Despite the writers of this blog being die-hard Boston Bruins fans we do have a responsibility to keep an eye on our rival Montreal Canadiens to the north. They’ve done a good job in beating the Bruins over the past few seasons although Montreal hasn’t been able to turn that divisional success into a Stanley Cup. But why has it been such a quiet summer in Montreal? That’s a tough question to answer.
This summer Montreal bought out the contract of P.A. Parenteau after one poor season and that just felt like a formality. The one trade they did make was shipping Brandon Prust, who I felt was a great player for the Canadiens despite a low scoring output, to Vancouver for Zack Kassian and a 2016 5th round pick. Kassian was supposed to be “the next Milan Lucic” type of player when he was drafted (1st round, 13th overall in 2009) and it just hasn’t worked out that way. But he’ll have a great opportunity in Montreal and will be a boost physically and offensively on the wing. Even though Bruins fans were pleased to be the recipients of Matt Beleskey via free agency back on July 1st the rumor mill had Montreal a strong candidate to land him right before Boston scooped him up. So essentially the Habs bought out one contract, and made one deal for a solid player.
But a quiet summer doesn’t mean it was a bad one for Montreal. There wasn’t a lot of stars to catch in free agency and general manager Marc Bergevin still has a nice $6.7 million in cap space to play with should a trade option emerge. They have the best goalie in the world in Carey Price. P.K. Subban, Jeff Petry, and an aging Andrei Markov are a solid defensive trio that’s locked up contractually. And for a team that had trouble scoring last year, a player like Max Pacioretty can certainly continue his 30-goal a year pace offensively while Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, and Tomas Plekanec raise their game. They also re-signed must keep players in Michael Bournival and Torrey Mitchell to cap friendly deals. However I think the trading of Jiri Sekac to Anaheim last year is a move that will come back to bite Montreal. I really think he will grow into a dependable scorer. The one prospect I would like to see take the young Sekac’s place on the Habs roster this year is Daniel Carr. He played college hockey at Union where he won an NCAA National Championship, and scored 24 goals in his rookie season for Hamilton, Montreal’s AHL team
Essentially, I still think Montreal can improve their game from last year. So how do you improve on a 110-point, division championship season? Not ride your goalie so much. If the power play can improve and the addition of Kassian can provide some balanced and additional scoring it will help the team tremendously. Maybe they take a chance by signing an Alexander Semin or still swing a trade to get that depth scoring. As great as it is to have Carey Price as your goalie the Montreal Canadiens need to be able to win in other ways to get over that hump and get back to a Stanley Cup Final. They just never felt like a team that had the depth to really threaten this past post-season if Price for some reason couldn’t carry them. There’s still plenty of time to tinker with the roster this summer.