At this time last year, right wing was considered the weakest of Montreal’s
three forward positions in terms of depth. After another season has gone
by, this remains the case at both the NHL and prospect levels. As a
result, Marc Bergevin may be spending quite a bit of time this offseason trying
to shore up this position, both in terms of talent and depth.
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: Brendan Gallagher, Dale Weise
UFA: Brian Gionta, George Parros, Thomas Vanek
Gallagher followed up a strong rookie season in 2013 with a good sophomore
campaign and should be a top six winger heading into 2014-15. The Habs
will be able to sign him to an extension starting in July although given his
size and playing style, they may opt to be conservative and wait until next
offseason to take care of that. Weise was recently locked up for the next
two years and while he was a pleasant surprise upon being acquired from
Vancouver, he’s a fourth liner at best. If he’s playing a regular third
line role, Montreal is in trouble.
In terms of UFA’s, Vanek’s imminent departure will be difficult to replace as
he’s more or less the top free agent on the market despite a so-so showing in
the playoffs. Gionta may be back before all is said and done as talks
continue but he ideally isn’t a top six forward anymore either. At his
age, he’s best off playing a two-way role on a third line. Parros was a
non-factor throughout the season whether he was injured or healthy. He
won’t be back.
Needs Assessment: High – Regardless of what happens with their pending
UFA’s, at least one top six right winger is required and if Gionta leaves, then
a third line RW is also required. Rene Bourque could potentially fill one
of those voids if they acquire a left winger during the summer as he can play
both wings. They also may opt to replace Parros although with the current
depth on the left side, it’s more likely that the 13th forward comes from that
side and not the right.
Signed: Sven Andrighetto, Patrick Holland, Jack Nevins, Christian
Of the three forward positions for the Bulldogs, this is the one that
actually has somewhat acceptable depth heading into the summer.
Andrighetto had a nice rookie season and ideally will be able to improve on that
in his second year. However, sophomore slumps have been an issue under
this coaching staff. Holland followed up a strong rookie year with an
abysmal second season, one that saw him made a healthy scratch on several
occasions. Thomas was expected to be an offensive threat after coming over
from the Rangers’ farm system but struggled with consistency all year long.
Nevins could make the team as a fourth line tough guy or start at ECHL Wheeling.
Needs Assessment: Low – Ideally a top line veteran could be added but
if not, Andrighetto and Thomas as the top two wingers isn’t a terrible situation
to be in. Holland is one of the big wildcards; if he can re-discover his
form from his rookie year, he’d give the Bulldogs some firepower from the bottom
six which simply hasn’t existed lately. If not though, he’ll struggle to
get in the lineup and there will be a hole on that third line.
If nothing else, Bergevin and his staff tried to improve the talent in this
area, using a first and a second rounder from the last draft on right wingers.
Michael McCarron fits the Habs’ size needs but after a disappointing first
season, there are legitimate questions as to what type of role he’ll inevitably
hold in the NHL. Right now, a bottom six role is likely. Artturi
Lehkonen has lots of offensive potential but is certainly on the smallish side
with concussion concerns. He’ll spend the next two years in Sweden at the
very least. Maxim Trunev is still around since there’s no transfer
agreement with the KHL but I don’t think the Habs would sign him now even if he
wanted to come to North America.
Needs Assessment: Medium – The two actual prospects that they have
both have some NHL potential which is a start and a bit better than what was in
the cupboards last season. There’s a lack of depth here that could be
problematic though so it wouldn’t be surprising to see another player or two
added via trade or the draft this offseason.