The Habs added some more depth on Friday, announcing the signing of centre Nick Cousins to a one-year, one-way contract worth $1 million. Meanwhile, three of Montreal’s restricted free agents filed for arbitration.
The 25-year-old is coming off of a career season with Arizona that saw him collect 27 points in 81 games despite posting a shooting percentage of just 4.9%. Despite the uptick in points, the Coyotes opted to not tender him a qualifying offer worth $1.05 million last month.
From a value perspective, Marc Bergevin did well with this move. Cousins has established himself as a capable fourth liner that can move up in a pinch and anytime you can get a player like that at this salary, it’s not a bad move. Even better, the Habs can retain his rights next offseason if they opt to qualify him.
From a fit perspective, however, it’s a little tricky to see where exactly he fits in. While it’s possible that he’s replacing Nicolas Deslauriers who was traded to Anaheim late last month, there was a good chance that Deslauriers wasn’t making the team in the first place. Considering his recent track record though, it’s safe to assume that the team envisions him to play a regular role in the lineup.
He’s below average at the faceoff dot so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him line up on the left wing, particularly with Nate Thompson and Jordan Weal (above average options at the dot) also being candidates on the fourth line where he’d likely play. As someone that seems likely to be in the lineup most nights, this puts the futures of Charles Hudon and perhaps Matthew Peca more in jeopardy. The former has been believed to be on the outside looking in for a while and Peca was a frequent scratch down the stretch so his roster spot is far from secure. Cousins will be an upgrade on those players but after moving Andrew Shaw, they still need to find a more proven replacement (and/or upgrade) on him at some point.
In other news, three of Montreal’s four restricted free agents filed for salary arbitration in Joel Armia, Charles Hudon, and Artturi Lehkonen. The only one who didn’t is Michael McCarron who was still eligible due to having four professional seasons under his belt already.