The acquisition of Joel Edmundson caught many by surprise. Having had some time to ponder the pickup and the subsequent four-year, $14 million contract, our writers offer up their thoughts on the move.
Terry Costaris: For the most part, Marc Bergevin is a very conservative (cautious) General Manager who seldom swings for the fences on trades, free agent signings and player contracts. He tends to be very proactive and plans ahead.
Bergevin has several things to consider:
1. How can he get Montreal into the playoffs next spring?
2. Take into consideration the highly compressed season that is coming up.
3. Prepare for the Seattle expansion draft. And,
4. Take advantage of the new hard cap that is wreaking havoc on many franchises given how he is flush with draft picks, extra players and prospects in order to finish the painful retool.
The Edmundson signing takes all four of these things into consideration.
More moves obviously need to be done but it’s fair to say that the acquisitions of Edmundson and Jake Allen make the Montreal Canadiens a better team today than they were just a few weeks ago. And, I’m confident that more good moves are on the way.
When the 2020-21 season resumes, there will be multiple back-to-back games. Depth is essential to deal with the fatigue and injuries that this compressed schedule will bring. Allen and Edmundson deliver depth. Getting more bargain acquisitions up front is the logical next move then.
Bergevin is doing his playoff trading now. He’s taking advantage of cap-strapped and cash-conscious franchises hurt from COVID-19 and the flat cap. There has never been a better time to gather some low-hanging fruit than now and “Bargain Bergy” is filling up his basket.
Let’s not forget that during the pre-COVID deadline, the Canadiens shed most of their playoff depth players. The GM is restocking the playoff shelves now rather than pay premium prices during the next trade deadline.
Never has Bergevin had so much of an opportunity to scoop-up players at lower costs while having picks, veterans, and prospects to dangle.
Montreal is nearing the end part of their retool. They are heading towards a four-line, bigger team model along the lines of Boston and St. Louis. Given how pathetic refereeing is during the playoffs, size will greatly matter. So now is the perfect time to finish the retool. Once the salary cap bloodletting has been fully shed, these once in a decade types of opportunities will end.
Bergevin being conservative by nature negotiated a contract with Edmundson that gives Montreal some flexibility. His actual salary will be low at the back end once his final signing bonus is paid while his cap hit will remain high ish- which is tempting for the many financially strapped, budget-conscious teams looking to meet the cap while not actually spending a lot for his services.
If all goes well, Edmundson could be a bridge for some of the Habs’ prospects to continue their development. Once this is done, Bergevin could then move Edmundson for far more than a 5th rounder. The Canadiens’ GM bought low and can once again sell high.
These are just a few potential scenarios that the cautious Bergevin has likely thought through. Only time will tell which one pans out.
Now, I have to discuss the elephant in the room: advanced stats. The analytics community is not excited with this pickup. If Montreal’s system was man-on-man defence, then yes, this was a bad acquisition. The good news for Edmundson and the Habs is that Montreal plays zone defence which Edmundson excels at.
Also, I’m tired of hearing the Karl Alzner comparisons. Every GM makes a mistake. The good ones make more positive decisions than wrong ones. They are like casinos that win 52% of the time and earn billions for being on the losing end 48% of the time. Few would argue that when it comes to trades, Bergevin has not excelled on this matter. The odds are that he has once again made the right moves here.
Far too many fans are fixated on Bergevin’s mistakes. Most quality GMs learn from them and don’t repeat them. Marc Bergevin is a much better GM today than when he first started.
Look, anything is possible. Edmundson could blow his knee out or not pan out, but the odds are that he will stabilize the third pairing and make Montreal less vulnerable during line changes. If he can help shave off some extra playing time for the top four, they will be less fatigued and thus, better. Small tweaks to the roster truly matter. There is a domino effect here.
I’m a little worried that Noah Juulsen may be collateral damage from this trade. He cannot be sent to the minors. Someone will snap him up as soon as he goes on waivers. He will likely have to be on the sidelines for a year as an extra body.
Hopefully, Montreal’s development team will use this year to take him to another level. I still see a huge upside in Juulsen. Once the Seattle expansion draft is over with, it would not surprise me if Edmundson is gone in order to make room for him.
If the Habs lose Edmundson to Seattle, it was all for a 5th round draft pick. A meaningless pick that was used to acquire a serviceable defenseman for a year while opening up cap space for the major signings that are due in 2021. Not bad.
For these reasons and more, I like this trade and signing. Now Bergevin needs to bulk up on the wings and draft well. I’m optimistic that he can pull this off. This is Montreal’s perfect storm moment.
The optimist in me says that the next few months are going to be very exciting. For all Hab fans, I say,
“Sit back. Enjoy. And watch the show.”
Allan Katz: Having read other reviews of the Edmundson deal – almost everyone out there is saying it’s an overpayment on a borderline talent. Most of the points being made are valid but are missing a huge point here that makes all the difference.
