Sometimes, it’s not about making the big move but rather making the right moves. The big move was made by the Buffalo Sabres when they shocked the hockey world by signing the biggest fish at forward in Taylor Hall. An even bigger fish remains as defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is working his way towards Las Vegas, or so it seems. But sometimes, the bigger fish, while looking great on your living room wall, doesn’t always provide the best meat for a meals.
Veteran players like Carey Price, Shea Weber and Jeff Petry wanted to compete and they’ve got a taste of it when the Canadiens beat the Pittsburgh Penguins and were the better team in their series loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Youngsters and veterans all pulled together to make these playoffs an eye opening experience for everyone involved. It also gave some added motivation for the group, including Marc Bergevin, to want to return to the playoffs.
Coming into the off-season, the Canadiens’ GM had three or four glaring holes to fill in his line-up.
- A quality backup goaltender
- A Top-4 left-handed defenseman
- Added goalscoring
- Get bigger
As of October 12th, Bergevin has addressed each one of his team’s needs. First, he went out and traded a 3rd round pick for the best backup in the NHL in Jake Allen. Further, the former St. Louis Blues starter provides an insurance policy to the Canadiens if Price was to miss a few games to injuries. They form the highest paid tandem in the world, but they also provide the best goaltending in the NHL.
Bergevin had started his work even before the playoffs when he signed blue-chip defensive prospect Alexander Romanov and invited him in the bubble to practice with the team even though he wasn’t allowed to play. Then, Bergevin traded a 5th round pick for the rights to pending UFA Joel Edmundson, a solid defender with tons of grit. It didn’t take long for the Canadiens’ GM to convince Edmundson to put his name at the bottom of a contract with the Habs, therefore solidifying the team’s defense.
While they now form one of the league’s biggest and toughest defensive corp, the Canadiens were too small at forward and needed to get bigger. Max Domi was sacrificed and Josh Anderson became a Montreal Canadien, putting his name at the bottom of a shiny new 7-year contract. Anderson provides exactly what the Canadiens needed.
Bergevin threw everyone for a loop when he hinted being interested in UFA Taylor Hall. That was quite the act of distraction as the Canadiens never made an offer to Hall after talking with him over Zoom teleconferencing. This left people wondering, for a few hours at least, if Bergevin was done for the off-season. Well… he obviously wasn’t.
Out of the blue, the Canadiens announced the signing of former Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks’ forward Tyler Toffoli, a regular 20+ goals’ scorer, for four years. With Anderson, Toffoli adds some much needed scoring depth to a line-up that needed it.
A much improved team
So to sum it all up, the Canadiens vastly improved their goaltending position. They highly solidified their defense which will be one of the most physical and punishing group in the entire league. And they added size, grit and scoring depth. How can someone not be happy with that kind of work by your GM? I bet you anything, Price, Weber, Petry and Gallagher (amongst others) are smiling right now and can’t wait to get going again!
Drouin – Suzuki – Anderson
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Toffoli – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Lehkonen – Evans – Byron
Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Romanov – ***
*** One of: Kulak, Mete, Juulsen, Fleury or Ouellet
Prior to the Toffoli signing, I felt like the Habs had done more than enough to be a playoffs’ team. With Toffoli, I do believe that they can surprise teams. How far can they go? It will depend on several factors:
- Team chemistry
- Young guys’ progression
- Luck (every team in the playoffs needs it)
Something tells me that it will finally be a fun year for the Habs and their fans. I cannot wait to see this group on the ice. The Canadiens should have a solid defense and goaltending, and will have three scoring lines. The only thing I’d like to see is one bigger and tougher player on the fourth line. Matt Martin is still available… Go Habs Go!