Given the recent developments of the Montréal Canadiens and the effort Marc Bergevin seems to finally be putting in to make the team more well-rounded, some of the criticism of the team needs to be reconsidered. Nevertheless, there are areas that still need to be addressed in order for the Habs to contend in 2020-21.
Add Torey Krug
An unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of this season, Torey Krug would fit perfectly into what Montréal’s looking for in a defenseman and would serve to complement the addition of Joel Edmundson. Krug remains one of the more solid d-men in the Eastern Conference. Although geared more toward offence (and often gets more power-play time because of this), his consistency should intrigue the Canadiens because he can give them between 20 and 30 minutes of ice time and can be slotted anywhere from the first to the third pair, depending on need.
With a $5 million cap hit last season and little talk of an extension with the Boston Bruins, signing him would definitely further balance the defence corps, as he is a good mixture of an offensive and defensive defenseman. While we wait to see what Alexander Romanov will be, Krug is a solid option.
Trade for Cédric Paquette
There have been rumblings about this one for a while. A few months ago, I came across a post that makes a good point on this one. The Tampa Bay Lightning booked their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final and Paquette’s largely been quiet most of the playoffs; he’s only had two assists and a minus-two throughout the playoffs so far, and has largely been overshadowed by the emergence of Brayden Point and Blake Coleman.
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If Jesperi Kotkaniemi develops according to his newfound success in the playoffs, Paquette could serve the Canadiens well on the third line, as he can play as a centre or a winger. Plus, Nick Suzuki could then move between the second and third lines, and the Canadiens could finally shake up the lines if needed.
Victor Mete emerges as the ideal trade candidate for Paquette. His tendency for offense fits Lightning head coach Jon Cooper’s scheme much better and would help Tampa, who may lose Mikhail Sergachev, a restricted free agent. Paquette’s another French-Canadian too, and Montréal would probably like one after losing out on Alexis Lafranière.
Lose One of or Both Jordan Weal & Dale Weise
Given that both are UFAs, this is easy. Dale Weise and Jordan Weal had a combined cap hit of nearly $4 million, which would, at minimum, match the current contract of a player like Tyler Toffoli, who was considered to be a rental for the Vancouver Canucks. Weal hasn’t scored double-digit goals since 2016-17 with the American Hockey League’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, has yet to play a full NHL season, and has a career total of 32 NHL goals. Weise’s numbers are slightly more respectable, but not nearly consistent enough to warrant a regular roster spot.
Keep Cayden Primeau in Laval
Now that Bergevin has traded for a capable, NHL-ready backup goalie in Jake Allen, there’s no longer a need to rush Cayden Primeau to the NHL and risk another Dustin Tokarski-like disaster. Allen’s presence should allow Primeau to further develop in the minor leagues. Allen’s contract is only good for one more season, which should coincide perfectly with the development time Primeau needs.
Fire Claude Julien and Hire Guy Boucher
I will say this: Claude Julien is an excellent NHL coach. A Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011, a Presidents’ Trophy in 2012, and another Cup Final in 2013. He knows what it takes to win. That being said, he won with a team more well-known for toughness and grit than finesse and skill.
While he was immediately successful when the Canadiens hired him for the first time back in 2003-04, that team was much more rough-and-tumble than the current roster. Now, the Canadiens are built for the modern game with speed and skill triumphing over the traditional ‘lunch pail’ aesthetic. The Canadiens should recognize this and hire somebody like Guy Boucher, a coach with proven ability to balance the two.
In Tampa Bay, he oversaw the maturation of Steven Stamkos, who, when healthy, is now one of the league’s most consistent scorers. He also created the 1-3-1 defensive system, a bulwark which led them to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 2011. With the Ottawa Senators, he turned the team around while absolutely unleashing Erik Karlsson and turning Jean-Gabriel Pageau into a fantastic two-way player. It stands to reason that he could do the same with the new defence corps and forwards like Kotkaniemi.
The Canadiens have already started to improve. A few more changes and they’ll be well on their way to success and becoming a modern version of the glorieux.