With minimal cap space to work with, the Habs are spending the early part of free agency shoring up their depth as they announced the signings of Mitchell Stephens and Anthony Richard to one-year, two-way contracts.
Stephens is a 25-year-old centre that played in 27 games with Detroit last season and spent the rest of the time on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. He had six assists in those contests while averaging over 11 minutes per game while seeing regular action on the penalty kill. However, since he was arbitration-eligible and hasn’t played much in the minors the last two years, the Red Wings opted not to tender a qualifying offer.
While it’s possible that the Habs are envisioning Stephens as a fit in Laval, he could certainly play his way into the mix with the big club depending on whether or not GM Kent Hughes is able to move out or consolidate some of his surplus depth. He’s a career 51.7% at the faceoff dot and could fit in on the fourth line with the Canadiens before too long. He’ll make $750,000 in the NHL, $300,000 in the minors, and has a $375,000 guarantee.
As for Richard, the 25-year-old winger qualified for Group 6 unrestricted free agency as he has only played in two career NHL contests. He split last season between Nashville and Tampa Bay, being flipped to the Lightning in a midseason trade. He had 38 points in 71 games between the two teams but played well against Laval in the playoffs, collecting six points in Syracuse’s five-game loss to the Rocket.
Richard, whose deal is worth $300,000 in the minors with a $350,000 guarantee, is likely to be a key part of Laval’s lineup next season and will count against their veteran limit as he has over 380 career AHL appearances under his belt.