With the NHL Entry Draft about on week away and free agency looming, let's have a look at some potential free agent targets for the Montreal Canadiens. With trade-deadline acquisition Thomas Vanek slated to test the market on July 1st, the Canadiens could really use help on their top-six up front. While the team has a plethora of bottom-six forwards in the likes of Travis Moen, Brandon Prust, Michael Bournival, Rene Bourque, Daniel Briere, Dale Weise as well as impending RFAs Lars Eller and Ryan White who are more than likely to come back, Montreal could use another winger to play on the team's second line with Alex Galchenyuk and Tomas Plekanec.
So, unless Habs GM Marc Bergevin moves a center like Plekanec and David Desharnais, the Canadiens are more than likely to add a talented winger via free agency.
Potential free agents targets:
Jussi Jokinen, 31, Pittsburgh Penguins. After being acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline last season, Jokinen had his second best offensive season during which he recorded 21 goals and 36 assists for 57 points in 81 games to go along with 18 PIM and a good +12 rating, Playing mostly with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal on the Penguins' second line, Jokinen can play all three forward positions and he is sound defensively. Jokinen, who made $3 million/year for the last three years, will certainly be looking for a pay raise of at least $4M annually on the open market and there will be plenty of suitors for his services. With seven seasons of at least 40 points during his underrated career, Jokinen makes for a solid second-line player who can move up and down the line-up with ease.
(Salary in 2013-14: $3,000,000)
Radim Vrbata, 33, Phoenix Coyotes. Playing in the middle of the desert where hockey is an afterthought certainly did not help Vrbata make a name for himself in the NHL. This season, the right winger scored 20 goals and 31 assists for 51 points in 80 games to go along with 22 PIM and a disappointing -6 rating. Vrbata Vrbata, who scored 20+ goals four times during his career, has had problems producing out of Phoenix where he played for the last five campaigns. Vrbata who was left off the Czech roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics is very familiar with Tomas Plekanec, which could be a good fit. Expect the 33-year-old forward to command a similar salary and if the Coyotes can't afford his services, he is more than likely to get it somewhere else, and that might very be well in Montreal.
(Salary in 2013-14: $3,000,000)
Matt Moulson, 30, Minnesota Wild. Traded twice this season, Moulson finished the year with the Wild, after playing for both the New York Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres. Overall, Moulson quietly enjoyed a solid campaign despite playing for some lowly teams, recording 23 goals and 28 assists for 51 points in 75 games to go with 34 PIM and a +2 plus/minus differential. While the 6'1'', 205-lb left winger is not overly physical, his size would be welcomed on the Habs. The problem with Moulson is whether he can produce offensively without his close friend John Tavares... Moulson was a healthy scratch with Minnesota during the playoffs because of his lacklustre play.
(Salary in 2013-14: $3,900,000)
Milan Michalek, 29, Ottawa Senators. After a disappointing season with the Ottawa Senators, Michalek needs a change and, as a result, he is slated to hit free agency on July 1st. After potting 60 points with the Senators in 2011-12, his offensive production has declined. In 82 games with Ottawa this season, the Czech winger notched 17 goals and 22 assists for 39 points with a putrid -25 rating. The smooth skating Michalek has five 20+ goal seasons under his belt and he is eager to turn the page and move on. Michalek trains in Montreal during the summer and his wife Karen is from the area. Familiar with the media pressure, Michalek would be a good fit in Michael Therrien's as he is an adept penalty killer and boasts a great wrist shot.
(Salary in 2013-14: $6,000,000)
Ryan Callahan, 29, Tampa Bay Lightning. Acquired from the New York Rangers in exchange for veteran Martin St. Louis, the gritty Callahan scored 17 goals and added 19 assists for only 36 points and a +1 differential in 65 games between Tampa Bay and New York. A great leader and two-way player, Callahan has only recorded one 50-point season throughout his career and he is not known for his offensive attributes. More of a checker than a scorer, Callahan might very well be the next David Clarkson on this year's free agent market. A team will overpay for his services and I sincerely hope it won't be the Canadiens.
(Salary in 2013-14: $4,825,000)
Alex Hemsky, 30, Ottawa Senators. Maybe the most talented player listed here, but also the most inconsistent, Hemsky can fly on the ice and he possesses electrifying skills. A typical Band-Aid boy, Hemsky usually misses his fair share of games every year. Last season, between Edmonton and Ottawa, the right winger 13 goals and 30 assists for 43 points with a -15 plus/minus rating in 75 games. Hemsky has not hit the 50-point plateau since the 2008-09 season when he potted 66 points in 72 games for the Oilers. The Habs need size and grit on the wing, not one of the softest players in the entire NHL. Pass.
(Salary in 2013-14: $5,500,000)
Who would be your choice to replace Thomas Vanek's offensive production?
No Foolin' Fred Poulin