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While there aren’t many pending free agents on the Habs, the same can’t be said in Laval.  With the Rocket, the list of players on expiring contracts is much bigger than the list of players signed.  Here’s a look at their free agent situation.

Players had to finish the season in Laval to qualify here so you won’t see Alex Belzile, for example, on this listing since he remained with Montreal.

NHL Restricted Free Agents
D Nicolas Beaudin
F Lucas Condotta
F Rafael Harvey-Pinard
F Mitchell Stephens
F Joel Teasdale
F Jesse Ylonen

There’s a good chance that most, if not all, of these players will still be in the organization but not all will be back with Laval as Harvey-Pinard and Ylonen seem likely to stick full-time with Montreal next season.  Beaudin has done enough to get a longer look and good showings from Teasdale and Condotta in lower roles make them worthy of a qualifying offer.  Stephens is worth keeping around but is arbitration-eligible.  That was enough to deter Detroit from qualifying him last summer so it’s possible the Canadiens have similar reservations.

NHL Unrestricted Free Agents
D Frederic Allard
D Madison Bowey
D Otto Leskinen
F Anthony Richard
D Corey Schueneman

At this point, it seems safe to suggest that Leskinen and Bowey won’t be back at least.  Leskinen plays on the crowded left side and wasn’t exactly making a case to get recalled before being injured.  Bowey, meanwhile, had a tough year.  I think they may look to fill that spot with someone else though.

Richard expressed a desire to return and unless the asking price is somehow too high, the Habs should be willing to accommodate him.  He had a career year and held his own with Montreal in limited action.  Unless he thinks he can get a bigger role elsewhere, he should be back.

Schueneman is a capable veteran but has made it known he wants to get more of an NHL opportunity.  With Montreal’s depth on the left side, that chance might have to come elsewhere.  As for Allard, he could be a candidate to stay and play closer to home but after being surprisingly scratched so often after being acquired, will he look for a spot that can guarantee him a regular spot in the lineup?

AHL Free Agents
F Peter Abbandonato
F Gabriel Bourque
D Santino Centorame
D Tory Dello
F Pierrick Dube
D Olivier Galipeau
F Danick Martel
F Riley McKay
F/D John Parker-Jones
G Kevin Poulin
F Nolan Yaremko

Personally, the priority re-signings out of this group are Abbandonato, Dube, and Dello.  Abbandonato went from not cracking the lineup early on to finishing second on the team in scoring and plays centre, a position they don’t have a lot of depth at.  Dube was one of Laval’s best players in the second half of the season and plays with a level of aggression that makes him a useful piece even when he isn’t scoring.  I could see him getting an entry-level contract this summer from a team.  Dello has been a steady depth defender for the past two seasons and plays the right side, Laval’s weak spot.  Extra right-shot depth is always good.

The next group in terms of importance would be Bourque, Galipeau, and Poulin.  Bourque, who took over as captain down the stretch, is a capable bottom-six winger and has already said he’d like to re-sign.  I’m not a big fan of using a veteran spot on a role player but Laval is likely to be pretty young next season and might not use their veteran slots anyway.  Galipeau was a favourite of head coach Jean-Francois Houle and while he’s a left-shot player, he lined up a lot on the right this season.  Poulin could be back but a lot depends on if they think they can get Cayden Primeau back down to play alongside Jakub Dobes.  If that’s the case, there’s not much playing time for him.

As for the others, it’s unlikely that Martel will return.  McKay was a penalty machine but earned the trust of Houle down the stretch to play fairly regularly and after the coach said he wanted some more grit next season, it might make sense to keep him around.  Parker-Jones might be worth keeping around to have in Trois-Rivieres where he started the season while Yaremko did well on a late-season tryout and might have shown enough to earn a full-season deal.  With the influx of forwards coming, that contract might not come from Laval.

Of course, not all of these players will be back.  Recent history suggests probably half of the UFAs won’t be with some of them being replaced by other veterans.  Between them and a fairly long list of newcomers (including the likes of Logan Mailloux, Joshua Roy, and Riley Kidney), the roster for the Rocket is going to look a lot different next year compared to the one that came up just short against Utica.