With the draft and free agency now less than a month away, Montreal’s
management team will be busy putting together their wish lists for who they want
to draft and sign. Where should their priorities be in terms of position?
In order to answer that, their depth needs to be reviewed to see where the
biggest needs are. Let’s start with a closer look at the goaltenders.
Signed: Peter Budaj, Carey Price
Despite his struggles towards the end of this past season, Price rightfully
remains entrenched as the Habs’ starting goalie for years to come.
Obviously he needs to be better in 2013-14 and beyond, hopefully a return to
full health – something he was lacking in 2013 – and a new goalie coach will get
him back on track. If he needs any additional motivation, it is an Olympic
year and Team Canada’s starting goalie role looks to be up for grabs.
As has been the case for the past two years, Peter Budaj is set to be Price’s
backup after inking a two year extension late in the season. Budaj had a
poor start and finish to 2012-13 but was lights out for a large part of the
regular season. He’s still young enough to not be overworked and
overwhelmed if injuries force him into a starting role. He too may be
Olympic bound with Slovakia.
Needs Assessment: Very Low – When they’re on their games, the
Canadiens have one of the better starters and backups in the league.
Although it’s never wise to ignore any possibilities for an upgrade, looking at
NHL goalies can be placed at the bottom of the priority list.
Signed: Mike Condon, Peter Delmas
RFA: Robert Mayer, Dustin Tokarski
If nothing else, there’s some actual depth at the AHL level, something that
we haven’t been able to say for a few years now. Condon recently signed
with the club after finishing up his season with Houston (AHL) on a tryout deal.
That, coupled with his performance at Princeton, should put him ahead of Delmas
on the depth chart. Delmas took a step back in 2012-13 at the ECHL level
and appears to just be organizational filler at this point.
Tokarski, presuming he’s re-signed and clears waivers in October, gives
Hamilton a legitimate above average AHL goalie who is young enough to still have
some upside left in him. Regardless of what happens with the Mayer fiasco
(who signed in the NLA, then backed out, and now may want to go back to the NLA
if his offer from the Habs isn’t substantial), he needs to be the legitimate
starter. Sadly, if Mayer returns, that likely won’t happen since the
organization seems to prefer him for some unknown reason.
Needs Assessment: Relatively Low – A Tokarski-Mayer tandem with Condon
in the wings is actually a decent way to head into next season. If Mayer
goes to the Swiss league, another goalie could stand to be added but Condon
should be ready to be an AHL backup while Tokarski can handle a heavy workload.
This is a much better situation than the Bulldogs were facing at this time last
Well, this one is easy to cover. There aren’t any. There probably
should be, but there aren’t. Trevor Timmins acknowledged last draft that
they had every intention of drafting a goalie but when it came to their
selections, there were skaters highly rated on their list that were dropping.
Needs Assessment: Very High – With six picks in the first three
rounds, there should be no reason why the Habs can’t select a goaltender with
some legitimate NHL upside on June 30th. In a couple of years from now
(when most drafted players will be AHL eligible), there’s a decent chance that
none of the four goalies currently in Hamilton won’t be there anymore.
Given that plus their intentions from last season, I don’t expect to be writing
how there aren’t any unsigned goalie prospects at this time next year.
Part two of this series will focus on the defencemen.