The right wing has been an area of concern throughout the Canadiens organization for several years now. Heading into this offseason that hasn’t really changed as it’s a position that needs a lot of help.
Signed: Sven Andrighetto, Brian Flynn, Brendan Gallagher
UFA’s: Mike Brown
Gallagher is the only sure thing of the group when it comes to consistent top six production. He’s the spark plug in the lineup and his willingness to get to the dirty areas and take a beating in front of the net has stood out on a team that doesn’t have many players like that. He was tied for 11th in the NHL in points per game by a right winger; between that and the fact he continues to improve each year, it’s time to give him the legitimate first liner label.
Andrighetto had an up and down year. There were moments where he looked like a legitimate top six forward and others where he looked like a minor leaguer with plenty in between. Because of his waiver status (and a cheap contract doesn’t hurt either), he should make the team out of training camp but could be anywhere from the second line to the press box.
Flynn gives the Habs some versatility while being their best faceoff player (it would be nice if Michel Therrien used him more on draws). He’s a prime candidate to move up and down the lineup when the line juggling or injuries kick in but should start in a bottom six role. Brown was brought in at the trade deadline and provided some physicality but little else. Despite reports suggesting the Habs may want to bring him back, I don’t really see a spot for him.
Needs Assessment: High – It has been a long time since the Habs have had two legitimate top six right wingers. That needs to change and with a few quality players in free agency this offseason, the time is right for GM Marc Bergevin to strike. They cannot go into 2016-17 hoping that Andrighetto becomes a full time second liner and expect to be a contender. Unfortunately, most of the centre surplus the Canadiens have are players that can play the left wing so they can’t rely on that to shore up the weakness either.
Signed: Max Friberg, Nikita Scherbak
UFA’s: Bud Holloway
AHL Free Agents: Alexandre Ranger
There isn’t much depth here but what they do have isn’t bad. Scherbak had a much worse year than many expected but I’d suggest expectations were way too high on him to start with. He was one of the youngest players in the league last season so growing pains were to be expected. Now with a full year under his belt, he should start to show more signs of progression and consistency next season.
Friberg was added midseason in exchange for Dustin Tokarski. It was thought at the time that he would be able to deepen the offence but that didn’t happen. He spent most of his time with St. John’s in a second or third line role and while he was a quality two-way player, he wasn’t as big of a threat as he should have been. He’s a nice veteran-ish player to have though on what projects to be a ridiculously young roster again in 2016-17.
Holloway was St. John’s top scorer and was a mainstay on the top line (aside from when Sylvain Lefebvre thought putting leading scorers on a checking unit made sense, something that creeps up once or twice a year). Unfortunately for the ‘Caps, he has already signed in the KHL for next season and won’t be back.
Ranger was a late season addition and played a very limited role. The Habs have had their eye on him for a couple of years now dating back to previous development camps and may be inclined to give him another look at one this offseason. He’d be pushing for an AHL deal though, not an NHL one.
Needs Assessment: Medium – With Scherbak and Friberg, the IceCaps should have a decent one-two punch on the right side to start next year. They’re lacking in depth and while I’ve said this about other positions already, adding a capable veteran in the mix would certainly go a long way towards helping replace Holloway’s offence.
The Habs only have one prospect who fits here and that’s Martin Reway (who was unsigned last season but inked his entry-level deal last month). He’s one of Montreal’s most talented prospects overall but has a lot of question marks as well, particularly at the defensive end where his effort level wavers with regularity. He seems to be willing to start in the minor leagues which is a good sign at least. Reway is a boom or bust prospect, something the Canadiens haven’t drafted many of over the years.
Needs Assessment: High – With Reway signed, the Habs don’t have any junior-aged right wingers in the organization. That’s far from an ideal situation to be in, especially given Montreal’s struggles to get higher end right wingers over the past few years.
Assessing the Depth: Centres
Assessing the Depth: Left Wing
Assessing the Depth: Defencemen
Assessing the Depth: Goalies