With the Montreal Canadiens season, coming to a close, the Canadiens will soon be looking ahead to the offseason. The Habs have several youngsters who’ve made strong impressions this year and especially late in the season. Guys like Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Jesse Ylonen, Sean Farrell, and Emil Heineman down in the AHL have all made strong impressions. The team is already one of the youngest in the league, and with several aforementioned youngsters looking to push for roster spots, it creates a logjam. Which begs the question, which Montreal Canadiens veterans will be on the way out this summer?
Which Montreal Canadiens Veterans will be on the Move?
The Canadiens have several veterans on expiring deals who are in need of new contracts. Jonathan Drouins‘s five-year pact ends this season; that is a relief for many. Although Drouin has averaged around a 50-point pace during his team with the team, his inconsistent play, lack of finish, and injury woes have left much to be desired. It’s safe to say he hasn’t lived up to the high expectations in Montreal, especially when he was traded for Mikhail Sergachev. Drouin has almost definitely played his last game in a Canadiens uniform.
Sean Monahan is another guy on an expiring deal. Many Habs fans are open to the idea of bringing back Monahan at a reasonable cap hit, however. His early season play is very intriguing but Monahan is just too injury prone and the Habs would likely be better served to have a young guy fill his spot. Paul Byron and Chris Tierney are definitely not returning either. Tierney was just acquired off waivers to fill a lineup spot due to the extent of the Habs injury woes. While Byron on the other hand has likely played his last game in the NHL entirely, as injuries appear to be pushing him toward retirement.
The Canadiens do have some guys who will be back, however. Alex Belzile is a beloved player in the organization and it’s hard to imagine the team doesn’t bring him back, even if it’s just for the occasional call-up due to injury. Denis Gurianov is a player who is young enough to fit the team’s timeline, and they hold his RFA rights. Hughes will likely offer Gurianov a prove-it deal and give him a shot under at least a full season of Martin St. Louis.
As for trade candidates, the Canadiens have plenty of veterans who could be shipped out for the right price. Kent Hughes was handcuffed at the deadline due to injuries to many of his assets as well as underperforming assets. Therefore he couldn’t fetch the value he was searching for out of many of his players. Joel Edmundson is a prime example. Injuries likely are the only reason Edmundson wasn’t moved this season, and if Hughes gets a good offer on the veteran defenseman, he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
David Savard is another defenseman who has become expendable due to the emergence of the team’s young defenceman. Although to a lesser extent than Edmundson due to the lack of right-handed defensemen in the system. Chris Wideman could also be pushed out although he is a great locker room guy, and could spend his final year with the club as the seventh d-man once again.
As for forwards; Mike Hoffman and Joel Armia are two guys the club would like to move on from. Hoffman didn’t garner much interest at the deadline but the forward has seen some success production-wise in the back half of the season. Armia however, spent most of the year in the press box due to injuries. When he has been in the lineup, however, he hasn’t been much of a factor. Armia’s registered only 11 assists in 38 games and carries a 3.4 million cap hit over the next two years.
Hoffman’s deal expires at the end of next season, however. Both could be brought back or be used as potential trade chips next year if all goes well. If not, these two, especially Armia, are the most likely buyout candidates for the team. We could also see a guy like Christian Dvorak on the move as he’s yet another guy who has underwhelmed since coming to Montreal.
Veterans of the Future
As for veterans who are likely staying with the club for the long haul, we have Mike Matheson, Josh Anderson, and Brendan Gallagher. Matheson has impressed everyone with his play this year. The Quebec Native has emerged as a legit top-pair defenseman this season and is still only 29 years old. Many rumours also were swirling about Josh Anderson being shipped at the deadline. However, Hughes values Anderson very highly as he rejected offers rumoured to include first-round picks. If Hughes doesn’t get what he wants for him, the “powerhorse” will be in Montreal for a while longer. As for Brendan Gallagher, his contract is too difficult to move right now, especially with his injury history. If a Gallagher trade were to happen, it likely wouldn’t be until next year’s deadline, if Gallagher can have a bounce-back year.
The Canadiens have a lot of roster decisions to make this off-season. It will be interesting to see what Kent Hughes decides to do with the plethora of Montreal Canadiens veterans. And furthermore which veterans will still be sporting the bleu-blanc-rouge by the time next season rolls around.
Main Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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