How Offseason Additions and Departures Will Affect Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens roster has seen a fair number of changes so far in the 2014 offseason, and each arrival and departure will affect the team in one way or another.
General manager Marc Bergevin opted not to break the bank on any big-name free agents this summer. He did, however, make some depth signings with guys such as Tom Gilbert and Manny Malhotra. He also made a key trade when he acquired P.A. Parenteau.
He did not let his feelings get in the way of smart business moves, as evidenced by the departures of Brian Gionta, Daniel Briere and Josh Gorges.
The Canadiens, a team that came within two wins of the Stanley Cup Final, will look a bit different next season. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Here's how each offseason arrival and departure will affect the Montreal Canadiens in 2014-15.
Addition: P.A. Parenteau
Now that most of the big-name free agents have signed, it appears as if Parenteau is Montreal's biggest acquisition of the 2014 offseason.
The 31-year-old native of Hull, Quebec, comes to Montreal with 73 goals and 132 assists in 291 career games. He made his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2006-07 and has also played with the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche.
Parenteau immediately slides into a top-six, right-wing role with the Canadiens. Assuming Brendan Gallagher keeps his first-line spot, Parenteau should get second-line minutes from the get-go in 2014-15.
He basically replaces Brian Gionta, meaning that he is an offensive upgrade for the Canadiens. At 35 years old, the aging Gionta has basically lost his offensive game and is much more suited for a third-line role. Parenteau, however, can still score, and he'll be counted on for points next season.
Departure: Daniel Briere
One year after he was Montreal's key offseason acquisition, Briere was shipped off to Colorado. His time in Montreal did not work out the way everyone envisioned it would.
The Canadiens hoped Briere would reignite his offensive touch in Montreal, but unfortunately, it appears his best days are behind him. The 36-year-old scored just 25 points (13 G, 12 A) in 69 regular-season games last season. He added seven playoff points in 16 games.
Briere just couldn't find a groove in Montreal. He was constantly bounced around from line to line in hopes of finding him some chemistry, but nothing worked. At times, his play was so bad that he found himself in the press box as a healthy scratch.
His departure shouldn't affect the Canadiens negatively. They received an offensive upgrade in return (Parenteau), and Briere's third- and fourth-line minutes are better suited for different style players such as Malhotra, Brandon Prust and Dale Weise.
Addition: Tom Gilbert
Bergevin signed veteran defenseman Tom Gilbert to a two-year contract just minutes after free agency began on July 1. The 31-year-old has 520 career regular-season games, but how does he fit in with the Habs?
Gilbert is a solid puck mover with decent offensive abilities (204 career points). He also becomes the third right-handed defenseman on the Canadiens roster, along with P.K. Subban and Mike Weaver. Both of these points positively affect the Canadiens.
First, the Canadiens finally have someone who can play on the back end of the No. 2 power play. Gilbert will team up with Nathan Beaulieu to form a second offensive pairing, something the Habs were lacking last season.
Gilbert's presence will also mean that Andrei Markov and Subban won't need to play the full two minutes of a power play. This should be especially beneficial for the 35-year-old Markov and his aging body.
Second, Gilbert's arrival means that Alexei Emelin can move back to his natural left-defenseman position. Emelin has been playing out of position on the right side for the past couple of seasons. A move back to his natural side should benefit the young Russian.
Departure: Josh Gorges
Gorges being sent to the Buffalo Sabres came as a shock to Canadiens fans. He was popular with the fans, played hard every night and was a pretty solid defender. He certainly would have been considered to be Montreal's next captain.
But in the end, Bergevin decided that his $3.9 million contract was just too much. So off he went for a second-round pick. How does his loss affect the Canadiens?
Well, on the ice, the Habs already have him replaced, at least at even strength. After finalizing the trade, Bergevin quickly signed Gilbert and re-signed Weaver. Emelin should slide over to the left side to take Gorges spot as the second-pairing, left-side defenseman.
His penalty-killing minutes will be the hardest to fill. Gorges led the team in that category last season, averaging three minutes, 21 seconds a night. A combination of Subban and Gilbert will most likely be called upon to eat up those minutes.
Off the ice, the Habs lose veteran leadership in the dressing room. Gorges was one of the most vocal guys on the team, as anyone who has watched 24CH knows. He was also good with the younger players, even allowing Gallagher to live with him over the past two years.
