With Alex Galchenyuk spending most of the season on the left wing, that position was one of strength for the Habs. How is it looking at that spot in the rest of the organization?
Several players played at both centre and the wing this past season. I’ve placed them based on where they played the most in 2015-16.
Signed: Paul Byron, Artturi Lehkonen, Max Pacioretty
RFA’s: Alex Galchenyuk
UFA’s: Dwight King
Although Pacioretty was unable to produce in the playoffs, he hit the 30 goal and 60 point marks for the fourth straight year while leading the Habs in points for the sixth consecutive season. He still has a couple of years left on a below market contract and he should be able to fill the top line role once again next season.
Lehkonen had a strong rookie season and even picked up his play down the stretch and into the postseason. His shot is a real weapon and it should have him in a middle six role for many years. He spent some time in the top six towards the end of the year and could be asked to start there next season as well.
Byron was a major surprise in 2016-17 as he became one of the top scorers on the team, doubling his previous career high in goals from 11 to 22. It’s fair to suggest that there’s a good chance he won’t match his output next season but he’ll still slot in as no worse than a third liner to start. With two years left on his contract, he’s one of the better bargains around at the moment.
Galchenyuk’s case is much more in question. Will the Habs try shifting him back to centre next season? Will he even be around next year? (I think that’s far from a guarantee.) Despite an injury-riddled year, he still put up the highest points per game average of his career. He’s a top six forward at whatever position he plays but the longer he spends on the wing, the less of a chance that he’ll make it down the middle.
As for King, he struggled to keep up with a quicker pace after being brought in at the trade deadline. If Montreal re-signs him, the pick they gave up goes from a fourth rounder to a third. Had he played better, there would have been a decent chance of him returning but at this point, it’s hard to imagine they’ll bring him back.
Needs Assessment: Low – Even if Galchenyuk moves to centre (or is moved for one), a top three of Pacioretty, Lehkonen, and Byron is still decent. The fact that the latter two also spent some time on the right wing gives them some flexibility if the right addition via trade or free agency becomes available but it’s not a position they really need to specifically target.
Signed: David Broll (AHL contract), Daniel Carr, Thomas Ebbing (AHL contract), Charles Hudon
RFA’s: Connor Crisp, Stefan Matteau
UFA’s: Bobby Farnham
AHL Free Agents: Anthony Camara, Yannick Veilleux
It appears the Habs have given up on the Hudon-at-centre experiment and have moved him to the wing on a full-time basis. He had yet another strong season with St. John’s and had a new career high in points per game. Despite that, Hudon didn’t see much NHL action. He’s waiver eligible and it’s hard to imagine he’s back with Laval – either he’s with Montreal or he’s with whoever claimed him off waivers (or traded for him).
Carr made a positive impression in 2015-16 but was unable to build on that this year; there’s a case to be made that he took a step back at both levels. When healthy, he’s still a good top six forward at the minor league level at the very least and he would be a core piece if he makes it through waivers in September/October. With a good training camp, he could play his way back into Montreal’s plans as well.
Matteau had a rough season overall but ended his season on a high note with a strong April. Will that be enough on its own for Marc Bergevin to give him one more look? It’s hard to say but either way, he’s not anywhere close to meeting the expectations of a late first round pick.
Crisp once again struggled with injuries and didn’t do much in his very limited AHL action. He was better at the ECHL level but as a third year pro, that’s a pretty low bar to clear. He hasn’t earned a qualifying offer but if the organization still thinks he has some potential if he can stay healthy, I wouldn’t be shocked if they offered him a minor league contract.
Farnham wound up filling a larger role than most would have expected as the season went on. He went from a fourth line checker into a top six spot while even spending a bit of time at centre. If the Habs want to keep some toughness at the AHL level, they could do worse than bringing Farnham back for another year.
In terms of the minor league deals, Broll was curiously extended mid-season and will once again fill a fourth line/healthy scratch spot. Ebbing was brought in last month and at this point is likely earmarked for Brampton as depth. Veilleux was a regular after being brought up from the ECHL early in the season and held his own. He’s worthy of another AHL contract if he’s interested in it. Camara was brought in as a filler when the team was decimated by injuries and recalls but played his way into a mostly-regular role in a hurry. I’d also suggest he’s worthy of another AHL deal, preferably a two-way AHL/ECHL one.
Needs Assessment: Medium – There are a lot of players on the list but aside from Broll and Ebbing, none are really locks to be there next season. With Hudon departing (to Montreal or elsewhere), they’ll need at least one top six addition and if they think Carr won’t make it through waivers, they’ll need another one. By the time they make some decisions on their other depth players they’ll be okay for their bottom six but they will need to do some work to bolster that top six.
There really isn’t a whole lot of depth here. Jeremiah Addison had a good season with Windsor as an overager and followed that up with a strong Memorial Cup performance. He doesn’t project to be much of a scorer at the professional level though but he could be an intriguing checker if he maxes out his potential.
Needs Assessment: Medium – I’d be inclined to go high here but with the depth they have at the NHL level, it’s not as pressing of a need as a certain other forward position. It is an area they’ll really want to address within a year or two though.