Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Unresolved Issues Remain for the Montreal Canadiens

P.K. Subban - Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators
While we enter the dog days of summer, hockey news becomes a slow trickle.

The Montreal Canadiens made a few moves on July 1st and have signed the majority of their restricted free agents.

With most roster spots apparently occupied, the team seems to have a well defined outline.

Nonetheless, there are some issues that Marc Bergevin and his team will need to sort out in order to  begin the season with confidence.

P.K Subban's Contract

As stated above, all of the squad's restricted free agents have been signed — save for P.K Subban.

Considering his team-leading ice time, that is one heck of a player to still have unsigned.

With equally young blueliners such as Erik Karlson and Tyler Myers receiving long-term, richly paid contracts, one can easily assume Subban's agent is using that as leverage to obtain the same for his client.

Conversely, the Canadiens may not be too keen on extending such a long deal to the defenseman, especially if the new CBA's rules prove more favorable. Having said that, they cannot be too excited about any contract that would allow Subban to become unrestricted at its end.

The question then becomes, do you lock up Subban long-term or give him a shorter deal that will keep him within the realm of restricted free agency?

The Trifecta

Think what you will about Tomas Kaberle, Rene Bourque and Scott Gomez, the fact remains that Marc Bergevin will have to make a decision, one way or another, about what to do with these players and their rather hefty cap-hits.

Scott Gomez has done next to nothing to redeem his subpar performance and his contract makes him very difficult to move.

Rene Bourque and Tomas Kaberle can prove useful, but their deals also eat up significant money.

Ultimately, with so many dubious deals on the books, it will be very difficult for Bergevin to add to his team down the road.

With a much deeper pool of free agents ahead next summer and the omnipresent potential for trades, it would be wise to clear at least some of the above mentioned salaries.

Logjam on the Back End

You can never have too many NHL-ready defensemen. At least, so goes the old adage. And, for the most part, it is quite true.

However, when it comes to the Habs' blueline depth, it has an element of sameness that is concerning.

Think of Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz, Tomas Kaberle, Brendon Nash and Frederic St-Denis.

What comes to mind?

Typically, terms like "offensive minded" or "puck moving" are quick to pop up.

While that type of defender can be most useful, your NHL-ready depth cannot consist almost solely of that kind of player.

At one point, some pieces will have to be moved and toughness will need to be added to back end.

Louis is an Associate Editor and Senior Writer at Born near Chicago, Louis grew up in Quebec City where he earned Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Université Laval. He is also an occasional guest on CKCU's Red Zone program.
Find him on Twitter @LouisMoustakas

(Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images North America)


Subban being unsigned, most would think a contract IS being negotiated. BUT could Bergevin be using Subban as trade bait? After all besides Kaberle, all the other D mentioned in this article with the addition of Boullion in my mind are all players who move the puck reall well.

I hope to GOD that Subban is not being shopped because he is already the best D-man on the team and the only right handed player arguably among our top 6.

With that said right now we have 23 players under contract with SUbban pegged to be #24. You just know that one or more of these players are going to find themselves in a new city.

Final thought, I wish people would stop putting Bourque in the same sentence as kaberle and Gomez. He has been an amazingly consistent goal scorer scoring or on pace for 27-29 goals a year for the past 4 seasons.

He is going to rebound from the dismal half season last year where the entire team was in disarray.

Not only will Bourque rebound, but so will Gomez under Therrien...remember, he and Gionta have great chemistry, and he is a puck possession machine...maybe throw Prust on that line and let Plekanec play with Leblanc and/or Bourque and Armstrong and have some balanced lines...Kaberle can help too...mark my words! BH in Ohio...

The most pressing issue is not mentionned- who will play with Pleks and Gio??? Having too many Dmen in Hamilton is not so bad.

There are still some significant flies in the Habs ointment. I agree with Bryan. Bourque joined a crap team under crap leadership. He will rebound. Plus, everyone talks about a winger for the Pleks-Gio line... except they suck together. I expect that unless Bergevin is able to land a significant contract and needs the cap space, Gomez, Kaberle and Bourque will play with the team this fall. I see Kaberle as more expendable to Bergevin, but Gomez and Bourque will get a chance to redeem themselves under new leadership.


Wow. Thanks for reading. Who knew something I posted at 1 AM would generate such quick, good discussion.

Now, don't get me wrong, I include Gomez, Bourque and Kaberle in the same sentence because of their contracts. Bourque can (and probably) rebound to a degree and Kaberle had 0.5 PPG.

Gomez continued to be useless and, at this point, I don't know how we still hold out hope of a return to form.

In any event, having all three makes it very difficult to add pieces to the team. After all, when three players, who have all recently underachieved to different degrees, take up $14+ million in cap space, that is rough.

@Anon (last one, before Casey)

Concerning the D, having to many Dmen is of course not inherently bad. But, boy oh boy, they are a samey bunch. If the team needs more sandpaper and (as Brian Burke would say) truculence, the group I mention cannot deliver tha.t

Interesting take Louis.

