A full week has come and gone in free agency and while most of the big names have signed, there are still some quality players out there. Here are some UFA’s that could still be of some interest to the Habs.
Kris Russell – Montreal was linked to him early on in free agency although it’s not known if there’s still any interest in him. If they were to add the small shot blocker, they’d have to free up some money first, likely by trading away Alexei Emelin.
Luke Schenn – While he was exposed in Philly when asked to play a bigger role, Schenn is still a competent third pairing physical defenceman. As is the case with Russell though, they’d have to move someone out to be able to afford him.
Nicklas Grossmann/Eric Gryba – If the Habs decide to move Emelin simply to free up some more cap space for help up front, these two bring some similar characteristics to the table in terms of their physical play (and lack of offensive ability). They would be cheap short-term depth replacements on the left side that could be used against the more physical opponents.
Kyle Quincey – Quincey’s contract ($4.25 million) made him someone who was shopped often and thought of as an underachiever but is a mobile puck mover that would complement Greg Pateryn well on the third pairing. He also has spent plenty of time in a top four role, making him a capable candidate to move up if injuries arise. Obviously, as is the case with everyone else on this list, someone – probably Emelin – would have to be moved to make room for Quincey.
Jiri Hudler – The undersized winger had a down year compared to his 2014-15 numbers but still put up 46 points in 72 games. He’s slowing down but still should have another year or two of being a second/third line point producing forward.
Kris Versteeg – Marc Bergevin was rumoured to be interested in him last offseason to the point where a deal was nearly completed by all accounts so it wouldn’t be crazy to think there’s still interest. He’s still capable of playing on a second or third line and giving a team some secondary scoring, an area that the Habs could still use some help with.
Radim Vrbata – The Habs went after him two years ago and just missed out. Since then, he had one good year (2014-15) and one bad year (last season). On a one year deal, he still should bring enough to the table to be a decent secondary option for someone.
Brandon Pirri – One of the more surprising players to go unqualified, Pirri has shown a quality scoring touch in recent years, notching 43 goals in 131 games the last three years, good for a 26 goal pace over 82 games. However, the rest of his game needs some work which is a big reason why he’s still unsigned at this point.
Sam Gagner – Gagner had a rough year with the Flyers where he never really fit in but before that, he hit at least 37 points in the previous eight seasons. Because of his bad year, he’s not going to get a big money long-term deal making him an interesting low risk/medium reward type of signing for a year.
With a 23-man roster, the Habs have just over $2 million in cap space. When you factor in that they like to keep a million or more as a buffer for injury recalls and in-season trades, that only leaves a million or less to spend. However, as any addition would force someone else off the roster, you can add the salary of the forced-out player (like Stefan Matteau and his $612,500 cap hit) into what they can spend. As a result, they have around $1.5 million or so (a bit higher if they’re willing to go with a smaller buffer) to spend on a free agent signing. That should be enough for some of the players on this list but for others like Russell, Hudler, or Vadim Shipachev (assuming his situation ever gets resolved), they would need to make a trade or two to free up enough space to land them.