Montreal’s decision to invite defenceman Eric Gelinas to training camp on Tuesday comes as somewhat of a surprise. The back end is already crowded and this will likely muddy the waters further.
Gelinas got off to a strong start to his career with New Jersey, collecting 29 points in just 60 games in his rookie season. However, things have gone downhill in a hurry from there. Last year, he couldn’t crack the worst defence corps in the NHL in Colorado and wound up in the minor leagues where he was nothing short of a defensive nightmare.
That all said, Gelinas has one element to his game that is NHL quality and that’s a very strong point shot. Without Andrei Markov quarterbacking on the power play, things are going to look a lot different with the man advantage and the 26-year-old has the potential to help there. He could conceivably be the trigger man on the point on the second unit.
The Devils experimented with him as a forward who would play the point on the power play and that may be the best fit for him in Montreal. He’s not a capable enough defender to hold down a regular third pairing role (and no, he’s not the fit beside Shea Weber either) so unless Claude Julien plans to roll seven defenders a game on a regular basis, using him up front may make the most sense.
There’s no such thing as a bad tryout but this is one that doesn’t provide much of a fit beyond making him a power play specialist that plays out of position at full strength. Assuming there aren’t trades to come from the left side of the back end, there isn’t really room for him on the NHL roster as he’s not likely to beat out the likes of Jakub Jerabek, Mark Streit, or Joe Morrow.
It will be interesting to see if he’s willing to take a well-paying minor league deal with Laval. That may be the most desirable outcome here, one that would keep him in the organization for insurance without having him count against the contract limit. And who knows, with Canada’s roster for the Olympics set to be comprised of basically former minor leaguers, a deal like that would keep Gelinas in the mix for that as well.