The draft and free agency are quickly approaching. Marc Bergevin and his staff will be putting together their offseason shopping lists and as we like to do at this time of year, we look at what they have at each position. We start with the goalies.
Signed: Mike Condon, Carey Price
UFA’s: Ben Scrivens
I always like to get the easy one out of the way first. Assuming Price is healthy, the Habs should be in much better shape between the pipes than they were in 2015-16. It’s safe to pencil him in as the starter next year (unless that knee injury is still an issue) although it’s fair to wonder if they’ll try to reduce his full season workload a bit compared to his last few full campaigns.
In Condon, Montreal has a bit of a question mark as their backup. He got off to a great start and for a couple of months he was a strong #2. That changed as the season went on as soft goals began to become more and more prevalent. He did, however, play a career high in games played so fatigue may have been a factor. Which Condon will be there next year? The early season one that played quite well or the late season one that was among the NHL’s worst options? Or, perhaps most likely, something in between?
As for Scrivens, he won’t be back. There’s no point in going any deeper on this one.
Needs Assessment: Low/Medium – On the surface, there isn’t really a need here. Price is a workhorse starter and Condon’s at the very least a cost-effective backup with a cap hit at the league minimum. If management is worried about Price’s health or has doubts about Condon moving forward though, they could try to add someone. The question then becomes, how much more should they be willing to spend to get that improved insurance policy?
Signed: Zach Fucale, Charlie Lindgren
AHL Free Agents: Eddie Pasquale
As things stand, the Habs have a bit of a problem between the pipes in the minors for next year. Fortunately, it’s one of those good problems to have.
Fucale was the starter for St. John’s for most of last season and as is often the case with rookie netminders, it was full of ups and downs. Despite the inconsistency, he still should be pencilled in as someone that should still be part of the future plans. It just may take a couple more years for him to be NHL ready. (He still has three years of waiver exemption left so it’s not a huge rush.)
Lindgren will be starting his first pro campaign after playing his third and final college season in 2015-16, one where he was named Goalie of the Year in the NCHC. Bergevin called him one of the best goaltenders available in the college free agent class back in March so you know they will want him to see plenty of ice time next year.
Pasquale was signed to be the fifth string goalie in the organization but wound up being promoted full-time to the IceCaps when Dustin Tokarski was traded. He did a solid job as Fucale’s backup and should have little trouble picking up another minor league deal for next year.
Needs Assessment: Low – The ‘problem’ here is finding ice time for both Fucale and Lindgren as both ideally should face a starters’ workload. They may have to send one to the ECHL for that to happen though. If that happens, it opens up a spot with the AHL team and if not, there’s a need for someone to start in Brampton.
There are a couple of ways this could go, they could add someone on a minor league deal (bringing Pasquale back would make a lot of sense) or a veteran on a two-way NHL contract that becomes the insurance policy for Price and Condon and pushes one of Lindgren or Fucale to the ECHL for playing time. Either way, it’s not a major need but it is something that will have to be addressed this offseason.
Michael McNiven was signed after a strong showing at the rookie camp/tournament and had a decent first season as a starter with Owen Sound of the OHL. He’ll return there next season on a team that should fare a bit better in the standings and then likely turn pro after that.
Hayden Hawkey completed his first college season with Providence in 2015-16. Unfortunately, he seldom got to play as Nick Ellis got the overwhelming majority of the starts. Ellis turned pro at the end of the year, signing with Edmonton which leaves Hawkey in line to pick up a lot more playing time. He’s likely two years away from being pro ready, if not three.
Needs Assessment: Very Low – Between having two quality prospects already in the minors and the staggered arrivals of these two to the pro ranks down the road, the pipeline looks pretty good over the next few years. If they do want to add someone at the draft, it would likely be another draft-and-stash type of prospect, someone they can wait three or more years before signing.