Habs Post Mortem - Habsolutely Bright Future
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
What should the Habs do in the off season?
The Habs pulled off the improbable by knocking off the Pittsburgh Penguins. For a brief moment it felt as though the 'ghosts' of the Canadiens had returned, guiding the Habs all the way to a massive upset.
Habs Nation can be very proud of their team's performance in the bubble. Beating the Penguins was no easy task, and they showed great resiliency against the Flyers. GM Bergevin can congratulate his team for exceeding expectations.
Now it is time to start planning for next season. All signs point to a huge upswing for Les Tricoleurs next season.
With 16 players currently signed, the Core is mostly secure. After that, the Habs have $18.4 Million in cap space to play with. Les Canadiens have put themselves in a very good, and very flexible position.
There are some great contracts here:
--> Tatar at $4.8M,
--> Gallagher at $3.75M,
--> Danault at $3.08M (What a steal Danault is).
The only bad contract is Karl Alzner at $4.6M. It is what it is, but overall this is a fantastic Cap Picture.
The one major exception to the core, is Max Domi. Domi is a free agent this year, coming off a $3.15M Contract.
It would be an understatement to say Max Domi had a disappointing season. 44 points one year after putting up 72 is a huge drop off, and it's actually quite concerning.
This was Max’s 5th year, which is a landmark year for most players. It’s usually around this time when we get to see a part of a player’s true career arch. Given that, Max Domi seems to be more of a 50-55 Point player, maybe 60. His break out season of two years ago for 72 points is more likely an anomaly.
Nevertheless, Max Domi brings a lot of other intangibles to the team. Leadership, heart, a winning attitude. The fans love Max, Max loves Montreal. He’s definitely a key part of the team. He may not be an offensive juggernaut, but he can bring a lot of energy to the locker room, and to the city.
I think the Habs should re-sign him, maybe to a bridge contract similar to the one he has now. So maybe two years at $3.5-$4.0 Million / Year. I feel like this should be possible.
It still leaves at least $15M to work with.
Nick Suzuki is obviously the crown jewel here. He looks like he could be the second-coming of Paul Kariya.
Acquiring Suzuki, Tatar and a 2nd Round Pick for Max Pacioretty was a brilliant return. Very well played by GM Marc Bergervin.
Finally getting Kotkaniemi off the snide and producing during these playoffs was extremely satisfying. There were moments we were worried KK might be a bust. But these playoffs showed us something. This was great news for the Habs.
If he can keep it up, the Habs are solid down the middle with Suzuki, Danault and KK.
Ryan Poehling and Cole Caulfield also seem like potential snipers. Poehling might have a shot to crack the line up next season; Caulfield is probably a year off. Caulfield had was scoring at over a goal-a-game pace two seasons ago, and despite his small stature, he could really be a diamond in the rough.
The Habs Prospect Pool is looking very solid.
The Canadiens have 14 Draft Picks in the upcoming draft. This has to be some kind of a record. This is going to be great for the Habs' Future.
They have three picks in the Second Round in a deep draft, so 4 Picks in the Top 60 Players. They've put themselves into a very good position to draft at one least NHLer.
We really have to tip our hat here to GM Bergevin for setting up this Draft. Check out this brilliant maneuver for example:
Bergevin traded away a 4th Round Pick to Buffalo for Marco Scandella, who played really well for the Habs for a month filling in for key injuries. After that, Bergevin flips Scandella for a 4th and a 2nd Round Pick. He recoups his 4th, and basically creates a 2nd Round Pick out of thin air. Another very shrewd move by the Bergevin Team.
Things have been set up very nicely here in order to have a very successful Draft.
Free Agency - Who should the Habs target?
As armchair Habs' GMs, and with around $15 Million to work with (after we sign Domi), we should now be looking at the Free Agency Market.
There were some rumours circulating about Alex Pietrangelo signing with the Habs. As tempting as that sounds, I think this would be nuts.
In his favour, Pietrangelo is a beast of a D. The Habs have the space, and we know Bergevin loves targeting D. Yet, it doesn't feel like a fit. Defence isn’t really the position the Habs need to improve. Especially with Weber and Petry signed until the end of next season.
It brings up haunted images of the lowly Sharks with Karlsson and Burns; this clearly has not worked out well at all. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Among other things, signing Pietrangelo would mean less ice time for Petry and Weber, and we definitely do not want that to happen.
What the Habs really need is some firepower. Some goal scoring. With the advent of Suzuki, the Habs suddenly seem set at Center. What the Habs need, is a high-scoring winger.
There are two big names which jump up right away: Taylor Hall, and Mike Hoffman.
Taylor Hall, I would feel wary signing. For one thing, everywhere he has gone, he loses.
I don’t think any player is cursed, but there must be something to it. It reminds me of the Matt Duchene Disease (MDD). Every team who ends up with Duchene starts losing. I wish it weren't like that, yet that's how it seems.
Besides, Hall is going to want $8-$9M. I think there are better value options. Like:
Mike Hoffman. The Hoff.
I don’t understand why people aren’t higher on this guy. He’s a 35-goal, 65-70 Point Player. He’s finished in the Top 20 for Goals in each of the last two seasons.
He was positively the Panthers’ best player in 2020, scoring more than a point a game during that span (better than Huberdeau, better than Barkov since January).
Hoffman is a Power Play Specialist, and could really boost the Habs floundering 21st ranked Power Play. He has a cannon of a shot, so imagine this: Weber on one side, The Hoff on the other, threatening the one-timer on either side of the ice.
It would be like watching two cannons locked in a siege.
He’s coming off a $5.18M Contract and is due for a raise. If he could be had for $7-8M over three years, I think that would be an excellent signing (it would also break my heart as a Panthers' Fan).
There are other players too, like Dadonov and Toffoli. Meh. Good players, and possibly decent signings. But also nothing worth getting too excited about.
Kovalchuk is still available and probably wants to come back. The Habs might as well do that if it costs only $1M again; something which seems to fit.
Other than that, the Habs might as well stay put for now. There is no rush. If the right player doesn't materialize right now, that might be fine. They have the flexibility now to pull off a blockbuster trade at some point in the season.
The Salary Cap Situation, and the Free Agency Market, really favour the Habs here.
The future looks very bright for the Habs. Many prospects, and many picks. Tons of Cap Space, and plenty of flexibility. There is no rush to make a move now, that is the beauty of the position. Wait, until the right opportunity presents itself.
Even just a year ago, things were not looking for the Habs at all. But now, this all feels like distant history.
The Habs could be the surprise team of the League next year.
One thing is for sure. With the Habs getting better, and the Sens getting better, the East is going to be a veritable gauntlet to get through next season.
If I had to predict though, I feel like Montreal will sign or trade for a huge player at some point next season, and should challenge for a Playoff Spot.
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