If there’s one forward position that doesn’t have many questions heading into the summer for the Habs, it’s the right wing. The same, however, can’t be said for their prospect base at that position. Our depth series concludes with a look at the right wing.
Players are listed in the league that they played the most games, not necessarily the one they finished in. Alternative positions are listed in parentheses.
Signed: Brendan Gallagher, P-A Parenteau, Devante Smith-Pelly, Dale Weise
RFA’s: Brian Flynn
Gallagher had his third straight career year in 2014-15 and earned himself a nice new six year contract extension in the process. It’s safe to pencil him in as part of long-term core moving forward. That can’t be said for the others on this list though.
Parenteau struggled mightily, putting up comparable production to Daniel Briere a season before and that’s not what anyone was expecting from him. However, he is still the only other right winger who has had any sort of offensive success in their career which makes him a candidate for a bounce back season if he’s still around.
Weise and Smith-Pelly are both players who at times were miscast as top six players which they’re clearly not. But, both are quality bottom six wingers who play with a physical edge and possess a bit of a scoring touch at times. They should slot in nicely as third and fourth liners if there aren’t any changes made on the right side this offseason.
Needs Assessment: Low: There really are only two decisions to be made here. One is whether they should re-sign Flynn for depth. That seems likely to happen. The other is what to do with Parenteau. He’s not an ideal top six option for this team but he doesn’t carry much trade value either. Do they bite the bullet and hold on to him for one more year or do they consider doing what they did with Briere all over again? Could they move him for someone with a longer contract but would be a better fit overall?
Signed: Sven Andrighetto, Stefan Fournier
RFA’s: Christian Thomas
AHL Free Agents: None
Andrighetto followed up a strong rookie season with a decent second year although he didn’t take any real step forward in terms of carrying Hamilton’s offence. He also fared reasonably well in a twelve game stint with the Canadiens and is likely part of the plans moving forward. The fact that Andrighetto is waiver exempt may very well work against him in terms of trying to make the team in training camp though.
Thomas had yet another poor season with the Bulldogs, recording just 22 points in 52 games. For an offensive player in this third year, that’s not good enough. He too had a stint with the Canadiens (18 games) and held his own most nights. Although his possession stats were strong, I’m not sure the old eyeball test will be as positive when it comes to Montreal’s management. That, plus the fact Thomas must clear waivers in September, makes him a possible candidate to be dealt as it’s iffy as to whether or not he’d pass through waivers to get to St. John’s next year.
It’s safe to toss Fournier into bust territory. Through two pro seasons, he has yet to establish himself as even a fourth liner in the AHL. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Marc Bergevin try to peddle him in any move simply to free up a spot on the 50-man contract limit. If Fournier’s still around, he’ll likely be ECHL-bound. Recent college graduate Brandon McNally has already signed a minor league deal with the IceCaps for next season and will probably start on the fourth line as things stand.
Needs Assessment: Low: Unless Michael McCarron is used at the wing, there’s likely an opening in a top nine role on the right side to start next season. Andrighetto likely will be on the top line and Nikita Scherbak (more on him momentarily) on another of the top three lines. But someone has to replace Thomas. At this stage, I’d be inclined to guess that his replacement will be on an AHL deal.
The Habs had two right wingers outside the NHL/AHL last season and they’re a tale of two extremes. On the good side, there’s Scherbak who had a good year with Everett and prominently figures in Montreal’s plans moving forward as one of the few top six prospects in the system.
At the other end of the spectrum is Maxim Trunev. Yes, he’s still a prospect as a result of the fact there’s no transfer agreement between the NHL and Russia. However, he’s not much of a prospect. Trunev plays less and less each year in the KHL and produces less and less as a result. Even if he wanted to cross the pond, I don’t think the Canadiens would have any interest in signing him.
Needs Assessment: Medium: With Scherbak heading to the pros next year, there isn’t anyone in the system at this position (well, anyone of consequence at least). Having no real junior/college/international prospects at a forward position isn’t an ideal situation to head into any season with.