There have been rumblings since the start of free agency that the Habs likely
would be looking to add another defenceman to their roster. As we sit
three weeks into free agency, there are still some intriguing options out there
that could help an NHL club. The Bulldogs also need to add some blueline
depth; there’s a chance Montreal could look to improve their depth that way.
Here are some of the more prominent names available.
Chris Campoli – OTT/CHI: The Hawks rightly walked away from a $2.5
million award via arbitration but that isn’t to say Campoli doesn’t have his
strengths. He’s a decent skater with some offensive upside and was able to
log somewhat notable minutes when he was with Ottawa last season.
Scott Hannan – COL/WSH: The last time Hannan was unrestricted,
Montreal was a serious bidder for his services. Though you’ll rarely find
him on the scoresheet, he still plays well in his own end and still plays with a
physical edge at times. I’d have to believe that the main reason he isn’t
signed is that he’s looking for term (he is 32 currently); if the Habs want a
one year guy, they may want to look elsewhere.
Jack Hillen – NYI: I was a little surprised he went unqualified from
the Isles. His offensive numbers have been respectable in two years on the
Island and while he isn’t going to win a Norris for his defensive play, it’s not
terrible either. At 25, there could be a little upside left.
Bryan McCabe – FLA/NYR: He’s not the 20+ minute player he once was but
he still has a good shot from the point and he still hits. Both are
elements the Habs could use. He’s coming off a big ticket deal so you have
to wonder how much of a pay cut he’d be willing to take even though he’s 36.
Brent Sopel – ATL/MTL: As much as he didn’t play all that well when he
joined the Habs, he wasn’t all that bad either. He played like a competent
6th defenceman while his willingness to block shots proved to be useful in
Jacques Martin’s system. He also indicated he’d want to return, which is
notable given his family situation (they reside full time in Chicago regardless
of where he plays).
Jeff Woywitka – DAL: Woywitka doesn’t have a lot of upside to his
game, he just plays a safe game in his own end. He was also one of Dallas’
more prominent shot blockers, an element we know is important on the Habs.
There’s a chance he could go in the category you’ll soon see below but I think
someone will give him an NHL deal.
Other options: Steve Eminger (NYR), Karlis Skrastins (DAL), Anton
Even though Montreal has seemingly drafted a boatload of defencemen recently,
they only have six defencemen under contract beyond those that will/should start
with the Habs. (Diaz, Henry, Mitera, Nash, St. Denis, and Stejskal if
you’re wondering.) Last year, they signed Alexandre Picard to a two-way
deal, a player who had NHL experience but also would be able and willing to
start out in the minors. Here are some of the players who could fit that
David Hale – OTT: He has bounced around in recent years (four
organizations in as many years) but can still play a physical game. He
started off last season in the minors but still managed to play in 25 NHL
contests. He would be a useful defensive defenceman with the Bulldogs to
start and given his physical style, could be handy when the Habs play some of
the tougher teams.
Jordan Hendry – CHI: He won the Stanley Cup a couple years back but
was nothing more than an afterthought on their roster last season. If he
wants another NHL shot, he’ll likely need to start in the minors and work his
way up, something he did with Chicago in that Cup year.
Paul Mara – MTL: This idea was floated on the
HW Forum earlier and there is some merit to it. The Habs obviously
still value him having dealt for him last year but at this stage, he’s not an
every game player. If he’s willing to agree to a two-way deal, this is a
match made in heaven.
Mathieu Roy – TB: He was primarily an AHL’er last season but still got
a few games in with the Lightning. On the farm, he can be an offensive
contributor, another area the Bulldogs lack having lost Mathieu Carle and Kyle
Klubertanz. Playing closer to home could also be enticing at this stage of
Danny Syvret – ANA/PHI: He has held out for one-way deals in the past
but just hasn’t gotten them. When he has been in the AHL in recent years,
he has been a dominating defenceman on the scoresheet. He also has seen
NHL action in five of his six pro years.
Tyler Sloan – WSH: He was the whipping boy for a lot of Washington
fans as he was overused with the Caps. He has good size and is passable as
a 6th defenceman in the NHL but would be particularly useful as a minute eater
with the Bulldogs. His contract was bought out by Washington which
suggests to me he could be willing to take a two-way deal (he’d still get half
of what his salary was supposed to be).
Other options: Shawn Belle (EDM/COL), Peter Harrold (LA), Ray Macias