With the draft come and gone, the next task for Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens is luring free agents to sign in Montreal. They have sent qualifying offers to their own restricted free agents. Now with the interview period underway, the Habs will be pitching to many different players in hopes they will sign with their club when the free agency opens on July 1st.
Montreal Canadiens Free Agent Targets
There is only one big fish in this year’s group of free agents, and that is John Tavares. Unfortunately for the Canadiens, they weren’t on his list as a potential team he would like to join. While Tavares would have been the number one centre the club has been longing for, they will have to turn their sights elsewhere if they want to bounce back from last years atrocious season. Here is a look at potential targets for the Habs this off-season.
After Tavares, Stastny would be the next best UFA centre this summer. He finished the season with the Winnipeg Jets after he was dealt there at the trade deadline by the St. Louis Blues. He finished the season with 53 points in 82 games this season, as well as 15 points in 17 playoff games. The Habs have already reached out to Stastny’s camp to make their pitch for him to join their club. The 32-year-old projects as more of a number two centre so the Habs would most likely be looking to acquire another via trade.
It’s starting to look like Tyler Bozak’s time with the Toronto Maple Leafs is coming to an end. The 32-year-old centre has spent his entire career with the Leafs. Over that time he scored 136 goals and added 229 assists for 365 points in 594 games. Bozak is more of a third line centre. However, on a Canadiens team who is starved for centres, he would fight for the number two job with Phillip Danault. He may not be the answer the Habs are looking for but at the right dollar figure, would be a good depth acquisition.
Duclair’s name has come up in trade rumours to the Habs before. With the Chicago Blackhawks not qualifying the 22-year-old forward, he is set to become a UFA on July 1st. In 213 career games Duclair has 37 goals and 89 points. Recently acquired Max Domi played with Duclair in Arizona where they both had success in their rookie seasons. Could a reunion be just what Duclair needs to get going? It also doesn’t hurt that Jonathan Drouin told French website lapress.ca in an interview during a charity golf tournament that he would enjoy playing with Duclair and would like it if the Habs acquired the young forward.
A reunion for Plekanec and the Habs is pretty much a guarantee according to Bob McKenzie when he was speaking on Overdrive radio show on TSN 1050. Plekanec was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline for prospects Kerby Rychel, Rinat Valiev and a second-round pick in this year’s draft which the Habs used to select Jacob Olofsson. Before the trade, Plekanec had played his whole career in Montreal where he scored 232 goals and added 373 assists for 605 points in 981 games. Now sitting at 998 games, Plekanec will get the opportunity to play his 1000th career game back where it all started, in Montreal.
The last time Perron was a UFA the Habs were in talks with signing him but in the end, he chose the St. Louis Blues. Now two years later, and coming off a career year with the Vegas Golden Knights, Perron is hitting the market again. Perron was almost a point per game player last season, scoring 16 goals and 50 assists for 66 points in 70 games with Vegas. It will be interesting to see if Marc Bergevin decides to acquire Perron’s services again. With the amount of depth Montreal has on the wing, it would open up some options for potential trades.
In terms of defenceman, de Haan is arguably the best available through free agency. De Haan is a left shot, which is what Montreal is in the market for. However, he doesn’t quite have the skill set the Habs need for their top pairing. He is a physical defender who blocks shots and can provide a bit of offence. If Victor Mete proves even better than last season and can fill the hole on the left side next to Weber, then De Haan would be a solid pick up for the second pairing.
It has been rumoured that the Habs have reached out to free agent forward Tobias Reider. Reider is a depth forward capable who can put up 30-40 points as well as be an effective penalty killer. Much like Perron, if the Habs were to sign him, they could use that depth on the wing to move out other pieces to acquire other positions of need.
The Habs have a ton of options this off-season, but none that will instantly change the direction of the club like Tavares would have. Bergevin has made it clear that he has no intentions of blowing up the roster. However, if the Habs cannot address the centre position their plans will drastically change. As Last Word’s Ben Kerr stated in his latest article, the Habs could use the cap space to acquire expiring contracts. Helping teams get out of cap trouble. In return, the Habs would acquire draft picks for Trevor Timmins to go to work with. No matter what route they go down, one thing is for sure. Marc Bergevin is going to be one of the busiest GM’s over the next few weeks.
MONTREAL, QC – JANUARY 18: Tomas Plekanec #14 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre on January 18, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)