As most of you have probably heard, Jeff Halpern was inked to a one-year, $600,000 deal by the Canadiens this week. Given this recent signing and the proximity of training camp, it seemed like a good time to contribute my two cents about some of the Habs summer acquisitions.
Many seem to view this signing either as a way to take some pressure of Tomas Plekanec or as an insurance policy in case Lars Eller is inadequate in his third
line centre position. Concerning the former opinion, I fail to see how a player who had a grand total of 19 points last year can really be expected to bear much of the offensive burden, although there is no doubt he will be of great assistance on the penalty kill. As for being an insurance policy for Lars Eller, I must also disagree. In our
August 18th mailbag, I expressed concern about shifting Lars Eller to the wing as it would have forced Lapierre, who seemed very comfortable on the flank during the postseason, to take one of the bottom pivot roles. However, with Halpern
in the fold, Jacques Martin can now move Eller around as he pleases without
compromising the bottom centre positions. In short, with this move, the Canadiens have given themselves extra depth in the bottom six while also giving themselves extra options for their top lines. On top of that, Halpern is excellent in the faceoff dot and is a proven leader, having captained both the Washington Capitals and Team USA.
Acquiring Picard adds instant depth to the defensive brigade and avoids a situation where, like last year, the team has to rely on a last minute signing to compensate for injuries. There is no doubt that the Gatineau native is a fluid skater and is quite skilled with the puck. However, he has been known to have issues with his confidence and does not use his sizable frame nearly enough. Furthermore, it is always worrisome when a player has bounced around as much as Picard has, having already played in 5 different organizations. Having said that, considering the time it takes for blueliners to mature and the fact that he is only 25 years old, Picard could prove to be an excellent, under the radar acquisition.
As many of the writers here expressed in the
August 10th mailbag, Alex Auld was not exactly our first choice for the backup role. Nonetheless, the fact remains that he has held down the fort as a starter before, has decent career numbers and knows his role on the team. In the end, perhaps it will be good for Carey Price to not always have someone breathing down his neck.
Dustin Boyd can bring some of the physicality that the likes of Glen Metropolit and Dominic Moore simply did not possess. In addition, having hit the 10-goal plateau twice and being only 24 years of age, the Manitoba native could even match the aforementioned Metropolit’s offensive output from last season. In any case, Boyd is a consistent hard worker and is not likely to cause any waves in the dressing room. Plus, considering that, in a sense, he replaces Sergei Kostitsyn, it is almost like addition-by-addition
and addition-by-subtraction at the same time.
As the key piece in the deal that sent Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis, Lars Eller needs little introduction. Other than Carey Price, the spotlight is likely to shine brightest on the young Danish forward. And, with the bottom two center spots probably filled by Halpern and Boyd, he will likely get the chance to prove his worth as a winger on one of the top two lines. His size, work ethic and skill set make him a sure fire prospect in the eyes of many, but the intense glare of the Montreal fan base and media could be problematic. If he is able to handle the scrutiny, Eller could mature into a slightly lesser version of Anze Kopitar.