Montreal's Offseason Goals

The Montreal Canadiens maintained their status as a playoff team this year; despite a rollercoaster ride that saw head coach Claude Julien fired, former MVP Jose Theodore traded and former top liner Richard Zednik as a healthy scratch. Luckily for the Habs; replacements for these players were found. Chris Higgins shone alongside Saku Koivu; Cristobal Huet became a star after being fleeced from Los Angeles, and Gainey himself stepped behind the bench.

But what moves does the club need to make to continue their eventual road to the elusive 25th Stanley Cup?The Habs’ first goal this offseason may very well have been to retain Huet, the talented Frenchman who quickly made Habs fans forget about Mathieu Garon. Gainey bore heat for the trade after the lackluster play of Radek Bonk, but with Huet’s emergence and Garon’s struggles, the trade became a clear steal for Montreal.

It’s become clear what the Habs need:

Second Line Centre

Mike Ribiero’s struggles notwithstanding, the Habs still saw some inhouse potential from Czech rookie Tomas Plekanec. However, Plekanec is more suited to a third line role at this point in his career (could a sophomore slump be in the cards?), and obviously, Mike Ribiero’s inconsistency rules him out.

The name being heard time and time again in Montreal is that of former Dallas Star Jason Arnott, who’s coming off a season where he set career highs in all offensive categories. It’s likely Gainey will pursue Arnott, but he may decide to back off if the price is too high, (I’d say above 4.5M). With a limited number of centres available through UFA, he figures to be the target of several teams.

Another UFA option could be Canes centre Matt Cullen, who likely would figure in the 1.5-2M range. UFA Marc Savard of Atlanta isn’t the complete player the Habs are looking for. It appears likely that Montreal may go the trade route. Robert Lang of Detroit was mentioned in rumours for Richard Zednik; a more appropriate rumour could be him for David Aebischer, seeing as how Detroit gave up on Manny Legace.

Top Four Defenseman

Like many teams, the Habs will be interested in acquiring a blueliner to round out their top four, presumably as an upgrade; but as a necessity if Francis Bouillon departs via free agency. The team’s defense seems set at the moment; but they clearly lack a true top pair blueliner aside from Andrei Markov. The others are defensively lacking (see Souray, Streit) or offensively lacking *(Dandenault, Rivet, Komisarek, Bouillon). While this may not be a bad thing (see Carolina), it could be compounded if Francis Bouillon leaves.

Francis Bouillon, the irrepresible sparkplug who gave a 110% effort every game he played, may not be back. His agent and Bob Gainey are reportedly at loggerheards over contract length; they want a 3yr deal, Gainey wants more flexlibility. It’s a very real possibility that Bouillon could head to the UFA market.

The number of UFA defensemen are staggering however. Pavel Kubina is going to garner a lot of attention, he would easily be one of Montreal’s top defensemen if signed. The price range would likely be a prohibitive 3-4M. Danny Markov could be looked at by Montreal, he maintains some puck-moving ability and uses his size and could be a relatively economical option. Filip Kuba, Jaroslav Spacek or Willie Mitchell could be options. It is highly unlikely Montreal pursues a Jovo-cop or Chara-esque defenseman, but Gainey is unpredictable.

The third but least pressing need is….a Gritty Winger.

The Habs displayed some grit and character, which is exactly what you would expect from a Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau led team, the past season, especially in the playoffs. Guys like Steve Begin, Bouillon and Garth Murray stepped up and threw big hits and played their guts out each shift. Montreal could definitely use a winger who displays some scoring touch in the clutch and throws his weight around. Such a player would be UFA Jamie Langenbrunner, formerly of—you guessed it, Dallas, albeit through Jersey. Langenbrunner’s been linked in media reports to Montreal through the Carbonneau/Gainey connection, and would be a real solid acquistion.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the Habs information.