With the departure of Gorges, Briere and Gionta, the Canadiens have lost a lot of leadership this offseason. It's time for guys such as Subban, Gallagher and Max Pacioretty to step in and take control of the dressing room.
Addition: Manny Malhotra
Bergevin moved quickly to get Malhotra signed to a one-year contract on July 1. He'll receive $850,000 in 2014-15.
With the departure of Briere and Ryan White, Montreal had a bit of a hole at center. So instead of asking Prust or Michael Bournival to play in the middle, it signed the veteran Malhotra.
His role with the Canadiens is quite easy to predict: He'll be asked to center the fourth line, win faceoffs and kill penalties.
In 2013-14, Malhotra had a very impressive 59.4 percent faceoff win percentage. He'll be asked to take a lot of key faceoffs late in games next season.
Malhotra also averaged 1:38 in short-handed ice time last season in Carolina. He will step right in and fill the 1:36 of short-handed ice time vacated by Gionta's departure.
Departure: Brian Gionta
The Montreal Canadiens captain has moved on, cashing in on a three-year, $12.75 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres. It's a hefty contract for a 35-year-old with rapidly declining offensive numbers, but the Sabres had to reach the cap floor and were happy to overpay for his veteran leadership.
It's pretty obvious how his departure affects the Habs. The team has lost its captain of four years and all the leadership that comes with it. That's not something you just replace overnight.
Perhaps newcomers Gilbert and Malhotra will step right into a leadership role. Their presence should help the transition, but with the departures of Gionta and Gorges, it almost feels like a changing of the guards in Montreal.
It's time for the younger generation to step up and take charge of the Canadiens. Subban and Pacioretty are the prime candidates for expanded leadership roles.
On the ice, Tomas Plekanec loses his right winger. Parenteau will likely get the first crack at replacing him.
The Habs also lose a solid defensive player and penalty-killer, and as mentioned earlier, it will be Malhotra's job to fill that void.
Arrival: Jiri Sekac
Jiri Sekac is a new name in the NHL next season, as he signed his entry-level contract with the Canadiens on July 1. He arrives in North America after having played in the KHL since 2011-12.
The 22-year-old has a solid body frame at 6'2", 174 pounds. He uses his size to his advantage but also has some serious skill, as witnessed in Simon Ledsham's video from the 2014 Habs Development Camp, via Habs Eyes on the Prize.
Playing on the right side will drastically improve his chances of making the Canadiens next season. The current Habs roster has just three right wingers in Gallagher, Parenteau and Dale Weise. The battle for the open spot on the right side will certainly include Sekac.
It's tough to know what to expect from a 22-year-old coming to play his first professional hockey in North America. His size and the fact that he's been playing in the KHL over the past three years will both help.
The Canadiens have a hole to fill on the right side, and it could very well be Sekac on the opening-night roster. If he does get sent to Hamilton to start the season, it won't be long until he's called up to Montreal.
Bergevin wanted to make the Habs tougher after the 2013 playoff loss to the Ottawa Senators in which his team got physically outplayed. His quick fix was to trade for George Parros. It didn't work out so well.
Parros is simply not a fit on a team that wins with speed and skill. He leaves Montreal as an unrestricted free agent after playing in just 22 games and posting 85 penalty minutes.
His only role in Montreal was to fight. Weise, Prust and Travis Moen will drop the gloves in 2014-15. His departure does not affect the Canadiens roster.
Douglas Murray leaves Montreal after just one season. He finished a minus-12 in 53 games played.
He was in and out of the lineup all season, acting as the left-side defenseman on the third pairing when the Canadiens played a physical opponent.
The Habs will not miss his slow feet or his lack of offensive skill. His physical presence did come in handy against teams such as the Boston Bruins, however, and it will be up to guys such as Emelin and Jarred Tinordi to fill that void.
The 38-year-old Francis Bouillon is an unrestricted free agent whose time is likely up in Montreal. He appeared in 52 regular-season games and nine playoff games in 2013-14.
Bouillon was nothing more than a depth defenseman for the Habs, filling in holes on the back end when needed. Assuming the Canadiens don't sign anyone else this offseason, it'll be up to Tinordi, Beaulieu and perhaps Greg Pateryn to replace him.
Ryan White leaves the only team he has played for at the NHL level after five seasons. He's an unrestricted free agent and has yet to catch on with another squad.
White was in and out of the lineup for most of his NHL career. When he was on the ice, he played limited minutes as the fourth-line center but will mostly be remembered for taking questionable penalties.