Since taking over as GM, Marc Bergevin has been steadfast in his opinion that
a team can never have too many defencemen. Prior to both of the trade deadlines
he has overseen, the team has acquired a depth defender, one that has been a
pending UFA (though both later re-signed). Will the Habs add another blueliner
before this trade deadline and if so, who might it be?
Stats are as of games played through February 27th.
Jeff Petry (EDM): Montreal has long been linked to Petry, a physical
shot-blocker that can log big minutes on the right side. Petry has also shown
flashes of having some offensive upside although he has yet to put that part of
his game together with any consistency. Given the dearth of top four blueliners
on the market, the asking price will be considerably high. But, there’s no doubt
that he would be a strong fit on the Canadiens, giving their defence corps
another physical threat.
Stats: 59 GP, 4-11-15, -25 rating, 32 PIMS, 20:57 ATOI
Jan Hejda (COL): His name hasn’t really popped up on too many trade
lists but Hejda is a reliable stay-at-home defenceman. Like many Avs, Hejda
isn’t having the greatest of seasons but in a system with a bit more structure
(and with a shot at going somewhere), I expect he’d fare better with Montreal.
However, as a left hand shot, he’d either have to supplant Alexei Emelin or play
on his off-side which could limit Bergevin’s interest.
Stats: 60 GP, 1-8-9, -8 rating, 32 PIMS, 21:15 ATOI
Andrej Meszaros (BUF): To the surprise of no one, the veteran has
followed up a not-so-good 2013-14 season with another rough one with the Sabres.
I don’t think Montreal would have any interest in him as a regular but I could
see them believing that Meszaros is a better fit in a pinch than Bryan Allen
which could lead to a swap of two crazily overpaid and underachieving blueliners.
Stats: 42 GP, 2-6-8, -8 rating, 30 PIMS, 18:04 ATOI
Zbynek Michalek (ARI): While the reports of the Habs offering Michael
McCarron for the currently-injured d-man seem really far-fetched, it’s highly
likely that Bergevin has interest. Special teams are always crucial in the
postseason and Michalek has long been a dependable penalty killer that can play
top four minutes in a pinch. He’ll carry a sizable price tag in both cap hit and
acquisition cost but he’d certainly help this defence corps.
Stats: 53 GP, 2-6-8, -6 rating, 12 PIMS, 21:05 ATOI
Tyson Strachan (BUF): He seems to make my list on a regular basis at
this time of year. He hits, blocks shots, and is cheap. If Bergevin is content
with the top six but wants to add depth, this is the type of inexpensive
acquisition he should be looking to make, one that adds to their options but
won’t take away from making a bigger splash.
Stats: 31 GP, 0-5-5, -16 rating, 35 PIMS, 19:00 ATOI
Marek Zidlicky (NJ): Montreal’s powerplay has ranged from anemic to
lousy for most of the season. While Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban are capable
quarterbacks, it gets a lot worse when it gets to the second wave. Zidlicky has
shown he can still be a powerplay specialist which should give Michel Therrien
an opportunity to lessen the minutes for Markov and Subban. However, Zidlicky
would need to be very carefully managed in 5-on-5 situations.
Stats: 62 GP, 4-19-23, -8 rating, 42 PIMS, 21:58 ATOI
Players with term
It has long been reported that Bergevin may covet someone who is under
contract beyond this season instead of a rental player. Here are a handful of
options that could fit that bill:
Roman Polak (TOR): The advanced stats aren’t the prettiest for Polak
but Bergevin has shown in the past that he’ll look past those if he believes the
player could be a fit (see Douglas Murray). Polak, like a few others on this
list, is best known for his defensive and physical play, elements that could be
improved on this blueline. With just one year left on his deal, the risk in
adding him is lessened somewhat in that there are no significant long-term
ramifications if he doesn’t pan out.
Stats: 51 GP, 5-4-9, -16 rating, 32 PIMS, 21:09 ATOI
James Wisniewski (CBJ): The Blue Jackets are making him available and
the Habs already have some familiarity with the two-way defenceman. Wisniewski
could slot in as a second pairing defenceman on the right side, solidifying
their top four while providing some help at both ends of the rink. However, with
his cap hit, one that was high enough to scare the Canadiens away from
re-signing him a few years ago, the Habs will have to move a player or two off
the roster to fit him on their payroll.
Stats: 54 GP, 7-21-28, -10 rating, 32 PIMS, 21:23 ATOI
Keith Yandle (ARI): If you believe the reports over the years,
Montreal has had their eye on Yandle for some time. Adding him would give the
team another top pairing defender and allow them to play Markov much more
reasonable minutes. However, the acquisition cost will be very steep. It’s also
possible that the Coyotes will wait until the offseason to move him when more
teams will be willing and able to get involved in the bidding process.
Stats: 62 GP, 4-36-40, -32 rating, 32 PIMS, 23:57 ATOI
Dustin Tokarski hasn’t fared particularly well lately and Mike Condon may not
be quite ready yet to step into the backup role. Accordingly, it wouldn’t be
shocking if Bergevin looked to add more depth at this position or tried to
upgrade the #2 spot. Here are a few names that could be in play:
Dan Ellis (FLA): He hasn’t seen any time with the Panthers this season
but is having a solid season for their AHL affiliate in San Antonio. I doubt the
Habs would view him as a clear upgrade over Tokarski but if they want an
NHL-calibre option to call-up should Tokarski or Carey Price go down, Ellis
would be a nice insurance policy. It’s also worth noting that his contract is
cheap enough that he wouldn’t count against the cap if he remained ‘buried’ in
Stats: (AHL) 35 GP, 22-10-3 record, 2.66 GAA, .906 SV%, 2 SO
Viktor Fasth (EDM): I don’t see any teams showing any sort of
meaningful interest in Tokarski but if there is, it might be Edmonton. If they
do covet Tokarski, they’ll need to send Fasth back. Even if the Oilers don’t
want Montreal’s backup, the Habs may still have minor interest in Fasth. He’s a
pending free agent and could battle for the backup job down the stretch heading
into the postseason.
Stats: 26 GP, 6-15-3 record, 3.41 GAA, .888 SV%, 0 SO
Michal Neuvirth (BUF): With the Sabres expected to sell any pending
free agent they can, Neuvirth is likely to move before the deadline. He’d be a
clear upgrade short-term on Tokarski and would also allow Therrien the freedom
to give Price an extra night off or two to keep him a little more rested heading
into the postseason. Unlike the first two names on this list though, Montreal
may have to part with more than a late pick or fringe prospect to add Neuvirth
to the fold.
Stats: 26 GP, 6-16-3 record, 2.95 GAA, .918 SV%, 0 SO