. To do so, they will have to either sign a free agent (FA), trade for a player or wait for the season to start and grab a defenceman off waivers. Here are some players the Canadiens could acquire to deepen the right side of their defence.

P.K. Subban

Yes, many believe P.K. Subban is past his prime and shouldn’t return to Montreal, but he would provide veteran depth to help guide the young, offensive-minded defencemen on the roster this season. He started his career with the Habs, playing seven seasons and electrifying fans with his dazzling moves, big hits and memorable plays. He was such a fan-favourite that when he was traded to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber in the summer of 2016, the city was torn; some fans hated the trade and wanted then-general manager (GM) Marc Bergevin fired, while others welcomed Weber, pointed out Subban’s faults and were thrilled by the trade.

P.K. Subban, New Jersey Devils
P.K. Subban, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

However, today, Subban isn’t as fast or exciting, but he still has flashes of his old self. Injuries have taken their toll since 2018-19, when he was in Nashville, and his point production has dipped ever since. Last season with the New Jersey Devils, he scored 22 points in 77 games. The Canadiens, however, will not be getting him to be an offensive dynamo; they will be putting him in the lineup to eat up minutes and help with their struggling power play (PP). If the price is right and he’s willing, he would be a perfect seventh defenceman to fill in when Barron or another young defenceman needs to sit.

Tyson Barrie

Tyson Barrie has been in trade rumours all summer, and the Canadiens have been mentioned among the teams interested. The Edmonton Oilers need to move a contract for some cap relief, and the Habs could use a top-four, right-handed defenceman to help ease Barron into the top-four.

Barrie scored 41 points for the Oilers last season, including 21 on the PP, where Montreal needs to improve, and he would help in that area immensely. The issue is taking on his $4.5 million contract for the next two seasons. For it to work, the Canadiens would have to send a contract back to the Oilers. Edmonton is $6 million over the cap, and the Canadiens are $10.2 million over; Montreal can use Carey Price’s long-term injury relief (LTIR) to relieve all of that $10.2 million and have $300,000 left over, while the Oilers would need to move some money to help their cap issues.

Related: Oilers & Canadiens Should Talk Trade Involving Tyson Barrie

If the Habs acquire Barrie, they will need to move a contract worth $4 million; Mike Hoffman and Christian Dvorak would be the best candidates as they both make around $4.5 million. The Oilers do not need a center, so Hoffman makes the most sense, but he has the same contract as Barrie for $4.5 million for the next two seasons, which won’t make sense for Edmonton. Although Barrie would be a good add for Montreal, and his contract gives them two seasons to develop Barron, the math doesn’t make much sense unless they can move a player to another team and take Barrie for picks or prospects.

Cale Fleury

Cale Fleury, 23, recently signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000 with the Seattle Kraken. Last season, he played only nine games with the Kraken but had a great season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Charlotte Checkers, scoring 33 points in 58 games, including seven goals. He started his career with the Canadiens: they drafted him in the third round in 2017, and he played 96 games over three seasons for the team’s AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket, scoring 34 points. He also played 41 games for Montreal in 2019-20, scoring one goal.

Cale Fleury Montreal Canadiens
Cale Fleury, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Fleury is a young big-hitting defenceman with whom Montreal fans are familiar. For the Canadiens to be able to acquire him, they will have to wait for the season to start and hope he doesn’t crack the Seattle lineup and is placed on waivers to start the season. This is a possibility since he is still developing and is behind Adam Larsson, Justin Schultz and William Borgen on the depth chart. The issue with acquiring Fleury is that he doesn’t bring the veteran presence, and the team would essentially be adding another young defenceman to the lineup who is not waiver eligible and couldn’t easily be moved to Laval.

Nils Lundkvist

Nils Lundkvist is another young defenceman that the Canadiens could acquire; he is reportedly unhappy with the New York Rangers and wants to be traded. The offensive defenseman has great speed and puck-moving ability and played 25 games last season for New York, scoring a goal and four points. He would fit in nicely with the Habs’ rebuild at only 22 years old, and he is still waiver-exempt if they feel he needs to go to the Rocket.

Nils Lundkvist New York Rangers
Nils Lundkvist, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

However, the Canadiens would be in a similar situation with Lundkvist as they are with Barron, as a developing player who will occasionally need to rotate out of the lineup. This, however, could work by just rotating the two players or possibly to Laval if they feel they need more ice time. Montreal will have to trade for him, and the Rangers might ask for more than what the Canadiens are willing to give up. But if a deal can be made, it would be in their best interest to acquire him.

Of the four players mentioned, we can almost rule out Subban and Fleury, although they would be fun options. Subban will want more money than the Canadiens are willing to pay for a fill-in defenceman but he would be a good temporary pick-up. Fleury will probably either make the Kraken or pass through waivers, but he is familiar with the pressures of playing in Montreal and would bring back some of the physicality the team lost after trading Alexander Romanov.

Barrie and Lundkvist would be the more logical choices to acquire but will take some work money-wise to get a deal done. There are still a few free-agent defencemen available who could be signed cheaply, but the Habs would still have to clear cap space. If a trade is a route they want to take, at least they have more than enough forwards to make it happen.

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