Canadiens Have A Lot of Work To Do in Free Agency
With the free-agent frenzy a mere two-and-a-half-weeks away, the Montreal Canadiens will have a lot of work on their hands before and during the NHL free agency period. With 23 players becoming free agents (RFA & UFA), we will look at which players the Canadiens need to bring back, which they need to let go, and who they should pursue in free agency. Without further ado, let’s hop right in.
Phillip Danault – UFA
The 28-year-old Quebec native had a career season this past year, as he cemented himself as the Canadiens undisputed number one center, and was able to shut down first lines on powerhouse teams in the playoffs. His ability to win faceoffs, as well as his defensive prowess, are what make Danault such a great number one center for the Canadiens.
Danault has many similarities to Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, as they play the same style of two-way hockey with a heightened focus on the defensive aspect of the game. Although I think Danault was a great number one center for the Canadiens this past season, I’m not sure if he’s worth bringing back, and hear me out.
The power-forward enjoyed his best season during his contract year. This means that his market value is at its highest peak ever. Teams who are in need of either a number one or two centermen are going to be flocking to Danault and throwing money at him. In his past contract, Danault was making an average annual value of just below $3.1 million.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams throw contracts with an AAV of upwards of 7$ million his way. With the flattened salary cap, I just don’t see a reason for the Canadiens to even entertain the idea of bringing Danault back for more than $5.5 million. Before I get crucified, let me explain myself.
Danault may have huge defensive upside, but what he brings in defensive play, he lacks in offensive production. If the Canadiens need one thing to help them next season, it is offensive production. This year they could get away with it seeing as they were playing in the weakest division in the NHL. Come next season, when the divisions go back to the way they were, the Canadiens will need all the help they can get.
In saying that, I don’t think the Canadiens should bring back Danault for more than $5.5 million AAV, and that’s still pushing it. Maybe he takes a hometown discount, who knows? One thing is for certain, however, with budding superstars in Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and Jesperi Kotkniemi, the Canadiens will need all the cap space they can get in the future.
Corey Perry – UFA
Corey Perry has quickly engrained himself in the hearts of Canadiens fans, thanks to his fierce tenacity, hockey I.Q, and the amount of heart he brings every night. This verdict is simple for me; BRING HIM BACK! Perry was the heart and soul of the team for many nights and created a momentum that carried us to wins during the regular season and playoffs.
The proof isn’t even in what he brings to the stat-sheet, it’s what he brings to the dressing room. You can just see that everyone loves him on the team and that he is a natural leader. When you have young players like Caufield, Suzuki, Kotkaniemi, Jake Evans, and Alex Romanov on the roster, it is integral to surround them with a seasoned vet who knows how to win – just like Perry.
If I was Marc Bergevin I wouldn’t even think twice about this; bring him back for 1-2 more years at a contract that carries a $1.5-$2 million AAV. The investment is well worth the number of dividends it will pay off for the Canadiens in the long run.
Tomas Tatar – UFA
Canadiens fans were left scratching their head during the playoffs, as the man who led the team in scoring the two seasons prior to the 2020-21 season had been left out of the lineup for, what felt like, the entire playoffs. I don’t know if the Canadiens have plans to bring him back, but I wouldn’t bet on him even wanting to.
Tatar is 30 years old, in the latter stages of his career, and wants to compete with a team that believes in him. What the Canadiens did in the playoffs was proof that they didn’t believe in him to lend to a winning formula. When this is done, you can’t expect the relationship to continue.
I say the Habs cut their losses and let Tatar walk in free agency. He does score yes, but he is also very streaky and a defensive liability. Also, with the Canadiens advancing all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, they proved they can win without him. Marc Bergevin should let him walk and use the money towards a big-name signing or keep it in reserve for when Suzuki’s contract comes up.
Joel Armia – UFA
Similar to Corey Perry, Armia serves as a heartbeat for the team on the bottom lines. He may not be the flashiest player or put up the most points, but when it came down to it, Armia stepped up in crucial moments and delivered. In the playoffs, he proved his worth and then some, as he served as a spark of energy and contributed five goals and three assists, good for eight points.
What he also brings is size, something the Canadiens are lacking in their forwards corps. Standing at 6″3 and 212 pounds, Armia isn’t one to be pushed around and can lay the body with the best of them. If I am the GM, I am bringing him back for three years at $1.5-$2 million AAV.
Free Agents the Canadiens Should Pursue
Taylor Hall – UFA
After enduring a disastrous season with the Buffalo Sabres, Taylor Hall had his prayers answered and got traded to the Boston Bruins at the Trade Deadline. While in Boston, Hall seemingly picked up where he left off during his Hart trophy-winning season, as he was arguably the best Bruins forward for the rest of the 2020-21 season.
In the playoffs, Hall showed he wasn’t easily frayed either, as he gathered five points in 11 games. With the Canadiens lacking scoring, Hall would be a major addition that could be the missing puzzle piece needed for another successful Stanley Cup run. Hall has killer speed, as well as a fantastic hockey I.Q that would serve as a complement alongside the likes of Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli.
If the number is right, and Hall wants to come to a team looking to compete once again in the Stanley Cup playoffs, I say we pull the trigger and have Hall onboard.
Mike Hoffman – UFA
Similar to Taylor Hall, Hoffman brings an instant offense that can be implemented anywhere in the lineup. The sniper had 36 points in 56 games this year for the St. Louis Blues, which are numbers I am sure he can bring up if talents surround him such as Suzuki, Caufield, Anderson, Toffoli, and Perry.
Hoffman comes at a cheaper price tag than Hall, which is what may draw the Canadiens towards him. With goals being an issue for the Canadiens these past couple of seasons, I think you take a chance and bring on Mike Hoffman. (Sorry Guy) His speed, coupled with his knack around the net would make this a great signing overall for Canadiens management.
Alec Martinez – UFA
Martinez enjoyed a great playoff run with the Vegas Golden Knights this past year and stood out amongst his fellow star teammates Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo. When I watched him play against the Canadiens in the third round of the playoffs, I would say to myself “Wow, this guy would be great on our team”. Well, he very well could be.
Martinez is a UFA and has the ability to be courted by a team such as the Montreal Canadiens. If I am the Canadiens, I know Carey Prices‘ window to win a cup is closing rapidly, so why not bring on a seasoned defenseman who has two Stanley Cup rings and is clutch in the playoffs.
Jamie Oleksiak – UFA
I want the Canadiens to bring on Oleksiak because I think he would instantly make our defense scarier. Could you imagine coming up against a team that houses Shea Weber, Joel Edmundson, Ben Chiarot, Jeff Petry, Romanov, and a 6”7 monster in Oleksiak? It’s not just his size that matters, but his shot-blocking ability as well.
Over the course of the past two seasons, Oleksiak has blocked 147 shots. In the 2019-20 playoffs, he blocked 65 shots in only 27 games. That’s insane! If the Habs would like to add some size, as well as a player who can utilize the body and play physically, the Oleksiak is your guy.
What do you think about these picks? Should the Habs bring back Danault? Or Tatar? Let me know in the comments below!
Dropping the Mike on ya!