This year there are a number of intriguing UFA forwards available, with the range and depth of talent being significantly more impressive than in recent years. The timing is good for the Habs, as they could clearly use some help up front – particularly at wing in the top six, where it could be argued that Montreal could use two new faces to shore up their offence. After the Andrew Shaw extension, the Habs have about $8.5 million to spend according to General Fanager. Some of this will go to extending both Daniel Carr and Phillip Danault, but clearly they have some money to work with.
C Steven Stamkos (TB)
Easily the biggest fish on the market and one the best UFA’s we’ve ever seen come available, Stamkos will fetch a pretty penny. Word is that the Habs are among the many suitors to have contacted him, as they well should as it is a rare chance to add a 26 year old elite sniper. It would likely take more than $10 million a year, a call from good buddy P.K. Subban and plenty of luck to land him – not to mention the moving of salary and personnel but the Habs would be remiss not to at least give it a shot.
RW Kyle Okposo (NYI)
Sure to be another heavily pursued option come July 1st, Okposo would be a strong scoring option to add to the right side. The former 7th overall pick is just 28 and has blossomed into a reliable scoring option while playing alongside John Tavares with Islanders. There are some concerns regarding his less than stellar defensive play and perhaps some inflated stats due to his aforementioned linemate. Nevertheless the Habs should have a look, despite reports that he’s not interested in playing for Montreal.
RW Loui Eriksson (BOS)
The Canadiens would be wise to check in with Loui Eriksson during the current UFA negotiating window. Eriksson brings excellent skill at both ends of the ice, and is a dependable two-way force that can play both left and right wing. The major concern with Eriksson appears to be age and term, he may be looking to land a six year deal that would take him to age 37.
LW Andrew Ladd (CHI)
A team looking to add some leadership and grit, along with a few goals, may want to consider adding Andrew Ladd. He’s not likely to blow the doors off offensively, but he does bring a lot of intangibles that are still coveted by many GM’s (including Marc Bergevin). Ladd will go war for his team every night, and can play in the top six, chipping in more than 20 goals. At 30, he’s definitely going to be looking for both term and salary on what could likely be his last chance to really cash in.
LW Milan Lucic (LA)
Could the Canadiens attempt to bring in their old nemesis? I doubt it, but Lucic would certainly bring some of the elements they are looking for. His physicality is well known, but he can also score, with four 20 goal seasons in the last six years. All of that said, It would be a pretty surprising move to see him in the bleu, blanc, et rouge.
C David Backes (STL)
Speaking of guys that bring grit, physicality and leadership, David Backes would bring that in spades to the Habs. The two-time Olympian can also put the puck in the net, scoring more than 20 goals six times in his career. The knock on Backes had been his play in the playoffs, however this year he answered many of his critics, leading the Blues to the Conference Finals and chipping in a respectable 14 points along the way. The big issue is that Backes is now 32 and, given his physical style, may be on the downside of his career sooner than later.
LW Mikkel Boedker (COL)
One of the youngest UFA’s on the market at just 26, Boedker brings a ton of speed and has the potential to be a significant offensive addition. His offensive style could be a strong fit for the Habs; however he has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career. Boedker has never scored 20 goals and has cracked 50 points just once. Despite this he will almost certainly command, and receive a hefty raise on his $3.75 million salary from last year, making him something of a risky target.
LW David Perron (ANA)
Perron could be an option for teams that swing and miss on guys like Okposo and Eriksson. While not as effective as in the past, and despite his injury history he is still just 28 and could certainly bring some skill and creativity to the Canadiens’ middle six. That he is a Quebec-born francophone would certainly hold some attraction for some of the fan base (and therefore ownership/management). Perron plays with an edge and is a tenacious forechecker and possesses the ability to put the puck in the net, though inconsistently and could be had for a somewhat reasonable price.
RW Troy Brouwer (STL)
Another consolation prize (though this time for teams that miss out on Ladd) is Brouwer. He brings physicality and a scorer’s touch along with experience in big games. He isn’t going to lead the league in scoring, but he does seem to have a knack for scoring some big goals – as seen in this year’s playoffs. Like Perron, he will likely be a somewhat cheaper option, though his strong playoffs may drive up the price. Brouwer’s grit and leadership could be coveted by the Habs, especially if they are unable to bring in one of the big scorers.
RW Radim Vrbata (VAN) If the Habs miss out on some of the more attractive options, the 35 year old Vrbata could prove useful as a stop-gap measure. He struggled last year, but is just one season removed from a 30 goal campaign and has been a successful scorer for much of his career. Given his age and poor season, he could likely be had for limited term and a lower cap hit than many of the other available options – making him an intriguing back up plan, especially since the Canadiens pursued him two summers ago.
The Habs’ lack of wing depth in the top six beyond Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher means they should almost certainly be targeting some help in free agency. There are a plethora of options available and while bringing in Andrew Shaw may help, they would be remiss not to target one of the players mentioned above. If they fail to add a major piece, they could also look to Jamie McGinn, bring back Dale Weise, or take a shot at Brandon Pirri, who wasn’t qualified by the Ducks and could become a UFA. With all of these options and the Canadiens desperately in need of some scoring help, the onus is on Marc Bergevin to bring in a new offensive weapon or two in the coming days.
Who do you think the Habs will sign? Make your picks by entering our UFA pool.