Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen.
While few are willing to put their body on the line like Weaver, fewer still are able to bring what defenseman Matt Niskanen brings to the table.
Back on the subject on right-handed shots (which Niskanen has), the lack of one forced Therrien to try and get creative with the second power-play unit. He failed miserably.
With the right-handed P.K. Subban manning the point on the first unit (and science having yet to perfect the cloning process), Therrien ended up giving defensemen like Francis Bouillon and Alexei Emelin time on the second.
In 59 games, Emelin got one power-play goal and two assists while averaging 35 seconds with the man advantage each game. In 52 games Bouillon got a single assist. Admittedly, that’s pretty much on par with his skill set. What isn’t, however, is the one minute, 15 seconds on the power play that Therrien gave him each game. That was third-most on the team.
Regardless of what Therrien was thinking, Bouillon is an unrestricted free agent, and Bergevin is unlikely to re-sign the soon-to-be 39-year-old defenseman, meaning the Habs should in theory be looking for someone to replace him in the lineup. Hopefully, they'll take this opportunity to sign someone who can comfortably play on the right. Surprisingly, there are few options available.
There’s Dan Boyle, who's 38 and has grown ineffective defensively and less effective offensively with age. There’s Sami Salo, who’s two years older (enough said). There’s Stephane Robidas, who’s nursing his second broken leg this year. And there’s Derek Morris, who’s a shell of the defenseman he once was.
At the younger end of the spectrum, you’ve got Matt Greene (31) and Mark Fayne (27), who really wouldn’t fit Montreal’s need for an offensive threat on the back end. Anton Stralman is just 28 but will likely re-sign with the New York Rangers.
Almost by process of elimination, the Habs should land on Niskanen, who is 27 and scored 46 points (10 goals) for the Pittsburgh Penguins this past season. He’s also a plus-39 in his career and can play in all game situations (yes, most notably the power play).
The one downside with Niskanen would be him being in high demand. The Habs would need to pay a premium for his services, and there just might not be enough money to go around with Subban needing a new contract.
A cheaper alternative would be Tom Gilbert, who’s 31 and didn’t embarrass himself playing defense for the Florida Panthers this past season. Granted, that’s pretty hard to do with the Panthers having given up the second-most amount of goals this past season (262), but Gilbert nonetheless played competently at both ends of the ice and cost Florida just $900,000.
Niskanen would no doubt be the sexier signing, but Gilbert might be the more practical choice. Hopefully, the Habs sign one of them, as each would fill the team's most glaring need.