Canadiens Free Agents: Boon or Bust?

Bergevin dips his toes in the free agent pool

After an extremely busy free agent frenzy on July fifth, things have certainly slowed down around the league in the following days. One could say nothing exciting happened for the Habs since the window to sign free agents opened, but that’s hardly the case. Whether or not Marc Bergevin’s moves (or lack thereof) have been of the blockbuster variety, they’ve certainly got the hockey starved fanbase of the Canadiens talking.

To start things off, Bergevin signed former Flyer (and Sabre) Daniel Briere. Briere’s acquisition has for the most part been subject to criticism by just about anybody with an opinion. Any negativity seems to stem from his lack of size as well as his lack of, well, youth. It’s no secret that the Habs are overwhelmed with undersized players who make up for their small stature with grit, determination and the ever popular “character”. I’ve never been a firm believer that you need a huge team to win, but it’s hard to argue that the Stanley Cup can be won with a top six consisting of no more than one or two players allowed to ride the roller coaster.

Something Old

Daniel Briere Canadiens free agent
Daniel Briere will don the CH for the next two years (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

Briere comes to the Canadiens with a 5’10” 179 lb frame at age 48. Okay fine, 48 was the number he wore in Philly, he’s only 35. The fact is, he isn’t exactly on the right side of the prime of his career.

With a lot of young guns ready to play their way onto the roster, it comes as a bit of a surprise that Bergevin would go and recruit a player of Briere’s age let alone his size.

I won’t deny that Briere can help the Habs powerplay and that he’s one of the top playoff performers over the past few years. Marc Bergevin stated early in the month that you need players to get you to the playoffs and players to get you through the playoffs. Briere is the type of player that can help any team get through the playoffs, but he can’t do it himself, the team still lacks that physical presence necessary to keep the opposition at bay.

Enter George Parros

Something New

(Photo: Andy Martin Jr)
George Parros will bring plenty of toughness and facial hair to the Habs in 2013-14(Photo: Andy Martin Jr)

Parros may not be new to the league but he brings something new to Montreal. An established enforcer who can and will drop the gloves for his teammates. No, that is not a knock on Prust and yes, that is a knock on Laraque.

Parros and his epic stache bring the size that fans in Montreal have been calling for. At 6’5″ 228,  George Par-Stachei-os (best I can do on the spot, I’ll keep working on it) will make it tougher for any team to push around the Habs smaller guys, namely Alex Galchenyuk and pesky Brendan Gallagher. The presence of  Parros will also benefit Brandon Prust. At 6’2″ 195 lbs, Prust is hardly a heavyweight. With the parting of Travis Moen a year back, Prust has been solely responsible for protecting the Habs stars.

What’s that? Moen still plays for the Canadiens?… I see. Regardless, Moen hasn’t done much for the Habs in recent memory and so Prust can play the role Moen was brought in for more effectively while Parros can play the role Prust was brought in for more effectively. While nobody in Montreal woud question Prust’s willingness to drop the gloves for anybody on his team, Parros is a much bigger, much more intimidating enforcer who any player would prefer to have on their side of the ice.

With these two moves, it could be argued that the Habs are a better team then they were last year. Briere may be older and smaller than the departed Michael Ryder, but aside from last season, Briere tends to be more consistant than the Newark bound Ryder. Parros will provide the more skilled players the oppurtunity to enjoy a bit more freedom and comfort on the ice.

“I’m Never Finished”

Marc bergevin held a press conference at the end of the day on July first to discuss the days moves. When asked by a reporter if he was finished with his twaeking of the line up Bergevin answered “I’m never finished”. That’s a response everybody in Montreal should be happy with. For those who are opposed to the signings of Briere or Parros (or both) it’s good to know that Bergevin is aware that it’s not quite enough to win. Supporters of his moves thus far should be happy as well as even they should realize that Briere and Parros are not the pieces missing from the Stanley Cup puzzle.

With the absence of  Ryder, the Habs could use a big bodied top six winger. As for defense, hard hitting defenseman Alexei Emelin is out until December leaving a gaping hole in the top four. Jarred Tinordi will likely see plenty of action in the NHL this year but is not ready for the minutes that Emelin plays.

