There are plenty of free agent forwards available for the Montreal Canadiens to choose from. The difficulty lies in finding a match that won’t overturn the harmony of the club’s dressing room. Marc Bergevin and his staff will be recruiting players that want to play in with the Habs and value a team first perspective on success. With a big raise pending for RFA P.K. Subban and modest cap room available, it’s unlikely Bergevin will make any big splashes on July 1 barring a trade or two to free up some cap room. With Daniel Briere shipped out for P.A. Parenteau, the next likely targets to move include Josh Gorges, Travis Moen, and Rene Bourque.
Top Nine Forwards
RW Jarome Iginla (BOS): If the Habs are looking for an offensive upgrade at the right wing position to replace Captain Brian Gionta, Iginla is their guy. After the Thomas Vanek experiment fizzled in the postseason, the Canadiens won’t have to worry about compete levels with Jarome. The 36-year-old packs scoring, leadership, and a hard-nosed game that would take some pressure off of Brendan Gallagher. After the Habs eliminated his Bruins, Iginla might just consider Montreal his shot at the Cup.
RW Radim Vrbata (PHX): Signing Vrbata would be considered an under the radar
pickup. The Czech put up decent numbers playing with the Phoenix, now Arizona, Coyotes. If he can find chemistry with Tomas Plekanec, it might help spark the latter’s offensive game, which has been tepid since Alex Kovalev’s departure. At 33, Vrbata may be looking for more term than the Canadiens are willing to offer.
LW Matt Moulson (MIN): After suiting up for three teams in 2013-2014, Moulson is looking for some stability. The 30-year-old played his best hockey alongside elite-level talent in John Tavares. Playing behind Max Pacioretty on the LW depth chart, Moulson would have a difficult time reciprocating past 30 goal seasons with the Habs. That said, he may prove to be a complementary scorer with Plekanec and Galchenyuk as his pivot. I wouldn’t break the bank, though.
LW/RW Milan Michalek (OTT): A one-time 30 goal scorer between the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks, Michalek should be considered a complimentary offensive forward. This year’s UFA forward crop is laden with Czech Republic born players. This only bodes well for the Habs if they’re at all interested in playing alongside Plekanec, who captained the Czech national team at the Olympics. I’m lukewarm at the prospect of signing the likes of Michalek and Hemsky for fear that they won’t fit nor thrive within the tight system the Habs have established in the last two years.
RW Ales Hemsky (OTT): Hemsky showcased a rejuvenated game after being traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Ottawa Senators. If the 30-year-old is seeking to maintain employment in Canada, Montreal could be a good fit. There are some questions concerning his compete level, so it is unlikely he tops Bergevin’s acquisition list. Having only eclipsed the 20 goal plateau twice in his career, Hemsky would likely find himself on coach Michel Therrien’s third line often.
LW/RW Mason Raymond (TOR): In what may have been one of the Free Agent steals of 2013, Raymond will be looking for a generous raise over the $1 million dollars he earned last year with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mason has the talent to crack the top six throughout the season, but should be considered a better fit on the third line. An excellent skater, Raymond creates opportunities for himself offensively with his speed. If he can continue his 20 goals pace, the 28-year-old Albertan would be an ideal replacement for Brian Gionta or even Rene Bourque if Bergevin can find a taker via trade or waivers. Behind only Iginla, Mason Raymond would be among my priorities heading into the Free Agent Frenzy if I were the Habs.
Fourth Line Forwards
LW/RW Leo Komarov (KHL): If the Canadiens are looking for a tenacious forward to fill out their depth, the Finnish-Russian Komarov is one the best available. After a short stint with the Maple Leafs, Komarov returned to KHL
where he put up respectable offensive numbers: 12 goals and 34 points in 52
games with Dynamo Moscow. With the Habs not retaining RFA Ryan White and if are able to move out another body like Moen, Komarov would be an affordable option.
C Brian Boyle (NYR): Making room at the centre position could be tricky for the Canadiens, but at 6’7 and a Stanley Cup Final under his belt, Brian Boyle would be worth it. Boyle would complement Weise, Prust and/or Michael Bournival on the Habs fourth line. However, if the former Ranger is seeking third line minutes, don’t expect him to sign on in Montreal.
C Dominic Moore (NYR): With success in a Habs uniform already on his resume, Dominic Moore would be welcomed back as the Canadiens fourth line centre. The recent Bill Masterton Trophy recipient has been through a lot in the last couple of years, but his dedication to the game is clear. Age, given his style of play, isn’t on his side. If he’s looking to cash in on a long-term contract, it won’t be with Montreal.
LW/RW Steve Ott (STL): Ott is another gritty forward that can mix it up and antagonize the best of him. His
tendency to play on the edge can lead to penalty trouble, but the 31-year-old has found more balance in recent years. After toiling away in Buffalo for a few seasons, he was sent to St. Louis where he failed to earn rave reports. This could help make the veteran more affordable. If he’s willing to don the CH, a fresh start may revitalize his career.
LW Daniel Winnik (ANA): If the Canadiens are looking for depth at the LW position, they’ll find it in Winnik. Winnik has been battle tested in the Western Conference over the last few years an could make the jump to the East. Don’t be surprised to see one
of the Habs’ rivals sign the 29-year-old to a fair contract. The only way signing Winnik makes sense for the Habs is if they can find a suitor for Moen.
C Saku Koivu (ANA): Just because. Wouldn’t it be great to see him finish his career in Montreal? With Brian Gionta’s likely departure, maybe we can even give him back his ‘C.’ A guy can dream, right?
There are a number of forwards that didn’t crack this list for various
reasons. The primary reason is that many of these players happen to play the
centre position. With David Desharnais, Plekanec, Lars Eller, and Galchenyuk waiting on the wing (literally), it’s unlikely the Habs will target a centreman unless they plan on moving someone out. So don’t expect Paul Stastny, Brad Richards, David Legwand, or Olli Jokinen to be among GM Marc Bergevin’s targets. It’s far more likely he will concentrate on adding scoring wingers to bolster the Habs scoring depth.
Furthermore, there are a couple of talented ex-Habs among the UFA crop. I don’t expect we’ll see Michael Cammalleri or Mikhail
Grabovski back in a Canadiens uniform. Nor Mike Ribeiro after he was bought out of his contract with the Arizona Coyotes due to “behavioral issues.”