24 Responses to Montreal's Offseason Goals

  1. Milohabs says:

    Nice article. I agree that they need to upgrade from Ribeiro. this is a true weakness to the team. If they shut down the top line, Ribeiro isn’t good enough to carry the team. He also never comes up big when you need him. He went into a drout at the end of the season and for the last 2 playoffs, he’s been non-existant. Arnott would be great. Although not a superstar, he’s got size and uses it. He plays with heart and shows up more nights than not. This is what the Habs need.

    The other rumor floating around these days is the trade for St.Louis. Who knows if this will turn out or not, but if the habs could get this guy they’d be laughing. Even though he’s not as dominant as he was 2 years ago, he is a top notch NHL offensive player and will create 2 serious scoring lines for MOntreal. Between Saku, Kovalev, St.Louis (possible Arnott) Ryder, Higgins, your looking pretty solid.

    As for the gritty wingers, you forgot to mention that there are 2 impressive youngsters who could crack the lineup. 1) Kyle Chipchura. He’s a big kid and plays solid 2 way hockey, never afraid to crash and bang. He should be with the club this year. Latendresse is also a rather large & somewhat physical forward. He also has potential to play some time on the top 2 lines. Then you have Kostitsyn & Perezhogan , who although not big & tough, both these guys could end up being prolific scorers in the NHL once they get some more experience. Finally, there is SO much talk about Zednik sucking and on his way out. This guy doesn’t suck at all. he had 1 bad season, and his ice time was reduced because of it. This same player could score 30+ and hit the 60-80 point range playing with the right guys. He’s tough and solid on his skates. He could be on a line with St Louis & Arnott and light it up. If Montreal trades him, look for him to break out under new surroundings. Bulis is another one. It doesn’t look like Gainey will re-sign him, only so he can make room for the rookies, but this guy can play and works hard every shift. There is some offensive upside with Bulis, but he may be subject to the numbers game in Montreal.

    Last….Defense. The habs are decent on D, but they do lack that stud defensman. I think that with the group they have (and Komisarek getting better by the minute) they could be strong enough to compete (look at Carloina). I don’t think Gainey will go after Blake, Chara, Redden, Jovo etc etc.

    Huet is fantastic. this guy is NOT a flash in the pan. I think his signing was great. I’d ike to see abeisher moved and Danis brought in as the backup.

  2. Aetherial says:

    Good article.

    I can’t believe that Montreal is going to be a contender for quite a few years though.

  3. ThomasHawks says:

    This is the team that i would like to have this year in Mtl.

    Ryder-Arnott-Kovalev

    Higgins-Koivu-St-Louis

    Plekanec-Bonk-Perezhogin

    Begin-Chipchura-Barnaby

    Markov-Rivet

    Souray-Dandenault

    Bouillon-Komisarek

    Huet-Danis

    Extra player: Streit,Murray,Downey

    I would trade Abiesher Ribeiro and Zednik for St-louis.

    Bulis is gonna sign away

    Sundstrum is playing in sweden

    Sign Arnott and Barnaby as Free Agent

    I hope were gonna end up with at least one of those 2 player: St-louis or Arnott. c ya

  4. Habfan1234 says:

    You are right when it comes to the Habs and their abilities to contend for a Stanley Cup. Indeed, it will be more of the same for this season and possibly the next. They will fight for a playoff spot and will reach no higher than the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference. I see them being in the top-8 clubs in the NHL around the 08-09 season.

    However, Carolina was picked to miss the playoffs by many pundits. But they ended up winning the cup. This means that there is much more volitlity in the NHL and teams can thus come out of nowhere to be successful. Therefore, the Habs may make such a run but I would not bet on a Carolina-esque situation occuring in Montreal for next season. However, a fan can dream about that possibility.

  5. habsoverserver says:

    Good article.

    If you think Montreal can win now you go after Arnott, St. Louis and Samsonov.

    If you think Montreal needs a few years, you sign defensive defencemen and let the youngsters play offense.

    I would chose the latter.

    Bouillon gives a ton of effort, but he’s not very good on plus minus and can’t score. He doesn’t deserve a three year contract. I’d rather sign Jay McKee. Not that you can’t do both.