I also am sick of the Bourque/Kaberle crapfest, they are and have been solid to All-Star players in the past and are no way any issue Bergevin loses sleep over, as Gomer likely is.

And also calling Nash and St.Denis offensive puck-moving d-men? not quite accurate is it?
Nash is 6'3" 215lbs, so not quite a Weber/Diaz frame and St.Denis's defense is miles ahead of Diaz/Weber.

Subban's contract will get done and i am not worried at all, they have till Sept and if is 4 years or 6 i dont care really.


@Anon / Don

I am only crapping on their cap hits, not on each of them as individual players. Bryan can attest to me defending the Tomas Kaberle trade at length in fact. As for Bourque, he has never been an All Star, but your point is well taken nonetheless.

Calling Brendon Nash and Frederic St-Denis decent puck moving and/or offensive minded d-men is not inaccurate at all. Both players have around 0.5 PPG averages at lower levels, which is quite high for a blueliner. Previous scouting reports also suggests they are decent offensive, puck movers.

Never did I mention size in this conversation, but Nash does not quite play up to his sizeable frame regardless.

At the end of the day, I like the above mentioned blueliners, especially St-Denis. But you cannot have so many players who all fill very similar roles. There must be diversity in your depth. What if Emelin or Gorges gets injured? Who fills in that role?

I agree with the last Anon, we can't include Nash in that group as he has size and from what I recall even occasionally dropped the gloves in Hamilton.
St. Denis is more of a career AHLer, due to his size and age I have my doubts he will ever be more than a 2nd tier call-up.

I think it's obvious the Gomez situation can only be dealt with once the new CBA is negotiated and they know whether or not they can get a free buy-out.
If not then I think the process is he has to come to camp under contract and then if at the end of camp he is not in the plans (which is almost certain) he gets put on waivers in order to get sent down to Hamilton.
I have serious doubts he will be on our roster next season.


if Yemelin/Gorges gets injured, the Habs will have to do as most other teams do, and move up the next capable and i am fine with Bouillon filling in as the #2 or #4 defensive shot blocker playing with Markov/Subban.

Not many teams have 5 top 4 d-men, so the Habs are not alone and also this is the last year for that.
As at least a couple AHLers should be ready for 2013-14 season. Tinordi/Nash/Pateryn/Ellis are all good sized and physical.
Then will aslo have another influx again with Ditz/Thrower/Nygren and possibly Bennett turning pro.

Timmins has really done well at restocking the back end, and this is just a year we will just need to get by with what we have (a group i am fine with).

And i know or agree with you, that there is more a glut of 3rd pairing guys, but defense is not Habs weak point, it has been and likely still is, is Offense.

If Yemelin/Gorges gets hurt, it will be a minor issue, and a super test of who can step up.


Fair enough that the cupboards are restocked on D, but as far as 2012-13 is concerned, I maintain the bottom depth is far too alike in style. Nash may have size, but physicality is not his forte. Bouillon is a welcome addition though.

And, yes, offense is still a tremendous concern - everyone agrees on that. But it's mighty hard to address that problem with the glut of players and bad contracts currently on the roster.

I agree with anon above when he/she said that this is just we will just need to get by with . If they could get a decent return ( a nice big winger for pleky ) for Gionta and one of those similar defences I would not hesitate for a second . Bourque would then be a nice fit for the second line . Habs fans can t expect too much this year , Bergevin has his hands tied because of the terrible moves made by Gainey and Gauthier .

please read: this is just A YEAR we will just need ...

Lets get PK signed very soon he is still learning, but is of great value to the Canadiens and his ice time is of great value also, sign, sign him lets go Habs sign him!!!

Bergevin will give gomez a reasonable assessment time at the start of the season to prove himself before either keeping him or sending him to hamilton, etc.... Bourgue will have time to produce, and I believe he will with the Plekanec line. His competition will come from the farm clubs. assuming no trades occur. Kaberle is the unknown factor as well as Markov's knee. The stop line 3 I believe will be prust, eller, and armstrong. Once the cba negotiations are over and the cap space is establish and the habs on ice team is established and making the playoffs, I can see a possible trade. amen

Do you really see Weber starting the season as a Hab? I say he is pretty much as good as gone. I would take pretty much anyhting for him.

Way I see it is that we'll see Markov, Gorges, Subban, Emelin all capable of top 4 minutes. Most people have Bouillon pegged as a #6-7 but with Nashville once he came back from injury he and Klein formed a very dependable second unit.

The biggest question mark is Kaberle. Last season he did extremely well as an offensive D-man with this team but struggled in his own zone. We need a partner for him who can take care of things defensively allowing Kaberle to be more free.


I find that kind of attitude is risky when it comes to Yannick Weber. Montreal has lost many good blueliners in very cavalier fashion already.

McDonagh in the Gomez trade. Hainsey, Beauchemin and Robidas via waivers. Souray and Streit via Free Agency.

As for the top-four, I agree the above group is capable. Once again, my issue is with the similar styles with many of the bottom d-men. Variety is the spice, nay the key, to life after all!

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