On Sunday, Laval brought back a key veteran and signed a pair of goalies as Gabriel Bourque, Joe Vrbetic, and Philippe Desrosiers all signed AHL contracts for next season. Bourque received a one-way deal while Vrbetic and Desrosiers were given two-way deals.
Bourque returns for his second season with the Rocket after being a late signing a year ago. The 31-year-old got off to a slow start but found his footing as the year went on, ultimately finishing up with 11 goals and 17 assists in 67 games, predominantly being deployed in a checking role. Bourque also chipped in with two goals and two assists in 14 playoff contests.
He becomes the fifth veteran on Laval’s roster, joining holdovers Danick Martel, Alex Belzile, and newcomers Anthony Richard and Madison Bowey. Teams can dress a maximum of five veterans with 320 or more professional games played (regular season only) plus one that’s between 260-319. As a result, most of the veterans for the Rocket will now be in place.
As for Vrbetic, the 19-year-old was a seventh-round pick of the Habs back in 2021 (214th overall). He spent last season with North Bay of the OHL, posting a 2.87 GAA and a .906 SV% in 45 games with the Battalion. However, he lost playing time to Domenic DiVincentiis in the playoffs and with DiVincentiis being set to be the starter next year, the Habs have decided that getting Vrbetic into their system is a better scenario than seeing where he lands as an overager in the OHL.
Desrosiers, meanwhile, spent the bulk of last season with Montreal’s ECHL affiliate in Trois-Rivieres while on a contract with Winnipeg. He had a 3.09 GAA with a .902 SV% in 34 games with the Lions while also getting into four contests with AHL Manitoba.
While Desrosiers will likely return to Trois-Rivieres, it will be interesting to see what happens with Vrbetic. If Samuel Montembeault clears waivers in training camp, he and Cayden Primeau would be the tandem in Laval with Vrbetic then joining Trois-Rivieres. If Montembeault stays in the NHL, Vrbetic could then be Primeau’s backup but with 2022-23 being Primeau’s last waiver-exempt year, he needs as much playing time as possible. If that’s the case, Trois-Rivieres might be the best spot either way for Vrbetic. In that scenario, there could still be a late goalie signing but that wouldn’t be until later in training camp which means Kevin Poulin’s time with the organization might have come to an end.