In less than a month, the frenzy begins.
When July 1, 2016 comes on the calendar teams will begin reeling in their big fish off of the open market. The Montreal Canadiens and Marc Bergevin have their work cut out for them. The Habs are in desperate need for scoring and size on the offensive end, and could add another defensemen for depth or the future on the back-end.
Luckily, this year’s free agent class is deep with talent and there should be some quality signings to be made. In recent years free agency for Habs fans has been painful. As Bergevin has said in the past, he doesn’t look too fondly on free agency. He doesn’t feel as if free agency will bring a cup back to Montreal.
Bergevin may be right in saying that, but he has to learn that with this current roster a Stanley Cup isn’t in the future. I agree with Bergevin that you can’t essentially “buy” a Stanley Cup, but you need to add players to help reach that goal. Currently in the system it’s hard to find potential top six forwards or the next defensemen. Drafting well is only part of the solution. Signing quality players to immediately help the current state of the team is the other.
So with that, who should the Canadiens look at when the market opens?
D – Sami Vatanen
There is word out of Anaheim that Vatanen could be the odd man out on the blue line. If that is the case, the Habs should take a hard look at him. With an aging Markov they’ll need to find another top four caliber defenseman soon to fill the void. Vatanen is young, and can bring playoff experience with him from the Ducks. It is still unknown what his value is on the open market, but it might prove to be too expensive for defensemen at this point. However, it’s something the Habs need to keep in mind.
RW – Dale Weise
Bringing Dale Weise back is an obvious choice. Weise won’t solve the scoring issue but he will add stability to the bottom six forward group. He enjoyed his time in Montreal, and Montreal enjoyed having him. You can expect him to bring his effort every night, contribute physically and sometimes on the score sheet. Not to mention the boost he adds to locker room morale. I think Bergevin can bring him in on a team friendly deal.
RW – Kyle Okposo
Kyle Okposo should be one of the top targets for the Canadiens. At wing the Habs are lacking in the top six. Okposo would be an immediate upgrade to the group, and a player than can do offensive damage. Adding him would bring in at least 20 more goals to a Habs team that desperately needs it. He was rumoured to want close to $7 million for his next contract but it’s doubtful he would go for that much. If the Habs want him they will have to pay up, as there is sure to be competition for his services.
C – Steven Stamkos
This move is a no brainer; the Habs could finally get their number one centre. Adding Stamkos would boost this forward group to one of the most dangerous in the East. A Stamkos-Galchenyuk one-two punch at centre would be a matchup nightmare for teams. Now, Stamkos will demand a pretty penny and the Habs may have to move out contracts (Plekanec?) to get this deal done. With that said, it’s not every year that a player like Stamkos becomes available, and no team is ever fully ready to shell out that kind of money. The thought of adding Stamkos to a team with P.K. Subban and Carey Price should be enough to persuade Bergevin to pull the trigger.
The Canadiens have enough cap space to lure at least one of the above players. Free agency isn’t going to win a Stanley Cup, however the Habs can’t rely on their current roster to carry out that feat. Bergevin needs to adjust his views on July 1st, or he might not have a team to adjust next season.
Nick Guido is a Montreal Canadiens Contributor for The Hockey Writers. You can Follow him on Twitter @nickguidoTHW for his articles, opinions and general Habs talk.