Here’s how I think it played out. Bergevin knows that waiting passively for the right player involves a huge risk. It just takes one team with a better tax rate than Quebec to tempt a middling talent to ply their trade elsewhere. So why try to get a middling talent at all? Because Bergevin wants to take his BIG RISK on one offensive star and perhaps one more sniper. His plan seems to be to get a quality back up because the team relies on their best player being the goalie, then build a wall of big defencemen to protect the two goalies, put the speed in the forwards, where it already is and add to it one or two snipers.
In all cases, there will be some overpayment. The question is what will he pay talent-wise for these one or two snipers? The key issue that will define the success of the offseason will not be that he overpaid for a decent goalie and a solid, unspectacular big man, but what will be the price for the marksmen?
Based on previous trades, Bergevin knows more than us fans; based on results, the fan base has every right to be cynical. So because the offseason has barely, barely begun we have to be patient to assess Bergevin’s work. Fortunately, the Habs’ fan base is well known for being optimistic, always seeing the bright side of life, loving and appreciating the hard efforts done by team players and management and ownership. Hab fans simply have a joie de vivre (or as they say here in Los Angeles a “Jiwaa de veever”) that cannot be denied.
Brian La Rose: In a vacuum, this is a decent deal. Four years is a bit worrisome but he’s only 27 and a 10-team no-trade clause shouldn’t come back to bite them down the road. The $3.5 million price tag is a bit lower than what I thought considering Edmundson was giving up a shot at free agency. Considering just how weak the free agent market is and the fact that acquire-and-sign players usually get a small premium for avoiding free agency, I’m alright with that.
What concerns me a bit more is how much of Montreal’s cap room has gone towards fixing elements other than scoring. Allen and Edmundson fill needs for sure but if you do the math, there isn’t much left now for an offensive upgrade. They’re around $70 million and new deals for Victor Mete and Max Domi will eat up half of that, probably more. (And if they trade Domi, the replacement will probably make a sizable amount and that may be more of a lateral swap than a notable improvement anyway.) Add another couple of million for roster fillers and a buffer to start the season (they won’t spend right to $81.5 million) and there’s not much left to work with. There may be enough for a bottom-six forward (or Ilya Kovalchuk’s return) but that’s not moving the needle.
There’s still plenty of time and it’s not an immediate cause for concern but the next addition they make needs to address the offensive side of things. With their cap situation now, they may only have one real move left to make unless they want to start shaking things up instead of simply adding players. The goaltending is solidified and Edmundson helps shore up the defence but now it’s time to check something on the offensive to-do list.
Kevin Leveille: Before analysing this to death, let me start by saying I’m in favour of acquiring this player. I loved watching Weber and Chiarot play a little dirty when the opposition tried to get Price off his game. Add Petry, Romanov, and now Edmundson’s capacity for this type of play and I really like the blue line.
One would notice that Brett Kulak has been left off this list. That’s because I’m not part of the fan base that puts a bit too much importance on advanced stats and overvalue Kulak in doing so. Now, Kulak played out of his mind excellent hockey in the return to play, I’m certainly not going to take that away from him. But he’s had consistency issues throughout his career. I mention this here because the trade immediately made me wonder if Bergevin might not try to sell high on Kulak to a GM who will put a bit more importance in the advanced stats than they should.
In the end, I like the player and I like the internal competition it creates between Edmundson and Kulak (if he stays) for that 4th D role. I like the contract because it’s a value pick if Edmundson works out as the 4th D. It’s an easily moveable contract should he not be a fit. More importantly, if he’s okay without being great, this is the perfect year to acquire an okay manageable asset because someone will need to be the sacrificial lamb to Seattle next summer, so the four years might end up being one anyway. Many, many options to be had, some now, some later. Good move here.
Paul MacLeod: There seems to be a lot of adverse reaction to the trade for Edmundson’s rights and the subsequent signing. I like this signing. Edmundson is big, reasonably mobile, and a pain to play against. I really like having a big top four that is going to make opponents suffer when they get too near Price or Allen for that matter. He is an excellent penalty killer and should improve that unit. Is he slightly overpaid for a 5/6 role? Yes, but early indications are that he will slot into the top four alongside Petry which makes his salary very reasonable. There are inevitable comparisons to Ben Chiarot and I hope that Edmundson does turn out to be Chiarot 2.0. First, and most importantly, it means the defence should be very strong but it also means that the pro scouts are becoming very adroit at spotting players who fit their systems and can thrive in an expanded role with Montreal.
After years of having a small, relatively soft team, this is one more step in building a team that makes the playoffs and has the stamina and heft to progress through multiple rounds. I can’t wait to see this player prove the naysayers wrong.
Norm Szcyrek: The acquisition and signing of Edmundson makes me think Bergevin is trying to amend for his huge blunder three seasons ago of signing UFA Karl Alzner. Much like Alzner was expected to be, Edmundson is strictly a one-way defensive defenceman with and a left-handed shot.
