Montreal Canadiens Off-Season Update: Jeff Halpern Not in the Plans

Mark Della PostaContributor IIIApril 29, 2011

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 3: Jeff Halpern #15 of the Montreal Canadiens warms up prior to the NHL game against the Florida Panthers on March 3, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Canadiens defeated the Panthers 4-0. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

According to Hockey30, the Montreal Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier informed Jeff Halpern that he would not be offered a new contract for the 2011-2012 season.

This is a curious move for the Habs, considering the events which led to their demise against the Bruins.

It's no secret that the Habs were absolutely brutal in the faceoff dot throughout their first round playoff series. Thomas Plekanec won 43.3 percent of his draws. Lars Eller won 43.1 percent. Scott Gomez was even worse at 40.1 percent. The only centerman on the team whose faceoff percentage was over 50 was Jeff Halpern.

He won 73.2 percent of his faceoffs.

The Habs basically just told the only center on their roster who can win draws on a consistent basis that his services are no longer needed. 

Of course, this move has further implications than just weakening the team's overall faceoff ability. It's also an indication that the team has committed to the youngsters they have at the center position.

In 43 games with the team this season, Desharnais had a very respectable 22 points. He demonstrated blazing speed and loads of offensive talent. The kid has good hands and lots of creativity to go with it.

Lars Eller meanwhile, had a rather difficult start to the season. In his first 20 games with the club, Eller had only one point. Fans were beginning to think that the Habs got hosed in the Halak deal. 

But sure enough, Eller started to play more convincing hockey as the season rolled along. Although he wasn't scoring much, he was creating chances and playing an aggressive forecheck. 

Then he turned it up a notch in the playoffs.

Eller was one of the Habs' best forwards in their first round series. Eller had two points, 18 hits and and five blocked shots. He was extremely persistent on the forecheck and caused problems in the Boston zone throughout the series.

The young Dane proved that he can play.

You can bank on the fact that Eller will be back at center next season, and perhaps with an increased role. He showed some strong defensive abilities in the playoffs and will likely get some extra penalty killing duties in the coming year. He'll also be the first option in case of an injury to the team's top two centers.

I'm less convinced with Desharnais' ability to succeed in a top four center position. With Plekanec, Gomez and Eller occupying the top three offensive center spots, Desharnais will likely be relegated to a defense first role.

Although he was decent on faceoffs in the regular season, at 49.7 percent, I doubt the organization will give such tremendous defensive responsibilities to a second year player who's on the small side.

I simply don't see him matching up to the likes of Crosby, Richards and Stamkos.
What's worse, is that there aren't many options on the free agent market. The only top flight defensive centers available, who are as good or better than Jeff Halpern, are Maxime Talbot, John Madden and Michal Handzus.

If the above mentioned report is true, the Habs are putting themselves in a rather difficult position. If I were Pierre Gauthier, I would think twice before I let Halpern walk. 

For some reason this whole situation reminds me of Dominic Moore. 

You know, the guy they gave up a second-round pick for and who provided the defensive abilities the team lacked for years. Also the same guy they let walk in the off-season and then proceeded to score 18 goals with the Lightning this year.

MONTREAL, CANADA - APRIL 18:  Lars Eller #81 of the Montreal Canadiens turns up ice with the puck while being pursued by Daniel Paille #20 of the Boston Bruins in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
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