The Biggest Questions for the Remainder of Montreal Canadiens' 2014 Offseason
The Montreal Canadiens have made a lot of moves since being eliminated from the Eastern Conference Final, but there are still a few questions to be answered for the remainder of the 2014 offseason.
General manager Marc Bergevin has done a good job in reshaping his roster in hopes of putting the club over the top next season. The Habs have gotten bigger up front with the additions of P.A. Parenteau and Manny Malhotra and more mobile on the back end by bringing in Tom Gilbert.
But there are still a few issues to take care of, notably the goalie situation, the lack of depth on right wing and the process of appointing a new captain. Oh, and then there's the P.K. Subban situation.
As the calendar turns to August, training camp is just over a month away. Until then, here are the biggest questions for the remainder of the Montreal Canadiens' 2014 offseason.
All salary-cap and depth-chart information from CapGeek.com.
Subban: Long Term or Arbitration?
The end of July is upon us, and Subban still does not have a new contract. That's worrisome for Montreal Canadiens fans.
There is, of course, certainty that Subban will be signed and ready to go well before training camp. He filed for arbitration, and the hearing will be on August 1.
An arbitration deal, however, will only be for one or two years, which would then lead to him becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Not an ideal situation for the Canadiens or Subban, if you believe what he says in the media.
Obviously I remain adamant on remaining in Montreal and being a Montreal Canadien, and not just for a long time but hopefully for the rest of my career, and be a lifer there.
Subban wants to stay, but obviously he wants to get paid his worth as well. Bergevin has the tough task of figuring out what that worth really is.
Time is running out for Montreal's GM to get Subban signed to a long-term deal. How much time exactly? Click here to view the Subban Arbitration Countdown, brought to you by CTV News Montreal.
The Subban contract situation is the biggest question of the offseason for Montreal, but it will be answered soon—by August 1 at the latest.
The Health of Carey Price
After being knocked out of the Eastern Conference Final in Game 1 with a knee injury, it's fair to wonder how Carey Price's recovery is going as the Canadiens hit the midpoint of their offseason. He is, after all, their best player and one of the best goalies in the world.
Luckily I didn’t need [surgery].I was lucky and unlucky at the same time. If my leg was two inches shorter at the post I wouldn’t have been hurt at all. If it were two inches the other way, I probably would have had to have reconstructive knee surgery.I’m doing OK now. I won’t be skating again until the middle to August so that will be the true test. Right now it feels pretty good.
It sounds as if Price's recovery is on the right track, though even he admits he won't know for sure until he starts skating again.
Price's ability to make a full recovery in time for the start of the regular season is obviously a key to Montreal's offseason. The Habs will need a healthy Price on October 8 to help them get off to a good start for the 2014-15 season.
So far, it sounds like Price will be ready for training camp. But since we won't know for sure until he starts skating, his health remains a question this offseason.
Will a Goalie Be Traded?
The Montreal Canadiens have a crowded depth chart at goaltender, with Price, Peter Budaj, Dustin Tokarski, Joey MacDonald, Mike Condon and Zachary Fucale.
Fucale will most likely head back to Halifax to finish off his junior career, but that still leaves five goalies fighting for four spots in Montreal and Hamilton. Something has to give.
The most likely scenario will see Bergevin trade either Budaj or Tokarski. But which one?
Budaj is a very capable backup who can step in and win games when needed. He's comfortable with his role as a No. 2 and is a leader in the locker room. He has one year remaining on a contract that pays him $1.4 million in 2014-25.
There's also the chance that Budaj wants to leave Montreal after he was snubbed in the playoffs last season. Publicly, he hasn't said anything, but there's a chance he feels that his time in Montreal came to an end when he wasn't given Game 2 of the ECF.
Tokarski, on the other hand, saw his stock skyrocket with a stellar performance against the New York Rangers. He's also just 24 years old and has a very favorable contract for the next two seasons ($550K in 2014-15, $575K in 2015-16).
Bergevin would surely be looking to get more in return for Tokarski than for Budaj. Trading Tokarski now would be a classic sell-high scenario, but it remains to be seen if another team is willing to pay for him and his 13-career NHL games.
Montreal's GM could also be waiting until training camp rolls around to move one of them. That would allow him to evaluate Price's knee and perhaps wait for another team to lose a goalie to injury.
As it stands, there's a logjam in the Canadiens' crease. A trade is likely to happen before the start of the season.
Will Bergevin Add a RW?
Montreal's forward depth chart looks pretty thin down the right side: Brendan Gallagher, P.A. Parenteau and Dale Weise. Three right wingers are certainly not enough to start a season with.
It is possible that Jiri Sekac will also compete for a spot on the right side, but it's hard to determine where he'll line up in Montreal. CapGeek.com lists him as a center, Canadiens.com lists him as a left winger and HockeyDB.com lists him as a right winger.
And even if Sekac does play right wing, he's not a sure bet to make the opening-day roster. So what will the Canadiens do for right wingers?
It's possible that Montreal solves its problem in house by playing someone out of position on the right side to open the season. Brandon Prust, Michael Bournival and Travis Moen are all candidates for that. There's also a very slight possibility of first-round pick Nikita Scherbak cracking the roster out of training camp, but those odds are low.
Bergevin could look to the free-agent market, where a few depth players, such as Devin Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, are still looking for jobs. A signing could happen once he gets Subban under contract and he knows how much cap space he has left to work with.
Or Bergevin could make a trade. Perhaps he'll look for a right winger in return for either Budaj or Tokarski.
The Canadiens remain thin at right wing as August approaches, with just three sure-bet roster players at the position. It remains a question mark during the 2014 offseason.
Who's the Captain?
When Brian Gionta signed with the Buffalo Sabres on July 1, it left the Canadiens without a captain. So naturally, one of the hottest discussion topics among Montreal fans this summer is about who will be the 29th captain in team history.
Last season's alternates were Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov. Gorges was traded to the Sabres, meaning Markov is the only returning letter from the 2013-14 season. He'll surely be considered as the next captain as he embarks on his 14th season with the club.
Tomas Plekanec is another option for captain as the veteran enters his 10th season with the Canadiens. He leads by example on the ice and is surely well-respected in the locker room because of his hard work.
Yet, it seems the Canadiens are undergoing a youth movement. By letting Gionta sign elsewhere and then trading away Gorges and Daniel Briere, a message has been sent to the younger players that the locker room is now theirs.
For that reason, it's quite possible that Subban will be the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens. And why not? He's already the face of the franchise and has established himself as one of the league's best defensemen.
It is interesting to note that Subban has spent a lot of time in Montreal this offseason, representing the franchise at off-ice events like the RBC Canadian Open and the Just for Laughs festival. Perhaps he's sending management a message that he's ready to be the leader of the Canadiens.
There's also the possibility Montreal decides to go without a captain for next season, much like it did in 2009-10 after Saku Koivu left. Montreal has much better candidates this time around, however, making this option less likely.
The next captain of the Montreal Canadiens will continue to be a hot topic around town until one is named before October 8. Markov, Plekanec and Subban are all possibilities to don the "C," with the young Norris Trophy-winning defenseman being the favorite.
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