On the plus side, Joel has very good size and uses it to tie up opponents in the corners and clear them from the front of the net. Joel will drop the gloves willingly to stick up for a teammate that has been wronged on the ice. His penalty minutes indicate he does not needlessly fight. Edmundson is not known for his skating or mobility, but makes up for that with his positioning and reading the play. His puck handling, passing, and shot are average. He will occasionally pinch in when there is a low chance of him getting caught too far into the play.
When Joel played for the St. Louis Blues during their 2018-19 Stanley Cup season, he played well after the head coach change since the new coach employed a zone defence. After he was moved to Carolina in the offseason, he struggled somewhat since their team employs a man defence which requires more skating and mobility. The zone defence is the same style that the Canadiens defence plays so he should adapt to that easily.
The most likely spot in the lineup for Joel will be on the second pairing with Petry, which should give his partner more flexibility to skate with the puck and take more chances, knowing his partner will have his back. Clearly, Bergevin is hoping Edmundson will fit in the way Chiarot eventually did with the Canadiens. This move makes the third defensive pairing down to either Juulsen, Cale Fleury or Josh Brook on the right side with Kulak, Romanov, Victor Mete, Gustav Olofsson, or Xavier Ouellet on the left side. Another possibility is to use two natural left-shooting defencemen although I hope they will not choose that option as a long-term approach.
Dave Woodward: The signing of Edmundson is intended to address the Canadiens’ need for a top-four left-handed defenceman. Edmundson ticks a lot of boxes and is an upgrade on what they currently have on the left side. He is big, physical and skates well and is capable of chipping in at the offensive end, not unlike Chiarot who slotted in beside Shea Weber on the number one pairing this past season. Like Allen, he also has a Stanley Cup ring.
Even with the arrival of Romanov, the Canadiens were still in need of an upgrade on the left side (and have been since Andrei Markov’s departure). While Kulak played well on the second pairing in the postseason, his track record as a consistently inconsistent defenceman does not inspire confidence that he can ably fulfill that role for a full season. As for the Habs’ third pairing in the post-season, Ouellet and Mete worked adequately together but it is clear that new personnel is necessary. Ouellet is a fine AHL defenceman. Mete is at best a third pairing NHL defenceman. He skates superlatively but Mete is diminutive and plays like it. Unless he gets possession by his skating, Mete will rarely win a puck battle and there is little to no physicality to his game. And while his skating should provide better breakouts and some puck movement for the Habs, his passing is ordinary. And Mete does not possess an NHL shot. The Edmundson signing raises questions about Mete’s future with the team and that is as it should be.
The Canadiens surrendered a fifth-round pick for the right to negotiate exclusively with Edmundson and, with the signing, that was a small price to pay for a top-four NHL defenceman, if Edmundson can indeed fulfill that role. As with every signing (particularly a UFA signing which this in effect was since Edmundson was to become a UFA in early October), the term and cap hit was not a bargain. There are some possible drawbacks with the signing:
1. Many pundits view him as a 4/5 defenceman. The $3.5 million cap hit and four year term is a hefty price, especially if Romanov comes as advertised and Edmundson ends up on the third pairing in the near term.
2. There is a tendency to view this signing as similar to Chiarot, given each player’s similar skills. Despite a slow start, Chiarot’s performance this past season exceeded expectations and we can all agree that a similar performance by Edmundson would render this signing as a major success. However, although Edmundson is an established NHL defenceman, he is not an established top-four NHL defenceman. Edmundson is unlikely to exceed expectations as much as Chiarot did in 2019-20.
3. The Canadiens have used $3.5 million of their cap space on this deal and they are still no closer to having an ideal defence partner for Weber. Chiarot was the best option available last year and will continue to be for next season. Edmundson is very unlikely to step into that role and, if forced to do so by injuries, would not be anything close to an ideal fit.
4. The $3.5 million cap hit is affordable for 2020-21 but the Canadiens have many contracts expiring and UFAs to sign afterwards. This contract, like any other multi-year deal, will reduce the cap space available to retain those UFAs after next season.
5. With the signing of Allen and Edmundson, a material amount of cap space has been used and the Habs have not addressed their offensive shortcomings. More moves may be pending but those moves will have to address the Canadiens’ chronic inability to finish.
That said, the Canadiens’ limited success in the playoffs this year has likely convinced the team that they will be competitive in 2020-21. After the dismal regular season, this pundit is not convinced that the Habs are a playoff team yet. However, for next season,with Edmundson’s signing, the Canadiens now have four experienced physical defencemen with size along with an A-level prospect in Romanov. In addition, the Habs have plenty of competition for the bottom pairing and extra defenceman. It has been a long time since Habs fans could say that. Edmundson’s signing makes the Canadiens more competitive in 2020-21.
The left side of the Habs defence corps has been a disaster ever since Markov left. For too long, opposing forwards broke into the Canadiens zone on the left side habitually and with impunity. Edmundson’s signing addresses this. Notwithstanding the risks noted and the cap/term issues with Edmundson’s contract, the acquisition addresses a glaring and long-standing weakness. For that reason, on balance, I like the deal.