Sometimes when you’re a NHL General Manager, it’s not always about getting the big names that will necessarily improve your team. It’s rather more about having the sense of adding the right players to your team. Prior to the hard salary cap implementation back in the mid 2000’s, the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs loved signing the biggest names on the UFA market by throwing major dollars at them. Only once since 1967 has that strategy paid off, when the Rangers finally ended a 50+ years of Stanley Cup less hockey in 1994.
So far this season, Marc Bergevin has addressed two of the team’s biggest needs: a top-4 left-handed defenseman and a back up goaltender. And both were on the 2019 Stanley Cup winning St. Louis Blues. First, he traded for backup Jake Allen, then he traded with the Carolina Hurricanes for the rights to Joel Edmundson, whom he soon after signed to a new contract.
Remember back in the summer of 2019, when Bergevin signed Ben Chiarot as a UFA? Much like it was the case after the P.K. Subban trade, the Jesperi Kotkaniemi pick and the Alex Galchenyuk trade, some fans – usually the same ones – were pretty vocal against the move. Don’t take my word for it, I found just a few examples so you don’t have to search.
The Edmundson trade and signing brought some of the same. “A third pairing defenseman”, an “overpaid” depth defenseman, “not a puck mover”, basically everything but what the Habs apparently need. As it was the case, according to them, in 2019. But while searching for the responses to the Chiarot signing, I couldn’t help but notice that many tweets have since been deleted. Go figure. What are the odds that we will be able to make a similar gathering of tweets next year from the reactions to the Edmundson signing?
The similarities between Chiarot and Edmundson doesn’t stop at the fans’ reactions. The former Blues and Canes’ defenseman compares well with the former Jets in many aspects of the game. Let’s compare the last season before signing with Montreal for both guys. For Chiarot, it was the 2019-20 season and for Edmundson, it was last season.
|CHIAROT 2018-19||EDMUNDSON 2019-20|
|225 lbs||WT||215 lbs|
Back in the summer of 2019, Bergevin signed Chiarot to a 3 year contract at a $3.5 million cap hit, which will see him become a UFA at age 31. A few days ago, he signed Edmundson to a 4 year contract at a cap hit of $3.5 million, which will see him become a UFA at age… 31 as well. Both players have a limited NTC where they have to provide a 10 teams no trades list.
A very physical defense
NHL teams are taking notes. They already said that it wasn’t fun facing the Habs’ defense in the playoffs due to their punishing physicality. The addition of Edmundson adds to that physicality. Imagine if Alexander Romanov, known for his physical play as well, makes the team on the third pairing, and one of Cale Fleury or Noah Juulsen, two physical defensemen, earn a spot. Forwards will have to keep their head up when entering the Habs’ defensive zone or skating into the neutral zone.
Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Romanov – Fleury
(Mete – Kulak – Juulsen)
Chances are that the battle for the 6th and 7th defenseman spots will be played between Victor Mete, Brett Kulak, Fleury or Juulsen. Only two of them are likely to make the team, which could very see the end of Mete with the Canadiens. No matter who stays from that group, the addition of Romanov and Edmundson are a huge improvement over… Xavier Ouellet, who played in these COVID Cup playoffs. And I mean that in all due respect.
Swinging for the fence
From reading the true hockey Insiders – and not the usual suspect rumouroids – it looks like Bergevin has his fingers in many different files. We had identified four major needs for this team a few weeks ago and two of them have already been addressed. Backup goaltender and left-handed top-4 defenseman are done. The Habs now need some scoring help from the wing and some size and grit for their bottom-six players. The later is somewhat easy to find but the scoring, a bit more difficult.
There have been a few rumours, and there appears to be a few scoring wingers available on the trade market. And of course, Taylor Hall who is scheduled to become a UFA. The COVID Cup finals have already started, the NHL Draft is coming and with it, the possibility of several trades across the league. Bergevin is right in there folks and it seems like he’s ready to be a key player on the market. Exciting times are coming folks. Stay vigilant but be patient. Moreso, expect the unexpected. Go Habs Go!