Complete Guide to the Montreal Canadiens 2014 Offseason
The team fell two wins short of a berth in the Stanley Cup Final. Yet this season, particularly the playoff run, must be viewed as successful.
While players, coaches, management and fans are bound to be disappointed, Montreal being one of the four best teams in the NHL was not expected by many in 2013. Carey Price and P.K. Subban led this team all season, and Subban will be looking to cash in with his pending free agency.
There are likely to be a few changes in Montreal in the offseason. A lot will depend on what management decides to do with a number of free agents.
Here's your complete guide to the Canadiens' 2014 offseason.
Top Players: The unquestioned best players on the team were Carey Price and P.K. Subban. Price was having one of the best years of his career, highlighted by an Olympic gold medal in Sochi, prior to being injured against the Rangers.
Subban played a limited role in Sochi, but he too came home with gold. Max Pacioretty was very good in the regular season, while Lars Eller and Rene Bourque upped their games in the postseason. Rookie Dustin Tokarski was very good under difficult circumstances.
Disappointments: Captain Brian Gionta was mediocre in the regular season and contributed very little offence in the postseason. Bourque was also a nonfactor for much of the regular season. In the playoffs, Thomas Vanek's streaky play was very poor at times. It has likely created some doubt with management about re-signing the star winger in the offseason.
Overall Assessment: Some players were better than expected. Others exceeded hopes. Montreal would have been a different team in front of Price in the playoffs, but Tokarski played beyond his experience and years. Making it to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final has to be considered a great finish to the season.
Biggest Storylines to Follow
Subban's Contract: P.K. Subban could have been signed for a lot less in seasons past, but he is coming off a Norris Trophy win last season along with an excellent 2013-14 campaign. He will be commanding top-five defender money this summer. He has the pedigree now to demand it, and there is no real wiggle room for general manager Marc Bergevin.
Do the Habs Need to Get Bigger: The Habs were one of the quicker teams in the NHL this season. There were moments when they were overmatched physically by both the Bruins and the Rangers. While the lack of size didn't leave them overwhelmed very often, it should be recalled that they were badly outplayed and outshot for long stretches in the Boston series. With a number of smallish forwards, the Habs need to ask themselves if they have to add some size, particularly among the forward group.
Notable Players Hitting Free Agency
Thomas Vanek: Thomas Vanek was great when he was on. Unfortunately, his disappearing act was all too frequent when the Habs needed him the most in the playoffs. His play was so uninspired that he was relegated to the fourth line for a time. The odds are against him returning to Montreal, particularly if his contract demands are unreasonably high.
P.K. Subban: P.K. Subban is going to be an extremely rich man in short order. He had an excellent season following his award-winning 2012-13 campaign. He is going to anchor the club's defence for the foreseeable future.
Others: F Lars Eller, F Dale Weise, D Andrei Markov, D Francis Bouillon, D Douglas Murray and D Mike Weaver.
Top Free-Agent Targets
The Canadiens won't have a lot of cap space after they re-sign Subban and some other restricted free agents. Bergevin's focus is likely to be on his own players instead of other unrestricted free agents. A certain Boston Bruin could draw Bergevin's interest, though.
P.K. Subban: There is no question that he's Bergevin's No. 1 priority. He's developed into one of the top overall defenders in the game.
Andrei Markov: Andrei Markov seemed to slow down as the playoffs wore on, but with some reduced minutes, he should be fine next season. If some youngsters can crack the Montreal lineup, it will ease the burden on Markov
Jarome Iginla: While Vanek is a good option, Iginla would be a better one. Iginla would add other elements to the Canadiens that would be great in another playoff run.
Best Options in the NHL Draft
The Canadiens will be drafting in the final part of the first round. They won't be looking to add an NHL-ready player here. The Habs can afford to be patient with their 2014 draft picks.
Working from Craig's List on TSN, here are some possibilities:
D Josh Jacobs: The 6'2" American is a puck-moving defender who is heading to Michigan State. The Canadiens could afford to let this talented defender develop in due time.
F Alex Tuch: Tuch is another big American kid with talent. He stands over 6'4" and would bring some more size to the forward ranks in a few seasons. He has some offensive flair and may even get bigger in the coming seasons.
C Josh Ho-Sang: The Windsor Spitfire star may slip down into the mid-20s if teams are concerned about his size. He's a shade under 6'0", but he's an exceptional skater with soft hands. He has the skills to be a top-six NHL forward if he continues to develop his offensive game.
Players Who Should Be Put on the Trading Block
Peter Budaj: While Budaj did not do anything that would lead directly to him being traded, Dustin Tokarski has forced general manager Marc Bergevin's hand here. Budaj could not fill the backup role when needed, and Tokarski has proved his worth. Budaj's contract is not prohibitive, and he should be moved if the Habs are motivated to do so.
Travis Moen: The Habs really don't need Moen. Brandon Prust can fill the enforcer role, if they want to employ one. Moen is redundant in many ways. The Habs were great when they outskilled instead of attempting to outmuscle opponents. That being said, the market for Moen is likely quite limited.
Top Trade Targets
It is difficult to predict exactly how much cap space the Canadiens will have. It may not be a lot once the roster is set. There are a couple of options as trade targets, though.
Ryan Kesler: The Vancouver Canucks may be willing to part with Kesler. There has been constant speculation about his status, and he would be a very good fit in Montreal either at centre or on the wing. He's a versatile player and a proven playoff performer.
Extra Draft Picks: Accumulating extra draft picks is always a good organizational move. It allows flexibility in terms of further trades or the ability to stockpile at the minor league level. Poorly performing teams like the Florida Panthers and the Buffalo Sabres may be looking to make deals for some depth players.
Prospects Most Likely to Debut in 2014-15
Dustin Tokarski: The talented goalie more than proved his worth in the playoffs. It wouldn't quite qualify as a debut, but he needs to be introduced as an NHL regular between the pipes.
Sven Andrighetto: He's another small winger in height at 5'10", but he's solid in build. He was a dynamic QMJHL scorer and had a good AHL season in Hamilton with 44 points. He deserves a shot to make his NHL debut.
Projected 2014-15 Depth Chart
- Max Pacioretty—David Desharnais—Brendan Gallagher
- Alex Galchenyuk—Tomas Plekanec—Free-Agent Pickup
- Rene Bourque—Lars Eller—Dale Weise
- Michael Bournival—Daniel Briere—Ryan White
- Extras: Travis Moen
- P.K. Subban—Josh Gorges
- Alexei Emelin—Andrei Markov
- Nathan Beaulieu—Jarred Tinordi
- Extras: Francis Bouillon, Mike Weaver
- Carey Price
- Dustin Tokarski