While the signings of Peter Holland and Byron Froese have provided some hopes for a stronger offence for Montreal’s new affiliate in Laval, the enthusiasm may actually be a bit premature.
Assuming both players clear waivers (Froese should while Holland’s case isn’t as guaranteed), the two would undoubtedly provide a strong one-two punch down the middle, a great foundation to start. Nikita Scherbak should take another step forward after an improved second season. Add in Chris Terry (also pending waivers) who was second in league scoring last season and things are looking up, right?
If you look no further than that, the answer is yes. Dig a little deeper though and there are some significant concerns, especially when it comes to the depth department.
Charles Hudon has to go through waivers from here on out. While he has yet to receive much of an NHL look, he’s expected to get one to start next season and if he doesn’t make it, it would appear likely that they’d try to trade him for something rather than risk losing him for nothing via the waiver wire. That’s one prominent scorer that won’t be back.
Jacob de la Rose wasn’t a major scorer but filled a top six role for most of the year. He too needs waivers and the organization is high on him even if there are questions as to his overall upside. He’s expected to get a long look at camp and like Hudon, if he doesn’t make it, the likelier scenario is them trying to get something via trade instead of putting him on waivers where there’s a good chance he’d get picked up. Accordingly, he probably won’t be back in the AHL either.
Then there’s Daniel Carr. He also now needs waivers to make it back to the minors. He’s basically an afterthought in current roster projections in Montreal but he could conceivably be in the thick of things up there as well. I think they’d be more willing to put him on waivers if it comes to it but given his NHL success in his rookie season in 2015-16 and his minor league track record, there’s a chance he would be picked up. At the very least, there’s a chance he won’t be back either.
Max Friberg, their captain and a strong complementary piece, has already signed in Sweden for next season. Bobby Farnham, who actually wound up playing an important role in the second half of the year, is an unrestricted free agent while Stefan Matteau, one of the more experienced players from 2016-17, is now with Vegas.
As for Michael McCarron, he is actually waiver exempt for one more year but he was predominantly with Montreal down the stretch with the team prioritizing having him practice regularly with the team as a key step in his development. That’s a sign that they’re expecting him to have more of a regular role with the Habs although he could potentially fall victim to a numbers game depending on how the training camp battles go. There’s at least a chance he could return but not a great one.
Those are a lot of important players that aren’t returning (or in Carr and McCarron’s case, a serious question to return). Holland and Froese are nice pickups but they can’t replace those players by themselves. The others that the Habs are counting on to fill in have question marks as well.
Antoine Waked and Jeremiah Addison are coming off overage seasons in junior. Waked in particular had a nice offensive season but neither of them is expected to produce much right off the bat. Martin Reway is a big wildcard – he has the skills but is he going to be healthy to start? And how much will being off for a full season slow his development?
With the way the roster stands (a general overview can be found here), at least one of those players is probably going to start in the top six which isn’t exactly ideal. The rest of the forward group consists of players who should be in a bottom six role (Daniel Audette struggled considerably in a top six spot last year and should be back on the third line to start) so there isn’t much help coming from there either.
The early July signings have given hope that Laval will fare much better than Montreal’s old AHL affiliates have in recent years. However, this is a very top-heavy group that will be in a lot of trouble when injuries and recalls inevitably strike as they lack the depth to withstand those. Despite the work they’ve done already, Marc Bergevin and Larry Carriere still have some work to do up front if they intend to have the Rocket be in contention next season.