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Montreal’s defence corps has undergone some changes in recent years and it
appears that this may very well be the case again in this offseason.  The
Habs will also need to pay some attention to their blueline prospects as the
cupboard is beginning to look a bit thin, in large part due to the fact that
they have selected just one defenceman in the past two drafts.


Signed: Alexei Emelin, Josh Gorges
RFA: P.K. Subban
UFA: Francis Bouillon, Andrei Markov, Douglas Murray, Mike Weaver

It’s a rare occasion when only two full-time blueliners are under contract
heading into the free agency period.  Gorges and Emelin are both signed for
the next four seasons with a combined cap hit of $8 million.  Many would
acknowledge that both contracts are a bit on the premium side given what they
bring to the table.  It’s considered to be bad form to deal someone before
their extension actually kicks in so some are wondering if Gorges and his $3.9
million cap hit could be moved to save some money on the back end.

A lot of that potential money savings would go to Subban who is at the end of
his bridge deal.  There’s a good chance that he will have the highest cap
hit in the league for a defenceman when his new deal gets signed.  With a
weak UFA market, Markov could very well fetch a modest raise as well.  If
that happens, Montreal’s top four defencemen could be making upwards of $22
million combined which is rather pricey.

If that happens, cheap depth will be the name of the game to round out the
roster.  That likely bodes well for the prospect brigade of Beaulieu,
Tinordi, and Pateryn, who will be covered in the next section.  Weaver will
probably command a bit of a raise off of his $1.1 million salary but would be a
nice third pairing option, especially if he’s paired with one of the youngsters. 
While it has been reported that Murray won’t be back, that hasn’t been said for
Bouillon yet so there’s still a chance he could be back, presumably at a lower
salary though.

Needs Assessment: Low – Once Subban and Markov get re-signed, the core
of the defence is intact.  They may try to free up a few dollars by dealing
one of Emelin/Gorges or opt to ride things out and hope that one of the
youngsters can pick up the slack over a full season.  With so many players
needing contracts, the chance to make some changes is there but it seems likely
that the 2014-15 blueline will largely resemble the 2013-14 one.

Minor Pro

Signed: Nathan Beaulieu, Mac Bennett, Darren Dietz, Davis Drewiske,
Morgan Ellis, Magnus Nygren, Greg Pateryn, Dalton Thrower, Jarred Tinordi
RFA: None
UFA: None

Beaulieu and Tinordi both showed flashes that they could be ready for
full-time NHL duty last year.  They also showed flashes at times that they
were far from ready from being a regular with the Habs.  Based on the
current roster composition, it’s likely that one spot in the lineup is going to
be for a youngster with those two battling for that spot.  Pateryn has an
outside chance but my guess is that he starts in Hamilton once again. 
Nygren could also be a factor depending on whether or not he’s still around come
training camp after bailing on the Bulldogs last year.

The rest of the young defence corps will be looking to make a good first
impression or improve on what they’ve done so far.  Bennett and Thrower are
both intriguing two-way players and if Beaulieu is up with Montreal, there’s a
chance for one or both of them to make their mark offensively.  Ellis had a
disappointing sophomore season while Dietz’s rookie campaign didn’t go as well
as many had hoped either.  They both may be battling just to stay on the
Bulldogs depending on who gets signed at the AHL level.

Needs Assessment: Low – Another quality veteran would really make this
a dangerous defence group.  Drewiske is a nice depth player but one more
older player could really help lessen the burden off the youngsters to let them
ease into things.  Beyond that, the logjam (the nine blueliners listed
above) will likely sort itself out in training camp and there will likely be an
AHL contract or two as there usually is at this position when all is said and

Unsigned/Junior Prospects

Because there was just one defenceman picked in the last two drafts, the
cupboard is mostly bare.  Josiah Didier will be returning to college next
year for his senior season.  He brings a much-needed physical element to
the table and at this point seems likely to sign a pro contract when his season
ends.  Colin Sullivan left Boston College to play in the USHL last year
where he accomplished very little.  He’s now committed to the University of
Miami but it will be several years before the team has to make a decision on

Needs Assessment: High – Right now, with so many youngsters in
Hamilton the pipeline to the big club should be strong for the next few years. 
Given the dearth of unsigned options though, that won’t be the case for too much
The Habs would be wise to try to bring in two or three defence prospects either
via the draft or trades this summer.  If not, they may be scrambling in a
couple of years from now just to fill the farm team.