With training camp getting underway there are teams who still haven’t come to terms with some of their restricted free agents. This is the time when we could potentially see some movement as teams and players just can’t seem to come to terms on a deal that make sense for both sides. The offer sheet has become a thing of the past, as the last one was signed by Ryan O’Reilly in 2013 when the Calgary Flames offered him a two-year $10 million dollar deal which was matched by the Colorado Avalanche. While teams are still allowed to do it, its frowned upon and could get you blacklisted. In the long run, it’s not worth it. With a couple of notable names left without contracts, the Habs could potentially look at the trade market to help bolster their lineup. Here are some of the Montreal Canadiens RFA targets.
Montreal Canadiens RFA Targets
Going into the off-season, the Habs obvious need was at the centre position. They addressed that by first using seven of their 11 picks in the draft on centreman, including 3rd overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi. They then went a step further by trading Captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a package that included former first-round pick, Nick Suzuki. The two join last years first rounder Ryan Poehling and give the Habs a ton of depth and a very bright future at the position. The next position of need is on the left side on defence.
Currently, the Habs have no sure-fire prospects on the left side. Victor Mete graduated from the prospect level last season, as he made the team at just 19 years of age. However, Mete projects as more of a second pairing defenceman. The club also has Mike Reilly, Jordie Benn, David Schlemko and Karl Alzner but neither of them is a top pairing defenceman either. Simon Despres is on a PTO, but it’s unknown if he can return to his level of play before his concussion issues. The best route may be for the Habs to try to look at the trade market. With some teams having cap issues and not having their restricted free agents signed, it may be a good time for the Habs to jump in and try to acquire one.
The Edmonton Oilers have yet to come to terms with Darnell Nurse and with less than $4 million in cap space they’re going to have to get creative. Nurse makes his living with his defensive play but does have some offensive upside. He has a blistering slapshot and one-timer which he is able to get through traffic. He finished third on the Oilers in shots on goal last season, behind Connor McDavid and Oscar Klefbom. Nurse’s skating ability is also elite, especially given his size. Nurse stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 221 pounds. His big frame and long reach, combined with his skating ability makes it very hard for opponents to beat him wide. He also delivers bone-crushing hits, so opponents always have to keep their heads up with Nurse on the ice. A pair of Nurse and Weber would be an absolute nightmare for opponents.
While the Oilers do need defence, it’s more so on the right side. The Habs do have a ton of depth on the right side in terms of prospects including Noah Juulsen, Brett Lernout, Cale Fleury and Josh Brook. They also have a lot of depth on the wing, which is another area that the Oilers need to focus on. Juulsen is most likely with the Habs for the long-run but the Habs do have the necessary pieces to get a deal done with the Oilers.
2017-18 Season Stats:
Games Played: 82
Corsi-For %: 50.9
In a recent report by Pierre LeBrun on Twitter, Shea Theodore and Vegas are far apart in their discussions on a new contract. Cap restraints are not the issue here, as Vegas is sitting with over $9 million in cap space. Just a gap between what each party thinks the player is worth at this particular time. Theodore does not hold arbitration rights this off-season. Per the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement the Golden Knights only have to offer Theodore a qualifying offer of around $1 million for one year. If Theodore does not sign the contract, he, of course, is not eligible to play in the NHL. This gives Vegas all the leverage for now. However, this is not a road any team likes to go down, as players, as well as their teams, like to come to a common ground on a deal that works for both parties.
While Vegas would certainly rather keep the 23-year old defender, moving him could end up being the better option for the club in the long-run. Vegas does have promising young defenders Erik Brannstrom and Nicolas Hague on the way up and are both left shots, so the depth is there on the point to make such a move.
Theodore would be a perfect target for the Habs. He is a prolific puck mover, which is said to be the teams biggest downfall on the left side. Theodore has the ability to quarterback the power play and has outstanding mobility. This would be extremely beneficial to the Habs and Shea Weber, who would be his defence partner if they acquire him. The two clubs just completed one big trade. Could they potentially agree on another?
Games Played: 61
Perfect Opportunity for Bergevin to Address the Defence
There could not be a better opportunity for Marc Bergevin to take advantage of the RFA situation and address the Habs need on the left side. With two young defencemen, both at 23 years of age and still unsigned, Bergevin has to make the call. The Habs have a ton of depth on the wing as well as on the right side. They also now have one of the better prospect pools in the league, as well as picks available at their disposal. There is certainly a package the Habs can put together to acquire one of these players, without hurting the future of the club.