We’re well into the offseason and the Habs are still in need of adding some scoring help. While there aren’t top line guys still available at this point, there are still quite a few free agents who could aid the Canadiens up front.
It was expected a lot of these players would have signed by now and as a result of there being lots of them left on the market, it is becoming increasingly likely that several of these will have to take below-market one year deals for next season. For a team like Montreal who won’t have a ton of cap space left to work with by the time they get Alex Galchenyuk’s deal done (plus saving some money for in-season moves), these types of free agents are ones they could very well covet.
Below are the remaining notable wingers on the market. There are some centres available but given their depth at the position, it would seem unlikely that they’d look to add there.
While he certainly didn’t pan out as a rental for the Wild (one goal in 20 total games), he has been a somewhat consistent player in his career. With the exception of last year (nine goals G in 56 GP), he has hit double digit goal totals in each of his full seasons. Montreal was rumoured to be interested in him last year at the trade deadline as a two-way third liner; Bergenheim could still fill that role now for the Habs.
Notable Stat: He averaged 1.3 hits per game last year. Only two full-time Habs last season hit that mark (Dale Weise and Brandon Prust). In 2013-14, Bergenheim came in at 1.8 hits per contest.
He seems to find himself in this situation on a near-annual basis which is quite surprising. In his ten year career, he has failed to hit 35 points all of one time (back in 2011-12 with Buffalo). Even though Boyes was bought out by the Panthers last month, he still tallied 38 points in 78 games, respectable second line numbers. His all-around game isn’t the greatest but a consistent 30 point player still holds some value in this day and age.
Notable Stat: Boyes is 39/87 (44.8%) in the shootout in his career.
This one is contingent on Cole’s health as he missed the end of last year with a neck injury. If he’s healthy, he may be worth looking at. If not, dismiss him altogether. Cole has scored 37 goals combined in the last two years and as we know, had some success in a Montreal uniform not all that long ago. As a player over 35, he’s also eligible to sign a one year deal with bonuses which could reduce some of the health risks.
Notable Stat: Cole has had a shooting percentage over 10% in each of the last six years, including 17.2% last season. For comparison, Montreal’s team shooting percentage last year was only 9.1%.
What works against Erat is that lately, he’s best known for being the player that Washington stupidly traded Filip Forsberg for a couple of years ago. He’s not the front liner he was four seasons ago but he’s likely a player that will do better in a winning environment than on a tanking team like the Coyotes. Erat has played with Tomas Plekanec at several international competitions in the past as well and given some of the challenges the team has had finding Plekanec consistent wingers, that would work in Erat’s favour.
Notable Stat: Last season, Erat scored more goals than his past two seasons combined. That’s the good news. The bad is that last year, he only lit the lamp nine times.
He’s 6’3, can play centre or the wing, and is under 30 while coming off his second straight 30+ point season. At first glance, you certainly wonder why he hasn’t signed yet. Returning to Washington revived his career a few years ago after an absolutely abysmal season with Winnipeg. Fehr hasn’t thrived when placed in a top six role for long stretches which works against him though. But, when dealing with players that all have question marks, there is a lot to be intrigued about with him.
Notable Stat: Fehr hasn’t fared well in NHL postseason play, posting just six points (5-1-6) in 37 career games.
He has had some ups and downs in recent years. Just three seasons ago, Fleischmann had a 61 point season and played near that pace in the lockout-shortened campaign. The last two years haven’t been as strong though where he was reduced to a depth role on both Florida and Anaheim which is likely why he remains unsigned. Having been a quality scorer just two years ago may give some teams hope that Fleischmann still has it in him to be a decent second liner somewhere in 2015-16.
Notable Stat: When he got to Florida, Fleischmann rarely saw playing time shorthanded. That has changed lately as he averaged just over a minute per game in each of his last two years with the Panthers.
I’m quite surprised he hasn’t signed anywhere yet. Glencross has been fairly consistent over the past several years in terms of his offence while bringing some grit to the table as well. He’s not the near 25-goal player he was a few years ago but it’s safe to pencil him in for 12-15 tallies and 20 or so assists, making him an ideal fit on a third line that is capable of moving up to the second when injuries arise.
Notable Stat: The Capitals slashed Glencross’ ice time when they acquired him at the deadline by over four minutes per night (16:40 to 12:36). His TOI then dropped over two minutes more in the postseason to 10:24.
He has bounced around lately, spending time in five different organizations over the past three years. On three of those teams, he struggled mightily. But on the other two, he wound up being a quality secondary piece. That volatility likely explains why he’s still unsigned but clearly he has shown that he in the right situation, he can help a team. Are the Habs, a team trying to win now, the right fit for him though?
Notable Stat: Santorelli has quietly been used as a shootout specialist over the years. Since 2010-11, he has scored at a 40% clip (13/32).
He’s case study #1 as to why you don’t sign enigmatic wingers to long-term contracts. Until last year, Semin was a consistent 40+ point player. In 2014-15 though, he was absolutely awful, spending lots of time in the press box while doing very little on the ice. In terms of skill, he by far is the most talented of forwards left on the market. But given his tendency to play soft and think of defence as a suggestion instead of a requirement, plenty of teams will be scared away. There’s a high reward if he pans out but even on a one year deal, there is some risk associated with signing him.
Notable Stat: Since becoming a full-time NHL’er nine years ago, only 22 players have scored more goals than Semin has (228) in that span.
Before the signing period began, I figured he would be in line for a multi-year deal at a raise from his $2.95 M salary last season. It looks like I’ll be wrong there. Over the last four years, Tlusty has become a consistent secondary scorer, averaging 17.5 goals per year (and that includes the lockout season) which would slide him in well as a 2nd/3rd line ‘tweener’ forward. He is currently training with Plekanec and a few other players back in the Czech Republic.
Notable Stat: Tlusty has played parts of eight NHL seasons. He hadn’t suited up for a playoff game until this past April with Winnipeg.
None of these players would completely solve Montreal’s scoring woes but they all would help the situation. Is it worth signing one of them or trying a youngster in that spot while saving some money at the same time? That’s a column for another day.