Wednesday, June 29, 2011


So we've learned quite a bit today on how your Montreal Canadiens defense is shaping up before the free agency frenzy that starts on July 1st.

We know that James Wisniewski is not signing in Montreal after being shipped off to Columbus earlier this afternoon for a 7th round pick (to be upgraded to a 5th round pick should the Blue Jackets succeed in signing him).  We also know that Roman Hamrlik has refused to accept the 1 year deal that Pierre Gauthier offered him.  According to Petr Svoboda, Hamrlik's agent, the dollar amount was decent but the term was not with Hamrlik looking for a 2 to 3 year deal.

Finally, a news release from the Canadiens indicating that Yannick Weber had agreed to a 2 year deal that would pay him $1.7M over the term of the contract.  A cap hit of 850K is reasonable and well-deserved for Weber who continues to develop and showed glimpses of really solid play in the postseason last year.

Although there is a still a slight possibility that Hamrlik could potentially re-sign with the Habs, I would consider that possibility remote.  Considering the lack of free agents this year, I have little doubt that Roman will get his 2 year deal from another team and I don't blame him for going after it.  This is most likely his final NHL contract and he should maximize his earnings before he retires or goes the way of the KHL.  He provided the Habs organization with solid and effective play over his 4 years with the club and was handsomely rewarded for his efforts.
Wisniewski is gone.  If there was any desire to keep him, the effort has already been put forth to keep him and has failed.  With that, I commend Pierre Gauthier for shopping Wiz's negotiating rights and receiving what he could for them.  It's likely that most GMs in the league believe that the Detroit Red Wings are the front-runners to acquire Wisniewski's services come July 1st.  They have the cap space, they need a capable replacement for Brian Rafalski (who retired this year) and as a bonus, Wiz is a local boy.  Other suitors include the Boston Bruins, who are looking to replace the ineffective Tomas Kaberle and secure a legitimate powerplay quarterback.  The Blackhawks could also be in play here after successfully unloading Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers.

Considering the competition, I'm not surprised that Blue Jackets only offered a 7th rounder (possible 5th) for Wisniewski's rights.  They know quite well that they are a serious underdog in being able to sign him but I think this move represents something more important.  On the heels of the trade that brought Jeff Carter to Columbus, it seems clear that the Blue Jackets are going to do all they can to prove their legitimacy as a playoff contender.  I believe they are ready to offer Wiz a very rich contract in order to make a serious push towards the playoffs and to appease their newly acquired center from Philadelphia.

Getting back to the Canadiens, this is how the defense stacks up in my opinion:
Markov - Gorges
Subban - Gill
Your rover between Hamilton and Montreal as a depth guy would be Diaz.

Alexei Yemelin
The most glaring issue is a lack of size and toughness.  Yemelin comes touted as a tough customer who plays with a mean edge.  But Yemelin alone is not enough and putting all your toughness in the hands of a rookie who may not cut it in the NHL is extremely risky.  The Habs are missing a depth D man with size and grit.  Mara could be re-signed for cheap and Sopel is another option with whom the Canadiens enjoy exclusive negotiating rights until noon Friday.  For those that are negative on Sopel, don't forget that he played injured from almost the first week that he arrived right through till the end.

Of course, free agency will offer even more options.  Should be interesting to see how it all shapes up but as outlined, toughness and crease-clearing will be an issue yet again for your Montreal Canadiens.

***Update 30JUN11 @ 12:31pm - The Oilers have decided to put Sheldon Souray on waivers in anticipation of buying him out.  I would believe that he could also fill the role for the Habs as that veteran defenseman with crease-clearing capabilities who can add to your depth and should be available for cheap (i.e. less than $2M for 1 year).***


  1. Hello T,

    The physical aspect of defense is also somewhat lacking down the depth chart. That's why I would expect the Habs to make some of those depth moves that infuriate fans ("they signed WHO?")!

    It might not be a bad idea to bolster the lower D ranks with marginal NHLers able to patch a hole, but apt to sign a 2-way contract (like Picard did last year). The need is particularly glaring on the right side: the only current RHDs Bulldogs are puckmovers Mathieu Carle and Raphael Diaz, & college grad Joe Stejskal.

    Who-the-heck-are-they types with NHL experience, like Tyson Strachan or Sean Collins, are options worth exploring.

    I'm afraid the Habs will carry the 7-man D corps you indicate, and will not add an 8th option until September, if Yemelin fails to impress, or later, if an injury occurs.

    Good Job!

  2. My money on Tinordi and Yemelin to get fast tracked to the big league! With Gill and Spacek likely on their last season with the Habs it time to get younger.

  3. @ HABraCHadabra
    I don't disagree with you at all with regards to filling the coffers with rugged borderline-NHL guys. But I sure hope that they do go ahead and realize the value of vets w/ experience (as they have done recently).
    - Yemelin is a project that could fail
    - If Spacek regresses again, he himself becomes a borderline NHLer
    - Weber is unproven over an 82gm schedule

    Those are a lot of questions without considering a potential injury to the top 4. I truly believe we need a legitimate NHLer to round out the group. Maybe even 2.

    Thanks very much for your support, it's much appreciated!

    @Rambling Johnny
    Yemelin is going to be given every opportunity to succeed at this level but I don't think they will fast-track Tinordi. They learned their lesson with Latendresse and again with Pacioretty in how rushing players doesn't work. They then proved with PK Subban that proper development is imperative.

    You're probably right on Gill and Spacek.