So Far So Great For the Habs
NHL fans were treated to one of the most exciting displays of big-money moves that the NHL has seen in quite a long time. As ESPN reports, Wednesday, July 28th, the day free agency in the NHL opened, around $575 million dollars was spent by the 32 teams collectively. With the amount of money that went into circulation, we were sure to be seeing some big-name signings leaving for greener pastures.
And we did! Dougie Hamilton packed up and went to New Jersey, the Seattle Kraken got their goalie of the future in Phillip Grubauer, and Brayden Point signed on to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Although these were all great and served as talking points for my brother and I, what I was really interested in at the end of the day was what the Montreal Canadiens were going to do in free agency.
A couple of weeks ago, and last week as well, I wrote an article regarding what Montreal should do when it comes to free agency. We crossed over scenarios such as re-signings, goal scoring acquisitions, and depth defenseman. It’s safe to say that I was partially right in my predictions of what was to expect when it came to Montreal being active in free agency, as we saw names such as David Savard, Mike Hoffman, and Cedric Paquette sign with the Canadiens.
Here we will be taking a look at, as well as grading, not only the signings Montreal has made (so far) but also the grades for their inactivity regarding other players (Perry, Danault). On the Canadiens report card, you are going to see a couple A’s, some B’s, and one F. Not too shabby, better than what I was getting in school. Without further ado let’s jump right into it.
Mike Hoffman – A+
What do you get when you have a team that lacks scoring power and a free-agent sniper who’s affordable and looking for a new home? A match made in hockey heaven! Yes, after pushing for this to happen in my last two articles, and with the entire city of Montreal hoping this would happen, the Montreal Canadiens finally pulled the trigger and signed Mike Hoffman this free agency.
The Kitchener, Ontario marksman was signed on for a three-year / $13.5 million dollar deal. Habs fans should be rejoicing as this is one of the best free-agent signings the team has made in recent memory (I’m still trying to forget the Karl Alzner debacle). What Hoffman lacks in defensive awareness he more than makes up for with power-play presence and goal scoring.
This past season with the Blues Hoffman put up 36 points in 52 games and was a consistent contributor to the team’s power-play efforts. Over the course of his career, Hoffman has amassed a total of 139 points on the man-advantage, 67 of which were goals. Not only are the Canadiens getting a power-play dynamo, but they are also getting a smooth skater who distributes the puck well and who has a real knack around the net.
Hoffman is a superb free agency pickup and will fit right into the Canadiens lineup, and will certainly be a top goal-getter on the team if he stays healthy. Look for him to be set up on a line with Nick Suzuki and another smooth-skating winger who can get him the puck, like Jonathan Drouin. All in all, the Habs did great with this signing.
David Savard – A
The 30-year-old Sainte Hyacinthe, Quebec native had his boyhood dream of playing for the Montreal Canadiens realized on Wednesday, as he and the team he grew up admiring were able to agree to terms on a four-year / $14 million dollar contract. The $3.5 million average annual value was a steal for the Canadiens considering all that Savard brings to this lineup.
Savard comes in as the main shut-down defenseman now that captain Shea Weber is on the long-term injury reserve. The recent Stanley Cup champion is used to the role of stepping in and being the “go-to guy” when it comes to being the defensive-minded anchor of the team. During his recent stint with Tampa, Savard flourished in his depth role that allowed offensive defensemen such as Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergahchev to focus more on the offensive side of things.
What I love about this signing is that it checks off boxes for both parties. In Savard, the Canadiens get a defensively sound D-man who has good vision, shot-blocking abilities and is great on the penalty kill. He’s no Shea Weber by any stretch of the imagination, but I see him thriving with the bleu-blanc-rouge. In Montreal Savard gets a team that he has admired since he was a little boy; nothing more to say, his decision to sign during free agency was easy.
I have always been a fan of the way Mathieu Perreault plays and often regarded him as severely underrated. Even though he has been used predominantly as a bottom-six forward since breaking into the NHL in 2009, Perreault has always struck me as a player who was just as skilled as some of his teammates on the top lines.
With just my luck the Canadiens managed to sign him on Thursday to a one-year contract worth just under $1 million. The move was shocking to me, mainly because I had wanted to see him in a habs uniform for so long, and now those wishes finally came true.
Last season Perreault managed to tally 19 points in 56 games for the Winnipeg Jets. His career stats are pretty impressive for a forward who is mainly used sparsely on the bottom-two lines, as he has posted 343 points in 683 games over his 13-year NHL career. The Drummondville, Quebec native enjoyed his best season back in 2016-17 when he posted 45 points in 65 games for the Jets.
With the loss of Corey Perry, Montreal needed to bring someone on who could rejuvenate their bottom offensive pairings. What’s great about Perreault is that he brings a great set of hands, as well as vision to the Canadiens. Depth is the most important factor when it comes to NHL success, and the Habs picked up an absolute great depth piece in Perreault this free agency.
Cedric Paquette – B-
It seems the Canadiens are on a redemption tour, trying to sign as many Quebec natives as possible this free agency, as they added another piece to their “Let’s get back to the Stanley Cup Finals” puzzle in Cedric Paquette. Whenever you can add a former Stanley Cup Champion such as Paquette, it’s a win for your team.
Paquette’s play isn’t flashy by any means of the imagination. He plays a hard-nosed, gritty type of hockey, that is often reminiscent of the style of hockey played in the 1990s and early 2000s. Last season he only tallied a mere eight points in 47 games, but it’s to be expected. He is not a guy who is going to put up 30+ point seasons; no. Paquette is used as a physical entity so-to-say; a player who sets the tone during the game and someone who isn’t afraid to get in the corners and get aggressive.
Brought on for the exact same contract as Perreault, I think this signing is great, and I do think Canadiens fans will take an instant liking to Perreault due to the nature of his playing style and work ethic. All in all, this was a great free agency move by the Habs.
Joel Armia – C
Don’t get me wrong, re-signing Joel Armia was a great move on Montreal’s end, but for $3.4 million a year? No way, that is way too much money to be giving a player who mainly occupies the fourth line. Some other names that make around the same as Armia are players such as Chandler Stephenson, David Perron, and Joel Eriksson-Ek; players who all occupy positions in the top-two offensive lines on their team.
Armia is a great depth piece and I love what he brings to the team, but the money has to make sense as well, and in this deal, it doesn’t. Who knows? Maybe this year he has a great season and puts up a 35-40 point season, but one thing I know for certain in this business of the NHL is that you shouldn’t be paying players based on what they might do.
Not Re-Signing Corey Perry – F
Corey Perry made it very clear that he wanted to come back to Montreal next season, and reports suggested that he wanted a two-year contract from the team he just went to the Stanley Cup Finals with. It seems Canadiens management wasn’t willing to offer him the two-year term he wanted and Perry decided to walk.
Now, this is all just hearsay on my end, but it makes a lot of sense. In his exit press interview at the end of the season, Perry stated how he would love to come back for another year and experience Montreal the way it should be experienced; with a packed crowd. I’m not sure where negotiations went left, but if the story of Perry asking for two years and Marc Bergevin not willing to do it is true, then that’s a huge loss on the Canadiens’ part.
Perry was often the heartbeat of this team during the playoffs and was a central figure in injecting intensity and grit into the lineup. It’s sad to see him go during free agency, and I am sure he will enjoy success with his new team; the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That is the final report card (so far) for what Montreal has done in free agency up to this point. What do you think of all the moves the Habs made? Let me know in the comments below!
Dropping the Mike on ya!