HabsWorld.net -- 

With the first month of free agency now
complete, there’s still a good crop of players who’ve yet to find a home still. 
As we all know, the Habs were quite busy early on and don’t exactly have a lot
left to spend.  There are some decent bargains left out there however that
could justify making a move to accommodate.  Here’s the top-10 list of
those players.

As it stands today, the team has about $700,000 to spend before the bonus
cushion of about $1.6 M.  Depending on how much Matt D’Agostini and Greg
Stewart sign for could pin the final number anywhere from about $400,000 to $1.3
million.  Other organizational decisions (such as the ideal roster size)
can also impact this, as can trades (be it Patrick Marleau, Alexander Frolov, or
whatever high end forward is the flavour of the week).  Thus, for these
purposes, let’s make the top salary for a bargain bin player $1.6 M.

When compiling the list, I was looking for either a player with general upside,
or a specific attribute that could improve the team.  For this type of
money, you’re not going to get much better.  Notes: Players are ordered
alphabetically and are not ranked talent wise.  Some salary ranges are
wider than others due to the possibility of those players landing multi-year
contracts somewhere.

Marc-Andre Bergeron, D

He’s either hit or was on pace to hit 20+ points in each of the last 5
seasons.  However, his size (5’10) and lack of physical play are two of the
biggest reasons why he’s still on the market today.  Another is most likely
his contract demands.  As we saw with Martin Biron a couple weeks back,
sometimes you can get a player to take less on a 1-year deal.  In order to
get Bergeron to sign for the bargain bin price, it would most likely have to be
a 1-year term.

Estimated salary range: $1.3 – $1.6 M

Blair Betts, C

An elite penalty killer with very limited offensive upside.  At this
time, the only reason he still sits on the market today is because teams are
concerned with his health after getting injured in the playoffs last season. 
As a result, someone’s going to get him for a bargain.  Something that
could work here for the Habs is the quickly evolving Rangers connection – Scott
Gomez and Paul Mara have joined the team, as has former NYR Assistant Coach Perry

Estimated salary range: $750k – $1.2 M

Mathieu Dandenault, D/W

Before you groan loudly and skip this one, hear me out.  This is a player who
has publicly stated a desire to return to Montreal and brings something to the
table that no one on the projected opening roster has – the versatility to play
defence and forward.  In a situation where it may be more cap-efficient to
carry 22 players instead of 23, having someone who can play both spots is like
having two players in one.  He may also be willing to take a hometown
discount to stick around.

Estimated salary range: $700k – $1.1 M

Steve Eminger, D

The only player on this list to not receive a QO from his team, this former
1st rounder has bounced around recently.  He does bring some positive
attributes to the table though – he has good size (6’2), is somewhat physical
(77 hits in 71 games), and last year showed some offensive abilities, picking up
a career high 24 points.  He has something to prove as whoever he signs
with will be his 5th team change in less than 15 months – being motivated –
something this team lacked at times last season.

Estimated salary range: $650k – $1.15 M

Mike Grier, W

The only player on the list that actually has been rumoured to be on
Montreal’s radar, and it makes a lot of sense really.  He’s gritty without
taking stupid penalties and brings some offensive abilities to the table; you
can generally count on about 24-30 points a season from him.  A solid
checker, he would really help improve the checking line which currently consists
of a former teammate of his in Travis Moen.

Estimated salary range: $1.25 – $1.5 M

Manny Malhotra, F

A strong defensive forward who in recent years has shown some offensive pop,
taking advantage of the extra ice time he received in Columbus.  A
faceoff specialist (58% last year), he would improve multiple facets of the 4th
line or serve as a solid 3rd line checking winger.  At 6’2, his size is
nothing to dismiss either.

Estimated salary range: $1.25 – $1.5 M

Eric Perrin, C

One of the best definitions of the term late bloomer, the aura wore off for
him last season in Atlanta.  His 23 points last year was the lowest full
NHL total of his career, but he also spent the season mired on the 4th line. 
In Montreal, he’d most likely be stuck there at the start, but that type of
production from the 4th wouldn’t be all bad.  If an injury struck, he could
also move up the depth chart and could handle being a top-6 forward in a pinch.

Estimated salary range: $600k – $1.0 M

Peter Schaefer, W

If you’re saying to yourself, "Gee, I don’t even remember hearing his name
last season," don’t feel bad – he actually wasn’t in the NHL.  A cap
casualty in Boston, he was outrighted to the AHL and never heard from again. 
This doesn’t mean he’s not an NHL calibre player – back in 2006, he was a
50-point player shuffling between the 2nd and 3rd lines, and can probably give a
team 25-35 points in the right situation.  This type of player would be a
solid pickup for the Habs, as he would give the checking line some offensive pop
and like Perrin, could move up to a top-6 spot if necessary.

Estimated salary range: $600k – $950k

Mike Sillinger, C

When you’ve played for 12 teams already, why not make it a lucky 13? 
There was talk of him being moved at the deadline last season but injuries
prevented it from happening.  He’s always been a whiz on the draw and when
healthy brings some offensive punch to the table.  I’d be skeptical that he
can can stay away from the infirmary for a full season, but I could see the Habs
making a pitch for him depending on how cheap he’d come.

Estimated salary range: $550k- $1.0 M

Mike Zigomanis, C

Although he was never able to duplicate the type of offensive prowess he
showed in junior, he’s made a name for himself by becoming one of those niche
players you’ve seen several of on this list already.  He’s a decent
defensive player and also the best faceoff guy on the market – he had a 63%
success rate for the Pens last season.  A right hand shot, he could easily
step into the Canadiens’ 4th line C role currently occupied by Glen Metropolit,
likely at a cheaper cost too.

Estimated salary range: $650k- $1.0 M

To reiterate, there’s not exactly a scenario with the current roster that
would allow the Habs to bring in one of these players without a roster move
being made first.  For a closer look at the salary situation, click the
link below.
  If there is a move to be made, be it a bargain player from
this list here or a more significant trade, it may come sooner than later, as
the deadline for "compliance buyouts" will hit most likely Tuesday or Wednesday
(48 hours after the arbitrator rules on NYR’s Nikolai Zherdev).  With all
the speculation around the team currently, the next few days are going to be
really interesting.