Those who know me well also know how I feel about rumours and while hypothetical scenarios are fun to discuss, very few of them ever become reality. If it doesn’t come from Bob McKenzie, Pierre LeBrun, Elliotte Friedman or Darren Dreger, people should pay little to no attention to rumours as too often, they are simply made-up to get hits on websites, listenership on radio or internet, or viewership on television. Yeah, I know, once in a while, some will come through from lesser known rumouroids but if you throw enough shit on the wall, some will eventually stick. It doesn’t make them legit, it makes them lucky! The only place you need to look daily to keep well informed of NHL rumours is through Spector’s Hockey. Lyle Richardson doesn’t start rumours, he gathers all relevant information from different sources around the NHL and puts it all together, with his own thoughtful comments, for our pleasure and enjoyment.
One name that has been linked to the Montreal Canadiens for quite some time is Taylor Hall, who is scheduled to become Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) at the end of this weird season, whenever that is. COVID-19 has thrown a serious wrench into professional sports and hockey is no different. With a hard salary cap based on league revenues, it’s been announced that the cap will remain at $81.5 million for next season when it was originally thought that it would be going up to around $88 million or so. That’s a huge difference for teams tight to the cap with key players to sign. We’ve recently gone through a list of teams finding themselves in a bit of a tight spot and some of them were planning on offering a contract to Hall, but with the cap staying the same, they will be in no position to do so unless they can unload some serious cap space.
Gauging Habs’ interest
Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin has always said to anyone who wants to listen that his job is to improve his team and he’s constantly looking at ways to do so, if it makes sense. So if Hall’s agent comes knocking at the door, he certainly won’t shut it in his face and he will listen to see if there’s a fit with his club, without throwing his entire salary structure in chambles like the Toronto Maple Leafs did with John Tavares, knowing they had to re-sign Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Bergevin will soon have to re-sign Max Domi, Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault in the next couple of seasons.
But what about Tomas Tatar? He’s been nothing short of amazing since acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights, along with Nick Suzuki, for then captain Max Pacioretty. Tatar is a huge part of one of the NHL’s best two-way lines, along with Danault and Gallagher.
And while he’s performed beyond expectations as a centerman since coming over in the trade with Arizona for Alex Galchenyuk, Domi is a natural left-winger too. With the young prospects like Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Ryan Poehling, Jake Evans and company starting to make a push at the centre position, moving Domi back to the wing only would only make sense.
Add to that the enigmatic but highly talented Jonathan Drouin, a local product for whom Bergevin paid the big price in trading away Mikhail Sergachev. Drouin was showing signs of getting his game together before being sidelined by injuries last season, so that’s a lot of quality on left wing for the Habs. Drouin has been putting in the effort in the last year or so and he’s said to be one of the Canadiens’ best forwards since the opening on camp this summer.
There is no doubt that Hall would likely slide ahead of all of these guys but he will come at a premium, a rather high premium, and that’s where Bergevin will have to make some tough decisions. He could decide to not renew Tatar. He could trade one of Domi or Drouin, although the later is unlikely due to his place of birth. But something has to give. He could also decide that Hall is too rich for what he brings, as we don’t know the pending UFA’s salary demands and let’s face it… are the Canadiens enough of a contender to lure Hall over other locations, taxes, language and all?
Play-ins and Draft
What about the following scenario? What if the Canadiens lost their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins and finally got lucky and got to select first overall at the next NHL Draft? Alexis Lafrenière is also a dynamic left winger and I can’t see any possible scenario where Bergevin, Trevor Timmins and Shane Churla would pass on the local future star.
Assuming that Hall has some legitimate interest in signing in Montreal, I could see him being the consolation prize for the Habs if they lose out on Lafrenière. It is just as weird to write the word “consolation” and “Hall” in the same phrase as it is to read, folks. But if the Canadiens do get the first overall pick, I would be surprised if they forked out the dough it would take to sign Hall. A left wing of Drouin, Domi, Lafrenière (or Hall if the Habs pick ninth) is very solid. Add some scoring on the right side (Ilya Kovalchuk?), some help on defense, and the team could very well finally turn things around. Go Habs Go!