Philip Danault was acquired as the centrepiece of the pre-deadline deal that saw Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann move to Chicago. However, despite being a target of GM Marc Bergevin, he could conceivably be on the outside looking in next year.
In his short time with the Habs, Danault had some good moments but didn’t exactly do anything to suggest that he could have top six potential. That falls in line with his previous scouting reports which had him along the lines of being the character player every team can use but has limited offensive upside. That pushes him into a bottom six role which, as everyone knows, is an area that Montreal has plenty of depth to work with.
With the roster as it is now, let’s look ahead to next season. The fourth line looks pretty well established with Paul Byron, Torrey Mitchell, and Brian Flynn. That trio provides some speed and defensive prowess which should give them reasonable minutes. If Bergevin opts to add some grit to that unit (which might not be the worst of ideas given the general lack of grit in the overall forward group), that could force one of those up onto the third line.
As for that third line, it seems somewhat safe to pencil Sven Andrighetto into one of the three spots there. He has to pass through waivers next year (and I suspect he wouldn’t) and he isn’t good enough to crack the top six full time so he either fits here or as the 13th or 14th forward. While many are hoping for the departures of both David Desharnais and Lars Eller, I think it’s likely that at least one of them is back and ideally fits on the third line instead of inside the top six. That’s two out of those three spots filled already.
The third spot is likely to be tightly contested. Daniel Carr played well enough to stake a case for that spot in training camp while Charles Hudon’s second straight strong AHL season will have him in the mix. If either (or both) of Martin Reway and Artturi Lehkonen wind up signing, they’re going to be vying for this spot as well. Conceivably, they could also contest for a top six role but at this stage of the offseason, I’m like many in hoping that a couple of new bodies are brought in to take on the two vacancies there. And then, of course, there’s the possibility of Byron, Mitchell, or Flynn moving up if another fourth line addition is made.
That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for Danault, a player Bergevin stated upon acquiring him that he believes the 23 year old to be part of Montreal’s core moving forward. Maybe he sneaks into that third line spot and maybe he bumps one of fourth liners into the press box. (Given Michel Therrien’s inklings to lean towards veterans over youth though, that may not be as much an option as some may hope.) Perhaps most likely at this stage of the offseason is that Danault projects to be the 13th forward if nothing much changes with the roster between now and then. That’s not a good thing for what was the prized acquisition just a couple of months ago.