Even though the Habs have a fair amount of talent at centre, it is a position
that many are hoping that changes will be made this offseason, particularly to try
to make room for Alex Galchenyuk to go back to his natural role. Those
fans may get their way, but the changes may come from adding to the Bulldogs and
supplementing their unsigned prospect core as the depth there is particularly
As quite a few forwards in the organization can play in multiple spots, their
positions for the purpose of this series will be based on the position listed
on our depth
Signed: Daniel Briere, David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec
RFA: Lars Eller, Ryan White
There’s no denying that the three centres under contract have talent.
They also have flaws and it seems like many want to focus on those instead of
strengths. Plekanec may not be deployed as the top centre offensively but
he is their best. His contract is reasonable and he’s the best defensive
pivot of the bunch. Desharnais can play well with Pacioretty and as long
as the latter can produce 30+ goals, there should be a spot for Desharnais in
the lineup. Briere doesn’t seem to have the trust of the coaching staff so
he will likely once again simply be fighting to stay in the lineup next year.
Eller is an interesting case for the Habs. He was great in the playoffs
and many are using that as an argument to move Plekanec, suggesting that Eller
can take his role. Does 17 good postseason games trump 77 not-so-good
ones? Coming off a bridge deal also opens up a wide variety of contract
options. If UFA years get bought out, the cap hit will go up in a hurry.
White should receive a qualifying offer but his play last year warrants nothing
more than the automatic 5% raise that the offer would provide.
Needs Assessment: Low – As a group, these five players are a decent
core of centres so there isn’t a major need here compared to trying to fill some
of the other positions. There are a lot of question marks, however.
Can Briere be moved? Do they want to accommodate Galchenyuk and if so, who
moves to open up the spot? Depending on the answers to those, there could
be some changes made at this position.
Signed: Gabriel Dumont
RFA: Robbie Czarnik, Joonas Nattinen
UFA: Martin St. Pierre
If you’re cringing after reading that, I don’t blame you. Dumont is a
nice player in a 2/3 role and given his lack of offensive upside and size, he
should be able to get through waivers somewhat easily again next year.
It’s all downhill after that though. St. Pierre was a major disappointment
after being brought in to be a legitimate top liner. Czarnik hardly played
after being acquired and he’ll almost assuredly go unqualified while Nattinen
has already signed in Sweden.
Needs Assessment: Medium – If de la Rose (who will be discussed
shortly) goes to Hamilton, they’ll at least have a second centre. They’ll
need to either bring back St. Pierre or replace him with another front line type
of player. After that, they could potentially get away with giving out a
couple of AHL deals to fill out the rest of that position, though the overall
depth would still be rather poor. Maxime Macenauer played relatively well
for the Bulldogs last year and has earned another minor league pact, he could be
a fit for one of those AHL contracts.
After surprisingly letting Brady Vail walk, the depth here is getting thin.
The list is headed up by Jacob de la Rose who will likely start in Hamilton next
year although as is always the case with European prospects, there’s always a
chance he plays another year in Sweden with Montreal’s blessing. He’s a
legitimate top-nine prospect with good size and two-way skills. Jeremy
Gregoire, a late pick in 2013, is rising up the ranks but has another junior
season ahead of him and will likely be a bottom-six player at the next level.
After those two, there’s next to nothing, however. Andreas Engqvist is
entering the final year of his KHL deal and if he plays well, he could
potentially be a late-season add for Montreal. Considering the fact that
he struggled in 2013-14 though, that’s not likely to happen. Michael Cichy
is still technically in the system but barring a shocking development, he’ll be
Needs Assessment: Medium – The two prospects in the system (de la Rose
and Gregoire) are both quality ones, though neither project as high-end players
down the road. With the Habs having some young, talented centres on the
team, that’s not necessarily a big issue. That said, the depth is weak and
given the fact that Montreal often converts centre prospects to the wing, it’s
certainly a possibility that multiple centres are picked come draft time.