Greetings Habs Addicts!
There are some glaring needs for the Habs entering the off-season. Size up the middle at center is always a desire, as is adding size and grit to the wings. A large, skilled forward is free-agency priority #1 for Marc Bergevin. While we are set in goal at the NHL level (Carey Price and Peter Budaj), we do not have much NHL-ready depth at the position. While the Habs drafted Zachary Fucale, he is at least 3 years away from breaking camp at the NHL level and is better served to apprentice in Hamilton for the next 4-5 years. Depth on defence is always desirable but with the promising AHL players we have (Tinordi, Beaulieu, Pateryn), signing a defender is not necessarily a priority.
I really enjoy the Hot-Stove discussions of the off-season. Discussing players and their fits with the Habs is one of the best ways to spend the time during the slow-news summer months. The following list is compiled of some of the NHL free-agents who fit the mold of what the Habs need, along with my personal opinion about signing them and my odds of the Habs' chances of landing said player.
Intangibles: Brings a 6'4" frame, considerable offensive skill, a Stanley Cup winning pedigree and French Canadian status to the table. Is also 33 years old, showing signs of decline and is arguably the top name available on the Free Agent (FA) market. Market demand will be high, as will potential salary demands.
Opinion: I would love to see Lecavalier in a Habs jersey. But not at a steep price. Starting to decline offensively and showing signs of the injury bug creeping into his game. With the demand for his services high, he will probably land a 5 year/25 million dollar contract. While I would pay him that yearly salary, I do not like him at this contract length.
Habs Odds: 50%
Intangibles: A true power-forward who tends to step up his game in the post-season. When healthy, will provide 25-30 goals, 55-60 points and solid physical play and is sound defensively. Stanley Cup winner/finalist in Boston. However, rarely healthy and coming off a disappointing 2013 regular season.
Opinion: I've always been a fan of Horton's and his well-rounded game. He is only 28 years of age and will command a large salary. I always felt Horton was overpaid at $4-million per season and he wants more. He wants to be a $5 million per year player. Sorry but no. He would look good on a second line with Desharnais, but his propensity for injuries is worrisome as is the price to land him.
Habs Odds: 20%
Intangibles: 29 year-old grinder turned sniper potted a career-high 30 goals in 2012 and came back with 15 goals in the strike-shortened 2013 season. Extremely physical player will drive to the net, throw his weight around and drop the gloves. Similar skill-set to Brandon Prust, with better hands. However, rather one-dimensional and benefited from top-line ice time on a bad New Jersey Devils team. Will command a rather inflated salary in free-agency.
Opinion: I would love to see Clarkson in Montreal. He would fit in extremely well with Galchenyuk and Gallagher while crowding the crease on the power-play. The size and physical aspect of his game is something lacking in the lineup. A contract along the lines of 4 years/$14 million ($3.5 million per year) is the max I would hand out, but knowing how inflated the FA market gets, highly unlikely that would be enough to land Clarkson.
Habs Odds: 35%
Intangibles: A tough physical player with size (6'2", 225 lbs), the 30-year old Clowe was rumored to Montreal at the deadline and has been a darling of fellow bloggers here at the Addict. His willingness to throw his weight around and the drop the gloves will compliment Prust in the lineup and has a more rounded game than fellow scoring-grinder Clarkson. However, his offensive numbers decreased for the second year in a row as he battled some nagging injuries.
Opinion: I did not want the Habs to trade for Clowe at the deadline, as I felt the price to land him was too high. As a free agent, I would be willing to give him a 3 year deal at around the same $3.5 million cap hit he played under in San Jose. Whether this is enough to land him is unknown.
Habs Odds: 40%
Intangibles: Large (6'5", 245 lbs) winger has scored goals at an NHL level (1-time 30 goal scorer, 3-time 20 goal scorer). Two-time Stanley Cup winner. However, has not contributed any consistent offense since being dealt to the Los Angeles Kings in 2010/11. Has a tendency to float and lacks a consistent drive. Often times has been a healthy scratch with the Kings.
Opinion: Penner played well entering his free-agent year of 2006/07, landing an offer-sheet from the Edmonton Oilers. Was a consistent producer for the Oilers, but never developed as anticipated. At his current $3.25 million rate, or for multiple years, I would stay away. If we can sign him for a one-year, show me the money deal at a discounted rate ($2 million maximum), I'd take a flyer on him. Nothing more.
Habs Odds: 20%
Intangibles: Gritty, physical player has good leadership skills. Has scored goals (5 time 20-goal scorer, 2 time 30 goal scorer) and throws his weight around. A Stanley Cup winner with the Dallas Stars and an Olympic gold medal in 2010, Morrow has played well at the highest level. However, at 34 years-old he is feeling the effects of his style of play. Offensive skills have been declining and he was bitten by the injury bug the past couple of seasons.
Opinion: Washed up veteran will be overpaid based on his name and resume, or will sign a team-friendly deal with one of the top Stanley Cup contenders (Pittsburgh could re-sign him, Chicago or Boston could be in the mix depending on the moves made by Bickell and Horton, respectively). I would not pursue this option.
Habs Odds: 5%
Intangibles: Experienced NHL goaltenders, with starting experience on the downside of their careers who may be willing to sign minor-league deals and provide organizational depth. However, they are all experienced NHL goaltenders on the downside of their careers who will provide nothing more than organizational depth.
Opinion: Dan Ellis was coveted by the Habs prior to signing Peter Budaj before he chose to sign with Carolina. Theodore, Garon, Mason and Leighton would be decent options in Hamilton who can be called up in case of injuries to Price or Budaj. All should be cheap. Any one would suffice.
Habs Odds: 30% chance of landing one of them.