Current-Boston Bruin Jaromir Jagr, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
There are essentially three different tiers of available unrestricted free agents from the Habs’ perspective.
The first tier includes players like current-New Jersey Devil David Clarkson and Boston Bruin Nathan Horton. These are highly coveted forwards who play with an edge and will be pursued by most every team in the league.
As such, chances are bad the Habs, who could very much use their grit and goal scoring, will be able to seriously contend for their services. Devil Patrik Elias might fit into this category as well, but he is 37 and may not be worth the money he’ll end up receiving.
That brings us to the second tier, which includes Jaromir Jagr and Ryane Clowe, essentially players who look like they could be very good fits and can probably be had for cheap, but only because they carry elements of risk (more risk than an Elias).
Jagr, who, by most accounts, would play well alongside fellow Czech Tomas Plekanec on the team’s second line, is 41 and is not the superstar he once was. Clowe is just 31 and is a former 60-point scorer (2010-11), but is coming off a horrible season in which he scored just three goals and has been plagued by injuries in recent history.
The final tier comprises role players like forwards Matt Hendricks of the Washington Capitals and Bryan Bickell of the Chicago Blackhawks. Both would bring size to Montreal (Hendricks is 6’0”, 211 pounds; Bickell is 6’4”, 233 pounds).
Whereas Bickell has displayed more offense (23 points in 48 regular-season games), Hendricks is more proficient in the faceoff circle. With Halpern’s probable departure, a faceoff specialist will probably be needed next season. Hendricks can also probably be had for significantly less money than Bickell.
Considering the cap space the Habs at their disposal, Bergevin has the room to realistically sign one tier-two player and one role player and have some wiggle room left over. That being said, Bergevin has gone on record as saying he believes free agency is overplayed as a tool to turn teams into contenders.
Since the Habs were thought of as Stanley Cup contenders until the start of April and then slumped to a 4-6 record over the team’s last 10 games, it’s conceivable Bergevin follows in his footsteps from last year and signs, if anyone at all, just small pieces to his puzzle.
It may not be the sexiest of approaches. However, bottom-six forward Brandon Prust, who signed a four-year, $10-million deal last summer did end up winning the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy, proving this strategy does have at least some merit.