If this were a normal hockey year, it would be time to start talking about what management’s plans are for the upcoming June 1st deadline, where players from the CHL that were drafted in the very highly touted 2003 entry draft, would need to be signed. But with the NHL lockout currently in place, thus meaning NHL teams can not sign any players until a new CBA is in place, it becomes more of a mystery as to what managements plans will be with their soon to be CHL overagers. But using a bit of logic, one would think that the AHL farm teams will be allowed to sign these players in place of an NHL deal. This year the Canadiens have some interesting choices to make, as they have five guys in the CHL that they will need to decide where they will play next season if or let them move on.
So this brings up the question, will the June 1st deadline still be used, and let non signed ‘03 CHLers go back into the draft whenever they actually get around to having the 2005 entry draft? Either way, one would think that management already has a good idea of where they would like to see some of these guys end up playing next season. Of the five prospects, only one can not be returned to the CHL, as Mark Flood will be too old and must move to another level of hockey. It’s very likely that management has kept on close eye on all five guys to see how they have progressed throughout the season. Maxim Lapierre, Jimmy Bonneau, Danny Stewart, Jaroslav Halak and Mark Flood make up the list of CHLer’s management will be taking a look at and perhaps even given a shot with the Bulldogs for their playoff drive this year, as well as some other possible choices to be brought over.
Maxim Lapierre– C. Lapierre isn’t putting up great numbers this year, but he continues to play a solid all round game on young team that lacks solid offensive talents. One has to think that management will look to add him to Hamilton, likely as soon as PEI’s season is over. This doesn’t mean he will get to dress in any games, but perhaps he will be given a ATO contract to get a look at AHL hockey. Love the way he plays the game, will be a treat for fans to watch him play next year.
Mark Flood– RD. Flood turned down a contract offer to likely play in the ECHL this year, and chose to go back to the Petes of the OHL While the former OHL All Star hasn’t racked up the goals like he did last year, he has been a solid all round defensemen especially on the PP. He was given a ATO contract last year, perhaps he is given one again this year or just signed at some point this summer. Flood plays his position well, although lacks size and strength which may give him some trouble at the AHL level, but the ECHL wouldn’t be a bad place for him either, but a possible lack of depth on defense in Hamilton next year could be in his favor.
Jaroslav Halak– G. Halak has had a good season numbers wise, on an average team, as he has been the teams starter all season long and looks to continue to do so into the playoffs. Halak also impressed in his second stint in the WJC’s, as he was very good with exception to facing an outstanding Team Canada. With Yann Danis the likely starter in Hamilton next year, the backup job will be up for grabs, so one would think management will take a close look at the goalie position.
Danny Stewart– LW/C. Stewart is a guy that would seem to be on the bubble, as he is not having a great season, but is still putting up some decent offensive numbers on an offensive powerhouse Rimouski team. If he is signed, it will be very tough for him to land a spot with the Bulldogs next season, as he lacks size and strength and isn’t considered a great all round player or one of the harder working players. But he does display a decent amount of offensive skill, so perhaps management gives him a shot in the ECHL or just sends him back to Rimouski if they don’t cut ties with him.
Jimmy Bonneau– LW. Bonneau is in a similar situation to Stewart, in that he is likely a player on the bubble, as he has shown a lot of improvement in his overall game and he fills a role that is very scarce in the organization, but he still has a lot of work to do to be an effective player in the AHL. Bonneau does seem to work hard at times, and with the level of improvement he’s made over the last two years, management might want to send him to the ECHL to continue to develop his hockey skills.
Now a Euro look at who to Sign
Konstantin Korneev– RD. Korneev would bring some experience to the defensive core, as he has been a regular in the RSL for three seasons now, and has even played for the Russian Senior National Team before he was even twenty years old. But the lockout makes things hard to say what will happen, as Korneev would have to take a big pay cut to come over, but with his limited ice time he’s received over the past two months, perhaps he will consider making the move. So it’s hard to say what will happen with Korneev next year, but it would be interesting to see him brought over next season if possible.
Christopher Heino-Lindberg– G. Heino-Lindberg has expressed an interest to come over to North America next season, according to his father, but management will need to make the decision as to where to put him. It would make for a very competitive camp, as we could have Michaud, Halak and Heino-Lindberg all battle it out for the final goaltender spot in Hamilton. After a very strong season this year, that saw Heino-Lindberg as one of the top goalies in the Swedish tier-2 league, although he had a difficult WJC tournament he did have some good outings but like most goalies in the tournament, he fell victim to Team Canada’s offensive force.
Mark Streit– LD. Streit is having a career year in the Swiss league, although one would think that bringing over Streit would only happen if the NHL was ready to go, as it would seem unlikely he would leave his home and take a big pay cut just to play in Hamilton. One would think that management has some sort of plan or idea in regards to selecting Streit in the ‘04 entry draft.
Mikhail Grabovsky– LW. Like Streit, Grabovsky is having a career year, as he is the leading scorer on his team, despite being the second youngest forward on the team and playing on the fourth line. It seems as though perhaps management would be interested in bringing over Grabovsky, as he could and an offensive punch as well as being reunited with fellow countryman Andrei Kostitsyn. From an interview several weeks back, it appears as though Grabovsky is interested in staying in Russia for another season, but perhaps he can be encouraged to make the jump if management feels he’s ready.
Oskari Korpikari– LD. Korpikari is currently serving his military duty for his country, so he could be brought over this summer, although it’s unclear if management or Korpikari would be interested. Another season in the sm-liiga wouldn’t hurt, as injuries and his military obligations have forced him to miss a large part of the season. Playing another season for one of the top teams in the Finnish Elite league, likely would be a good idea, although Hamilton could be in need of some quality defensemen, and it would be great for Korpikari to get accustomed to North American hockey.
Johan Eneqvist– C/LW. It’s a total mystery if we would ever see Eneqvist come over to play, as it’s unclear if both or even one side is interested in such an agreement. But the 23 year old Eneqvist has spent the last two seasons in the Swedish tier-2 league, so wouldn’t have to worry about taking a big pay cut to play in Hamilton. He would add some offensive abilities as well some decent all round play, which could be helpful next season, although at this point it seems questionable if he would actually make the jump.
Alexei Emelin– LD. Emelin perhaps could be brought over to play in the CHL next year, as he has seen very limited ice time this year, and perhaps management is concerned over his development and progression while with Lada of the RSL.