2 thoughts on “Canadiens Free Agents: Boon or Bust?”

  1. Smart article, smarter comments by Steven. I must say that after the pass that Diaz made to almost end Lars Ellers career, having him replace Markov is a stretch. I am hoping that Markov proves to Montreal managment that waiting for his to return from all those knee injuries is worthy of another two year contract. Markov has played great hockey for the Habs & I hope to see if drinking from the cup in a Habs uniform soom.

  2. After reading this article, I found myself agreeing with 2/3 of what was said, yes Briere isn’t the greatest acquisition but still a good one. Yes, Parros fills a need to add size and grit to our bottom 6 because Moen just isn’t getting the job done as required.

    I too, believe this team in its current state is a little bit better than last season. However where the article loses me is in the final 1/3, where more moves are called for. Where a top 6 forward with size is needed, that Tinordi can’t handle 20 – 22 min a game, and where the presumption is given that the team just isn’t upgraded enough to be a contender of any sort.

    There are a few aspects of realism missing here, first one being, radical improvements of a roster are not easy to make in 1 summer. the second one being that our roster is currently log jammed in all reality and objectivity. Where do you put this top 6 forward with size at? We would first need to dump players from the current roster to even make viable space. With a top 6 consisting of Max Pac, Desharnais, Briere, Plekanec, Bourque, Gionta. And the top 9 adds in Eller, Galchenyuk, and Gallagher. Any new acquisition would bump one of those 9 into a 4th line position, which is highly unlikely to happen.

    The real world would suggest, Bergevin is done for now, that this is the team he takes into the season unless a miraculous offer falls on his lap that lets him trade away Desharnais or Gionta with some picks for a player able to produce the same but with size, and my question will always be who the heck is going to do that? Next summer, a guy like Gionta will in all likelihood be let go and his replacement in the top 6 can then be a player of the 6’1 or bigger type. That player could even be a solid Bottom 6 player with size instead, allowing Galchenyuk to move up into the top 6 as a winger with size, either way, size can and will enter the top 6.

    On defense we are also jammed up with current players and players arguably ready for prime time. Suggesting Tinordi can’t handle 20 minutes a game after the playoff and end of the season we all witnessed from the kid would be a bit much in my opinion. He plays the same way as Emelin, he is a huge body, and there is nothing available in free agency that would be a major upgrade over him anyway. And even if we did sign a veteran Free Agent, that just lands Tinordi in the press box, gaining nothing of value, and in December when Emelin comes back we have no place for the Free Agent acquisition or Tinordi. Once again next summer, a choice can be made on defense the same as our forwards, the contracts of Markov and Boullion expire. It would not be a stretch to think Bergevin could let Markov walk, and presume that with another season under his belt Diaz could be ready to fill the Offensive D-man position Markov would leave behind, and quarterback the powerplay with PK for years to come. Tinordi with playing time under his belt this season again, would be able to fill in the position Boullion Leaves behind as a stay at home d-man who cleans up the front of the net and plays mean and nasty defense. That frees up money to keep guys like Subban, Gallagher, Galchenyuk, and Eller around for the foreseeable future, because believe me those contracts are expiring fast too.

    All in all, my point is simply, Bergevin looks like he is taking the approach to improve the team summer after summer, not radically, but consistently, and without jeopardizing our cap situation with risky signings or trades. We need to keep allowing room for the young players to grow and gain experience, and not always hope and pray we acquire a player every summer to fill in every possible spot on the roster even when it is already full. It will already be nearly impossible for any young forwards to crack the line up this year unless there is an injury. Lets not do the same to already capable players like Tinordi on defense too. Bergevin has made the team today, better than the team that finished the last season, and that is without counting the certain progression from players like Galchenyuk, Gallagher, and Eller, which will only add more to the already upgraded roster. Next summer as long as Bergevin makes the team better than the one that finishes this season, we will once again be taking another step forward, and with this type of strategy it will not be long before this team becomes a serious possibility of reaching a cup final.

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