We’re now less than a month away from the draft and free agency. Marc Bergevin and his staff will be assessing their situation to determine their wish lists and as always, we also like to assess their depth at this time of the year. We start with the goalies.
Signed: Carey Price, Dustin Tokarski
Let’s get the easy one out of the way first. Price, Montreal’s franchise player and a finalist for the Hart and Vezina trophies, is signed for three more seasons and is coming off the best year of his career. Barring some sort of offseason injury, it’s safe to pencil him in as the starter next year and for the foreseeable future.
Tokarski’s first full NHL season didn’t go as well as many hoped and expected. On the plus side, he didn’t cost the team too many games but he didn’t steal too many either. At this stage, he is more or less a mediocre backup whose value comes from the fact his cap hit will be cheaper than the league minimum next year.
Needs Assessment: Low: I wouldn’t be shocked if management was pondering trying to upgrade Tokarski. There’s no doubting there are improvements available. However, how much of their cap space are they willing to invest in a position that only is going to play 15-20 games in a season? That money may be needed elsewhere.
Signed: Mike Condon
UFA’s: Joey MacDonald
AHL Free Agents: Franky Palazzese
With Tokarski graduating to the NHL, it was expected that there would be a step back in goal but Condon’s rookie AHL campaign wound up being quite impressive. After starting 2014-15 as the backup, he’ll be pencilled in as the starter in St. John’s next season. He could potentially challenge Tokarski for the #2 role in the NHL but it’s better for his development to play one more full AHL year.
Needs Assessment: Low: We all know Zach Fucale will be in the minors next year (more on him shortly) so there is really only one opening for either a #4 or #5 goalie. If the Habs want Fucale to play as a starter, he may be better suited in ECHL Brampton which means there could be an opening for MacDonald or another veteran backup with the IceCaps. If they want Fucale in the AHL, then Palazzese could be kept or they could sign another undrafted rookie to round out the depth chart.
Having played junior this past year, Fucale is in this section but is surely ticketed for the minors next year. He racked up the wins again in 2014-15 but it’s safe to call his season somewhat disappointing as he didn’t really progress in his development. In fact, there’s a case to be made he regressed a bit. He still should be a big part of the future though.
Hayden Hawkey’s sophomore (and final) USHL season was nowhere near as good as the first. His GAA was a full goal higher than his rookie campaign and he only appeared in 15 games before suffering a serious knee injury in late November that has him with several months of rehab to go as of today. He will be one of several young goalies vying for the #1 job at Providence College next season.
Needs Assessment: Low: I’d suggest there is a need to draft a goalie soon as Hawkey is 3-4 years away from turning pro and there isn’t anyone else between him and Fucale. Having selected goalies the past two years though, they may want to wait a year before picking another one.