What’s late fall without hockey? In normal times, hockey fans and members of the media are on vacation during the off-season. They go outside, enjoy the sun, the beach. Some go camping, enjoying nature while others take their children sightseeing. Hockey writers are looking for material to write about, but they have things to do. But an off-season this late into Fall makes things a bit different. Weird. Bizarre. Even boring. By late October, everyone would normally be able to see the progress of youngsters in NHL organisations. By now, fans and teams would have an idea if the off-season moves will pay off or not. But here we are with winter knocking at our door without hockey. Let’s call it what it is… it sucks!
At this time of year, most unsigned UFAs would have given up hopes of getting a NHL contract by now. Not so much the case this year, is it? As a matter of fact, some of the most prominent 2020 UFAs are still pondering which offer they will accept. Some are hoping to drive the price up as the blurred date of return to play is approaching. So who are these free agents?
Remember how were were thinking that everyone was waiting to see where Taylor Hall would sign and the domino effect would start? Well the dominos are stuck. They are stuck at Mike Hoffman, who is taking his sweet time to find a team where his girlfriend won’t have to cyber-bully his teammates’ wives. Nah, poor reference to the Erik Karlsson situation in Ottawa folks. But there is still some good talent here folks. While I do agree with the “experts” in saying that there is still some useful skill in there, the fact is that there are a lot of questions marks too.
For those whose goal was to cash in the dough, the COVID effect is in play here. While a couple of players might have signed at their normal value (Hall and Jacob Markstrom), most players seem to have made some sort of concession in their salary demands due to the league and teams’ non-existent revenues.
Hoffman is a one-trick pony wanting to cash in. If he doesn’t score, he’s a bit of a liability so teams are reluctant at throwing big money at him. Ilya Kovalchuk had an amazing start with Montreal but then faded towards the end, and was a non-factor with Washington in the playoffs. Anthony Duclair seemed to have turned the corner but he too comes with tons of question marks. The toolbox is there but many question the quality of the tools in it. Remember when Andreas Athanasiou was a good prospect? Well he didn’t help himself with his lackluster performances while in Edmonton, on a very good offensive team. In my opinion, the safest bet on that list, aside from role players, is Mikael Granlund. Unlike others on this list, he’s sound defensively while being able to provide depth in scoring. So what’s the holdout, Mikael?
For the longest time, it looked like Zdeno Chara would finish his career with the Bruins. It doesn’t seem to be a certainty anymore. Big Z seems to want to keep playing but he’s still unsigned. He even hinted at the possibility of wearing different colours next season. Two names stand out on this list though: Sami Vatanen and Travis Hamonic. While Hamonic is narrowing the field for himself by wanting to stay out west (remember him requesting a trade from the Islanders), Vatanen likely isn’t. Are they too greedy? Teams pretty much know what they’re getting in those two guys. Not on this list is also Karl Alzner… nah, I’m just teasing you, Habs’ fans.
2020 will be forever known as the year of the goaltender. As many as 10 to 12 fairly prominent goaltenders have changed addresses in the last couple of months. Big names such as Corey Crawford, Braden Holtby, Henrik Lundqvist, Jacob Markstrom, Cam Talbot and Matt Murray will all be wearing a different uniform when the puck is dropped next. And the Vegas Golden Knights are seemingly trying to trade Marc-André Fleury. There are still a few veteran goalies out there wondering if they’ll find work for next season though. While some are also big names, none are their old dominant selves anymore.
Are the Canadiens done?
Montreal’s GM Marc Bergevin was active in October. He was actually very active. In addition to extending a few of his own players, he traded for Josh Anderson (Max Domi, 3rd rd pick), Jake Allen (pick received in Kovalchuk trade) and then pending UFA Joel Edmundson (5th rd pick) and signed all three of them to extensions. He also signed UFA Tyler Toffoli to a team-friendly four-year, $17 million contract. Basically, here’s what he’s done to his team since September:
|Jake Allen||Sep. 2||2020 3rd round pick (WAS)|
|2022 7th round pick||2020 7th round pick (CHI)|
|Joel Edmundson||Sep. 12||2020 5th round pick|
|Josh Anderson||Oct. 6||Max Domi|
|2020 3rd round pick|
|Tyler Toffoli||Oct. 12|
Bergevin also convinced on of their top prospects, Alexander Romanov, to make the jump over the pond from the KHL to Montreal and signed him to his entry level contract (ELC). So basically, off their line-up, the Habs have added Allen, Edmundson, Anderson, Toffoli and Romanov and only gave up Domi. How’s that for an off-season? Remember that $8 million left of unused cap space? Well it’s gone now. The Canadiens are now tight against the cap, which pleases most of the team’s fans… with the exception of a few Subbanistas who are complaining about the amount spent on goaltending.
The Habs’ GM has also extended Vejdemo, Edmundson, Evans, Petry, Juulsen, Anderson, Mete, Ouellet, Allen and Gallagher (plus other more minor deals). Then, he signed Kaiden Guhle, their 2020 first round pick, to his ELC.
Is Bergevin done? Your guess is as good as mine. One thing we know is that if he makes more moves, money in must equal money going out. Some people would like to see him add some scoring touch on left wing. Personally, I’d like to see him add some grit on the bottom six. Either way, chances are that one should not listen to rumouroids spreading things like Patrick Kane in Montreal. If something is added, it will be depth moves. Either way, it’s work well done by the Canadiens as they are one of the league’s most improved team. Time will tell if it was enough. Go Habs Go!