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. As is the custom, we start with the goalies.
Signed: Al Montoya, Carey Price
There’s not really a whole lot of thinking required here. Price is signed for the upcoming season with the biggest question being whether or not he’ll sign an extension this summer. Regardless of what happens there, the Habs will go into next season with one of the top starters in the league at their disposal once again.
Assuming Montoya isn’t picked up in the expansion draft, he’ll be the first backup to last more than a season since Peter Budaj. He showed some signs last year that he’s capable of handling a bigger workload if Price goes down or they want to give him some rest and he kept Montreal in most of the games he started. As far as backups go, they could do a whole lot worse.
Needs Assessment: Low – The tandem for next season is already set unless Vegas decides that they want Montoya. If that were to happen, the Habs would likely just dip their toes into the free agent market and sign one of the veterans to a one year deal. Either way, there’s not a whole lot to do here.
Signed: Zach Fucale
RFA’s: Charlie Lindgren
AHL Free Agents: Yann Danis
Lindgren had himself a very strong first pro season, earning Rookie of the Year honours with St. John’s. Had it not been for Chris Terry finishing second in league scoring, he’d have been a contender for team MVP as well as he stole quite a few games over the course of the season. Lindgren is eligible for restricted free agency (but can’t be offer sheeted) this summer. There’s no doubt he’ll be qualified and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him follow in the footsteps of Dustin Tokarski and Mike Condon, signing a two year deal that’s two-way in year one and one-way in year two.
Lindgren’s emergence pushed Fucale down a level to the ECHL in order to get him plenty of playing time. Fucale’s regular season performance wasn’t anything special but he picked up his game in time for the playoffs where he was one of the top netminders league-wide. He also had a nice stint internationally at the Spengler Cup. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Fucale back up full-time in the AHL next year to back up Lindgren, especially with Michael McNiven (more on him shortly) set to turn pro.
Danis was brought in to mentor Lindgren and give them reliable goaltending from the number two position. By all accounts he did quite well on the former but his performance on the ice deteriorated as the season went on to the point where Lindgren started to see both sides of the back-to-backs down the stretch. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to have Danis or another veteran around next season but there probably isn’t any room for one as things stand.
Needs Assessment: Very Low – It has been a while since Montreal had three decent prospects all playing at the minor pro level at the same time. That’s expected to be the case for 2017/18 which is a really nice spot to be in. As a result, nothing really needs to be done here.
McNiven had a stellar season with Owen Sound in the OHL, earning Goalie of the Year and First Team All-Star nods. He also played an integral role in them getting to the third round of the playoffs before being dispatched by the eventual champions in Erie. As a result, he’s a player who’s likely drawn some attention not only in the organization but league wide as well. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get the same treatment Fucale did this season by starting out in Brampton of the ECHL next year to maximize his playing time.
Playing time was sparse for Hayden Hawkey in 2015/16, his first campaign at the college level but that certainly wasn’t the case this past season where he played all but four minutes between the pipes. He got off to a bit of a slow start but really picked up his play in the second half of the season and was dominant down the stretch. He’ll return to Providence next year and if he has a repeat performance, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Montreal make a push to sign him a year early.
Needs Assessment: Low – There’s a case to be made that another goalie will need to be drafted soon simply by forecasting the development curves for each prospect. The way it adds up, there will be a vacancy to be filled in the next couple of years in the minors that a junior goalie drafted now could fill. That said, it’s not a huge priority and they can also fill that spot with an undrafted signing (junior or college) when the time comes so it doesn’t really have to be addressed at the draft next month.