    Langenburner is an intersting idea for second line wing with Ryder and Ribiero. I think Montreal should keep Ribiero for one more season. He needs better coaching and discipline but has the third most raw talent after Kostitsyn and Kovalev.

    If Montreal signed two experienced dman, it would greatly enhance the devleopment of their young small forrwards and make for very exciting hockey.

    Practically speaking hit will be hard to trade both Zednik and Ribiero which is why I think they should just try to dump one of them, if possible. Problem is every Hab mentions trading Zednik but no fans of other teams mention wanting him.

  6. Milohabs says:

    good points, actually (especially on this site) Carolina AND Buffalo AND Anaheim wre thought by most to miss the playoffs, and they were 3 of the final 4. Montreal can obtain ahigher ranking not only by improving slightly, but by other teams getting worse. This year, the first place Bruins fell off the map. A team like the Rangers also came out of nowhere. If a few teams really do poorly next season, then other teams will do better because of it.

    Personally, I think Philly is heading downwards startig this year. No cap space. Bad injuries to Primeau & Forsberg, aging team, no goaltending…going nowhere. They are my darkhorse right no to miss the playoffs next season.

  7. FlyersfanKyle says:

    “I think Philly is heading downwards startig this year”

    i can admit we arnt gonna win the cup but u said “no goaltending” hmmmm let me think i guess having the olympic mvp on our roster is pretty lousy and having a good trade option on our backup is also not goal tending oh and for phillys fall to the basment u forgot to mention that our prospects are better then most teams and our young players are much better then 90% of the league including montreal if you wanna second guess me have a look at Pitkanen Carter Richards Umberger and Radavojevic

    finally philly has only been a cellar dwellar once in its history 1989-94 and clarke who wants the gm in that period will never, ever let his beloved orange and black fall to the bottom

  8. Air33 says:

    that would be a nice offence.

  9. unknownminion says:

    Even using your facts, Philly is definatly going down – not bottom feeders, but definatly to mediocraty. Sure, they have some good prospects, but outside of those and a good goaltender, they have an aging team riddled with injuries.

  10. hockeykid9213 says:

    they should just sign Mackee and a forward like Pisani or Peca

  11. Milohabs says:

    Whoa buddy, you’re missing my point here. I never said they’d be bottom feeders or that NEXT year they would be out of playoff contention, I just think that they have been solid for years, and they are now going to start decending. I can see them being a 6th place team this year, and possibly missing the playoffs down the road. They have a handful of good rookies (Pitkanen, Carter & Richards)…as most teams do. I honestly think that they need to chose one goalie and stick with it. Esch is not a #1 in my mind, he’s yet to prove himself, yet this is the go-to-guy for Hitch*****. Defense will be older and slower this year. It was the wrong move to get Hatcher, rathje, Gauthier. Desjardins is hanging em’ up. They are left with one or 2 mobile d men. They are riddled with injuries (mostly due to the crash and bang style Clarke like to see on the ice). Forsberg is out until December (at least). Gagne had a GREAT year, but without Forsberg production will decline. No way he will put up the same numbers. Primeau is as good as done. Who’s left ?? Nedved, Handzus?? Big deal. Brashear & Savage are gone, they have tons of holes to fill. I feel they should hang on to 3-4 players (Pitkanen, One goalie & gagne) and start re-building.

    Bottom line. As a Habs fan, I used to be scared silly when we faced Philly (especially in Philadelphia), now I’m like…eh, whatever. We can beat these guys any given night. I’m more scared of Ottawa, Buffalo & Carolina these days.

    Hope that clears things up.

    PS> Past stats are IRRELEVANT to future production. By those measures you should say that Montreal has the best chance to win the cup next year because they’ve done it the most in history…just doesn’t work that way.

  12. unknownminion says:

    I was responding to Flyersfankyle, I agree with your stance.

  13. habsoverserver says:

    Zednik is 31 years old and has yet to score more than 50 points, having played five seasons on a first line.

    Ribiero is 26 years old and had more than 60 points in his first full NHL season, playing on a second line.

