Michael McCarron was facing a make-or-break year in 2018-19. He cleared waivers at the start of the season but was showing signs of life in Laval before suffering a season-ending injury. Was his performance good enough to justify a qualifying offer?
McCarron went into training camp with an outside chance of landing a spot on the roster. He didn’t do well in his limited opportunity – just two preseason games – and cleared waivers pretty quickly. While this was certainly disappointing for him, it also gave him a chance to play an important role in Laval, something he wouldn’t have been able to do in Montreal.
He was quickly inserted on the top line with the Rocket and it took a while for him to get going. He started to get more comfortable towards the end of November and his production took off as he had a stretch of 15 points in 14 games. That’s impressive for someone who hadn’t displayed much of an offensive touch in the pros. However, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery, a tough end to his campaign.
32 GP, 7 goals, 14 assists, 21 points, even rating, 46 PIMS, 65 shots
Argument To Qualify
Look no further than that stretch of games to finish his season. After getting adjusted to Joel Bouchard’s system, he fared quite well and had he continued that in the second half, he could have very well been in the mix for a recall at some point. McCarron clearly has some talent. It’s also worth noting that he wouldn’t qualify for veteran status in the AHL; if the Habs wind up burying some of their veterans in Laval next season, they’ll need guys like McCarron to round out the roster.
There’s also the matter of the general lack of size up front. While the ‘size, schmize’ mentality is certainly at the forefront when it comes to Montreal’s roster, there is some value in having some physicality in the system. There are times (and teams) where some extra grit can be useful and that’s one element that McCarron brings more than arguably anyone else in the organization. It would be difficult to let that go. Who’s next in line? Michael Pezzetta? He struggled at times on the fourth line in Laval and is nowhere near NHL ready.
Argument To Let Go
Even if there is still a bit of upside remaining, what’s his overall ceiling in the NHL? McCarron’s 24 already and hasn’t been able to establish himself beyond being a fringe fourth line talent. Let’s say Bouchard gets a bit more out of him offensively. Is that enough to move him up to the third line in the NHL? Probably not. If his ceiling is still a fourth liner after four professional seasons, is that really worth using an NHL contract on? In theory, they could be better served by signing another established fourth liner in the hopes of getting him through waivers and having more depth in case of injury.
While McCarron has certainly improved his skating in recent years, it’s still not particularly strong. It looks even worse in comparison to the speedy wingers that could start the season on the fourth line in Paul Byron and Jordan Weal. Having a slower McCarron around them will probably wind up mitigating some of that speed element. In other words, he doesn’t really fit on what Montreal wants on their fourth line.
This isn’t an easy call to make. This management group clearly has a lot invested in McCarron and that still counts for something. Bouchard has said he’d like to see McCarron back as well. That counts for something as well.
However, his upside is still rather limited. There’s still the fact that he waited until the eve of training camp to sign his qualifying offer which was two months after it expired. Part of me thinks he was qualified to be traded, much like Kerby Rychel and Hunter Shinkaruk (who were dealt for each other) but unlike them, the trade never happened. McCarron’s value hasn’t really gone up since then.
Between that and their contract situation for next season (already 39 with other RFAs to re-sign), I have to think that they’re going to part ways. I suspect they’d offer him an AHL contract but he’ll get better offers elsewhere.