It’s no secret that the Canadiens would like to add some more offensive firepower to the team for the upcoming season. The addition of Jonathan Drouin was a great start, but if Alex Radulov departs without being properly replaced the short term gains would be significantly reduced. Given the Habs’ depth at wing they may be wiser to pursue UFA options at centre in a relatively weak forward pool this offseason.
Alexander Radulov (MTL) RW
Radulov made an immediate impact for the Canadiens last season – he put together a 54 point season and was a driving force for the offence on most nights. However, it was his intensity and passion that seemed to permeate his teammates and made him a fan favourite in Montreal. The problem is that they may not be able to meet his demands, particularly when it comes to a long term deal with big deals for Price and Pacioretty on the horizon. His loss would be a significant hit to the top six, but if both Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk are destined to play the wing, the money may be better spent trying improving the club at centre.
Joe Thornton (SJ) C
Thornton is the big centre the Habs have been craving for years, and he is far and away the best option at centre in this year’s UFA class. At this point he is getting on in years and will be 38 by the time the season starts, but there is no denying he would be a huge add to the offence and the powerplay in particular. It seems as though there is a string chance he will re-sign in San Jose, but if the Habs could land him, and his beard, both would be major additions.
Nick Bonino (PIT) C
When all is said and done, Bonino could very well be the best target at centre for Montreal. He will likely come significantly cheaper than someone like Thornton, but has the ability to significantly improve the team down the middle of the ice. He isn’t an elite option, but has put up solid point totals in the past and played an important role on the Penguins’ cup winning squads. While he is not a typical top line option, he could certainly play on the second line in Montreal, creating a 2a/2b solution down the middle with young Philip Danault.
Martin Hanzal (MIN) C
If Montreal is set on adding size down the middle, they may look no further than the huge (6’6) Martin Hanzal, a player they had interest in at the trade deadline. Similar to the aforementioned Bonino in that he is more of a two-way force than an elite offensive talent, he still may be good for 20 goals and 40 points alongside excellent defensive play. The biggest drawback with Hanzal is his inability to stay healthy, as he typically misses at least 10 games a season, if not more.
Justin Williams (WAS) RW
Williams has built a well-deserved reputation for being a clutch performer, and the three-time Stanley Cup champion and the 2014 Conn Smythe winner put up another string playoffs for the underwhelming Capitals last season. Though he’s now 35, the veteran winger proved that the can still get the job done. Williams could prove to be a very smart, shorter term signing for Montreal, helping them immediately and avoiding any long term cap impact. They were in on him two years ago and it wouldn’t be surprising if they were again here.
Evgeny Dadonov (KHL) RW
After the success of the Radulov signing, perhaps Bergevin and the Habs will look back to the KHL if they are unable to sign the right winger. Dadonov, also a left shooting right winger, would bring serious offensive skills to Montreal’s top six. Smaller than Radulov at 5’10, he brings speed and some slick moves that allowed him rack up 66 points in just 53 games on a stacked St. Petersburg SKA squad that won the KHL’s Gagarin Cup last season.
Jaromir Jagr (FLA) RW
Jagr has been joking that he hasn’t heard from any GMs during the pre-frenzy negotiation period; if that’s the case Bergevin should pick up the phone. One of the greatest players of all time, it’s almost unbelievable that Jagr is still contributing at a solid pace at 45 years old. He put up 46 points with the Panthers last season and could be a smart add at right wing on a short term deal.
Patrick Marleau (SJ) LW
Joe Thornton’s running mate for over a decade in San Jose, the veteran Marleau is nearing the end of a great career, during which he’s scored more than 500 goals. Though his best years are behind him, he can still contribute and remains a great skater with good size that would be valuable up front. Odds are that he re-signs in San Jose.
Radim Vrbata (PHX) RW
Now 36 years old, Vrbata put up 50 points with the Coyotes last season. He’s just a season removed from potting scoring 30 goals and has proven that he has the ability to put the puck in the net. Vrbata has struggled with inconsistency in his career, but he may be an attractive, short term, option at right wing for a club looking for scoring punch.
Nail Yakupov (STL) RW
The former first overall pick wasn’t qualified as an RFA by the Blues and will hit the UFA market on July 1st as a result. He certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations as a pro, but he and Alex Galchenyuk were absolutely dominant together when playing for Sarnia in the OHL. A reunion could prove to be fruitful, but it seems unlikely that Yakupov will rediscover his form. That said he could be an interesting cheap signing, or perhaps a PTO offer for training camp.
Sam Gagner (CBJ) C
Gagner revitalized his career last season in Columbus, putting up 50 points including 18 on the powerplay. He could be a high value add at centre for the club, as he would likely come relatively cheap in a thin UFA market. Gagner has been somewhat maligned throughout his career, but he’s proven that he can score and has over 400 points at age 27.
Brandon Pirri (NYR) C
A young player to reach UFA status (26), Pirri has the ability to line up at all three forward positions and this versatility makes him a more attractive target. As he will likely come cheap, this would be a lower risk signing, but would likely be a depth addition at best. Despite the fact that Pirri put up 22 goals a few years back, he has struggled to make a consistent impact at the NHL level.
Scott Hartnell (CBJ) LW
Recently bought out by the Blue Jackets, Hartnell is the kind of player that the Habs were clamouring for over the years. He brings grit and scoring touch, though he is yet another player on this list that is on the downside of his career. As a left winger, he likely doesn’t have a spot in Montreal – all of Pacioretty, Drouin and Lehkonen are easily superior options on the left side at this time. The Habs would be wise to steer clear and give one of the kids from Laval a shot.
Who do you think the Habs will sign? Make your predictions in our UFA pool.