The 2020-21 Montreal Canadiens made some significant roster changes and look to be a much-improved team. They intend to be very competitive this upcoming season (if there is a season). So, let’s examine the changes the Habs made to put them into such a lofty atmosphere.
2021 Montreal Canadiens Will be a Team to Reckon With
Trade to Acquire Josh Anderson
First off, Marc Bergevin made a bold move to acquire a big, talented forward in Josh Anderson. Standing 6′-3″, 222 pounds he will be a force on the front line for Montreal. As the saying goes, you must give up something to get something… so the Habs parted ways with popular Max Domi.
It could be considered a risky move by Bergevin since Anderson had surgery to repair his labrum and clean up debris from a broken clavicle. He has a clean bill of health and is anxious to help the Habs move upward. He signed a seven-year $38.5 million contract, so the team is confident he is healthy and ready to go.
Signed Tyler Toffoli
When Bergevin wasn’t able to sign Taylor Hall (who signed with the Buffalo Sabres), he managed to grab Tyler Toffoli instead. Toffoli gathered a four-year $17 million contract which could be risky if he doesn’t produce. He managed 44 points in 68 games last season including 24 goals. Toffoli had two goals and two assists in seven playoff games with the Vancouver Canucks.
He has an excellent shot, even if his skating is a bit suspect. Toffoli can give the Habs some secondary scoring and that’s always welcome.
Signed Jake Allen
Bergevin knew he needed a capable backup goalie to relieve Carey Price. He was able to sign Jake Allen to a two-year $5.7 million deal. Allen had a 12-6-3 record with a .927 save percentage and a 2.15 goals-against-average. He had two shutouts playing for the St. Louis Blues. It’s apparent that duplicating Price’s 58 starts last season will not be necessary if Allen can play as well as he has recently. This was another brilliant pickup by Bergevin.
Acquiring Defenceman Joel Edmundson
Joel Edmundson came cheap with the Habs just giving up a fifth-round pick to acquire his rights from the Carolina Hurricanes. Bergevin signed him to a four-year $14 million contract. He can be tabbed to be a fourth or fifth D-man and has some offensive ability gaining seven goals and 13 assists in 68 games last season. His 6′-4″ 215-pound frame will help on the blueline.
Re-signing Brendan Gallagher
Here’s another player that Bergevin locked up for six years with a $30 million price tag. One might say, Bergevin had money to spend and he did just that. Gally had 22 goals and 43 points in 59 games. The worry here is his physical style of play may prevent him from staying healthy. With him earning $6.5 million a year it is a gamble to hope he doesn’t miss too many games due to injury.
What Key Additions Mean
General manager Bergevin has to feel pretty good in the end with the results of his offseason acquisitions. He saw the need to improve his offence which ranked 19th in goals scored per game with a 2.93 average last season. The power play will be upgraded with both Anderson and Toffoli pitching in to increase their less than appealing 19th ranking at 17.7 percent success rate where they placed 22nd last season. Adding Allen in the net should fortify the defence too. Their penalty kill last season was a poor 78.7 percent and Edmundson should be able to increase that statistic.
Proposed Canadian Division
All of these upgrades make one think that Bergevin was a genius, especially considering his team may face only Canadian opponents when the first puck drops for a new season. After all, being forced to play the likes of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames has to be concerning. The only so-called ‘give me’ series may be against the Ottawa Senators, and even they have supplemented their roster significantly.
Increased divisional play will be different and perhaps unique to this upcoming pandemic filled season. Some experts are saying that the Canadiens could be ranked just behind the Maple Leafs with this new divisional alignment. That would bring a huge smile to Bergevin’s face as he played his cards well and attracted some talented players to Montreal. With improved goaltending and defence and especially with Anderson and Toffili added to the offence, this team should see a spike in its effectiveness and standing.
The competition will be tough. Other teams like the Flames have upgraded their roster, especially in net by adding Jacob Markstrom. Then, the Canucks are still an up and coming team even without Markstrom in between the pipes. They are young and hungry. Nobody can count out Connor McDavid along with Leon Draisaitl either. And, the Leafs will be deadly, but can they turn the corner in this new alignment? We shall see.
All in all, the Montreal Canadiens should see a better standing than just barely getting into the play-in round of the playoffs.
And, they will have Marc Bergevin to thank.