While the Habs have typically had decent depth on the left wing, the same can’t be said for their right side. Montreal is in okay shape at that position but their prospect pool is lacking.
Signed: Brendan Gallagher, Andrew Shaw, Jordan Weal, Dale Weise
RFA’s: Joel Armia
Gallagher isn’t the most talented player on the ice but more often than not, he’s the most effective player. After putting up his first 30-goal campaign, there were some expectations that he’d take a step back. Instead, he set a new career best in goals with 33 while finishing sixth overall in the league in shots. On top of that, he held his own while being deployed in more of a two-way role than usual alongside Phillip Danault. He’s a fixture in the top six heading into next season.
Shaw is also coming off of a career year of his own. Despite missing nearly 20 games due to injuries and illness, he blew past his previous mark in points and fit in surprisingly well alongside Max Domi on a scoring line. That said, counting on him to have a repeat performance is risky and having him in a lower role to start next season may be more reasonable.
Weal made a surprising impact after being acquired. He contributed on the power play, won some draws, and picked up 10 points in 16 games. That helped him earn a new two-year deal so he’s in the plans for a bit. He’s an option on the fourth line to start next season. Weise, on the other hand, did not fare well after being acquired and was a near-permanent healthy scratch down the stretch. They’ll have to decide in the coming days whether or not they’ll buy him out and if they don’t, he’s almost certain to be waived and sent to Laval next season.
Armia’s first season with the Habs was the best of his career in terms of points per game but he left a lot to be desired at times. He has the offensive skills to be an impact player but he only seems to be able to put it all together for brief moments. At the very least, he’s an effective checker and penalty killer with some size, something the Habs are lacking. He’s a possibility to be dealt this summer but if he sticks around, he could find himself on the third line.
Needs Assessment: Medium – In terms of depth, they’re not in bad shape. However, another top-six option would allow Shaw to slide back into a more optimal role and take some of the offensive pressure off of Gallagher. It’s not a must-add proposition but a move like that would certainly help.
Signed: Morgan Adams-Moisan (AHL deal), Alexandre Alain, Alex Belzile, Joe Cox (AHL deal), Nikita Jevpalovs (AHL deal), Antoine Waked
AHL Free Agents: Alexandre Grenier
This is what I meant about not a lot of depth beyond the NHL players. Belzile is coming off of a career year where he led the team in scoring and did well enough to earn his first NHL contract. Those are all good things but he also turns 28 this summer. He’s not a prospect, he’s minor league depth.
Alain had an okay rookie season. He wound up getting too much ice time in spots and when he struggled, his overall performance and confidence started to dip. He’s someone that needs to be in a third-line role at this stage to have success and develop slowly. Waked’s second professional season was even more underwhelming than his first. He was a frequent scratch and when he did play, he was largely a non-factor. Expect the Habs to try to attach him to trades in an effort to free up a contract slot this summer.
As for the minor league deals, Jevpalovs was a bit of an unsung hero for the Rocket last season as he was moved up and down the lineup and spent time on both wings. That type of versatility is quite useful and he’ll be asked to play a similar role next season. Cox impressed in a brief stint with Laval on a tryout last season which earned him a full-season deal. He’ll probably start in the ECHL. The same can be said for Adams-Moisan who looked out of place in Laval last year. His re-signing was a bit surprising but he’ll be injury depth once again.
Needs Assessment: High – Even if Weise makes his way down after clearing waivers, sliding him into this group turns it from underwhelming to still underwhelming. Another offensive threat is needed one way or the other.
This is a pretty small list. It begins and ends with 2018 second-round pick Jesse Ylonen. His first season in the SM-liiga was a bit inconsistent but that wasn’t entirely surprising. When he was on, he used his speed quite well and got into some good scoring areas. If all goes well, he projects as a potential top-six winger which, for a pick outside the first round, is pretty good. Ylonen also had a good showing at the World Juniors and should be in the mix to crack the top-ten in our prospect rankings next season.
Needs Assessment: High – Even if some of the right-shot centres get converted to the wing, this is still a pretty thin section of the depth chart. None of Montreal’s current right wingers are under team control for more than three years so there is some potential for considerable turnover fairly quickly. That should be kept in mind as they navigate through this offseason.
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