    Granted Ribiero doesn’t know anything about defense, but the sweet spot for players is age 24-30. Ribiero is in the middle of his and Zednik is past his.

    You have to give Ribiero another shot.

  14. Turnbull says:

    Arnott is not a 1st line center.

  15. Rico420 says:

    I am a life long Habs fan and I feel disgust when I think that two years ago many Habs fans were calling out on Gainey to trade Koivu and keep Ribeiro…that slimy little bastard should be playing in the ECHL for that crap he pulled in the playoffs against the Bruins and for coming to blows with Koivu.

    Ribeiro should be playing in Phoenix…and for the Zednik bashing..do you not remember a few years back when he was the team leader and played on the top line with Koivu and Kovalev to form an UNSTOPPABLE unit..maybe give him another chance I mean…we kept Savard on the top two lines and he stunk.

  16. habsoverserver says:

    Zednik is too old to be part of Gainey’s five year plan. Either the Habs should make an all out efofrt to win now or thy should dump Zednik. There is no point in building around a player who at age 31 is one year past his prime.

    I thought Higgins replaced Zednik pretty well for one third the price.

  17. habsoverserver says:

    He was a first line center on a Cup winner.

  18. Habfan1234 says:

    Agree with your assessment on Ribs but not on Zednik. Both players need to go and the Habs do have enough young players that are similar to Zednik, which would make the aforementioned player expendable.

  19. Milohabs says:

    There is word out now on Sportsnet.ca that the Habs are going to make an offer for George Laraque. He is certainly gritty, but will not help the offense very much. GAINEY! GET SOME OFFENSE!!!!

  20. skandelousHABSfan says:

    It seems that Bill Guerin is going to be bought out from Dallas. He would be a good fit as that Gritty winger who can definatly put the puck in the net. He may have had one bad year, but with any luck he can bounce back like Selanne did.

    Imagine a line of Guerin-Arnott-Kovelev, they would be a force.

    If i could have my (semi-reasonable) picks from the freeagent pool, then the habs would look like this next year:

    Guerin – Arnott – Kovelev

    Higgins – Koivu – Ryder

    Perrizogin – Bonk – Plecanec

    Murray – Begin – Larocque

    Jovo – Boulion

    Komesarik – Markov

    Souray – Rivet

    Huet

    Denis

    But i guess that this is just wishful thinking…

  21. magnifikko says:

    nice article

  22. johnnyhab says:

    i like your thinking on this but i would touch barnaby at all! jaime langenbrunner instead!! iwould tade for martin st.louis in a heartbeat! and sign arnott to be second line center and pavel kubina on defence to compliment andrei markov! my first line would be koivu,ryder ,and higgins my second line would be arnott ,kovalev,andst.louis, 3rd line would be bonk,begin,andmurray 4th line downey, perezhogin,latendresse, defence would be: markov kubina, souray,komisarek,bouillion rivet ,streit and dandenaut!extra defenceman j.p cote!

  23. johnnyhab says:

    i like your thinking on this but i would touch barnaby at all! jaime langenbrunner instead!! iwould tade for martin st.louis in a heartbeat! and sign arnott to be second line center and pavel kubina on defence to compliment andrei markov! my first line would be koivu,ryder ,and higgins my second line would be arnott ,kovalev,andst.louis, 3rd line would be bonk,begin,andmurray 4th line downey, perezhogin,latendresse, defence would be: markov kubina, souray,komisarek,bouillion rivet ,streit and dandenaut!extra defenceman j.p cote!

  24. johnnyhab says:

    i like your thinking on this but i would touch barnaby at all! jaime langenbrunner instead!! iwould tade for martin st.louis in a heartbeat! and sign arnott to be second line center and pavel kubina on defence to compliment andrei markov! my first line would be koivu,ryder ,and higgins my second line would be arnott ,kovalev,andst.louis, 3rd line would be bonk,begin,andmurray 4th line downey, perezhogin,latendresse, defence would be: markov kubina, souray,komisarek,bouillion rivet ,streit and dandenaut!extra defenceman j.p cote!

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