By Bob Trask – As Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes continue down the path of rebuilding the Montreal Canadiens into an organization that can be competitive over the long term, there are some interesting names among impending UFAs that pop up. Of course there is the elephant in the room who is a pending RFA in the person of Pierre-Luc Dubois but we will leave that for another discussion
One of the most interesting prospects is Ilya Samsonov who is about 6 months younger than Sam Montembeault and who has significant more NHL experience and a better track record. The Leafs could be in a tough spot if they try to re-sign him because he will command more salary than the $1.8M he is currently being paid. But there could be a lot of competition for his services.
Right defense is a problem spot for a lot of teams and John Klingberg could be in high demand among NHL teams. His skills on offense could be welcome on the Montreal power play but he has never been considered a defensive stalwart. At 30 years old and on pace for one of his weakest seasons offensively, he might not command the $7M salary that he is currently earning but a 5 year deal in the range of $6.0M to $6.5M doesn’t seem to be a stretch. Is he worth it? Would he sign that kind of a contract? Would the Canadiens offer that kind of contract? Who knows, but he might test the market again this July.
Left defense seems to be well taken care of and it would be counterproductive to add even more bodies into the mix.
Bo Horvat, Dylan Larkin, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Max Domi are the top scoring centers who are pending UFAs and none are likely to sign with the Canadiens. Next on the list is… Sean Monahan and I will leave it at that.
There are few names that pop up among UFA wingers who are 28 years old or less and who might be able to contribute to the Canadiens in a significant way. Andrei Kuzmenko seems destined to re-sign with Vancouver, leaving a mishmash of potentially available players that includes:
- Michael Bunting
- Pavel Zacha
- Sunny Milano
- Miles Wood
- Nick Ritchie
- Alex Kerfoot
Toronto GM Kyle Dubas will want to make every effort to re-sign Bunting so that cuts the list down even further. Kerfoot might be the player to watch because the Leafs may be hard pressed to remain cap compliant. He brings a combination of versatility and speed to the lineup but he would likely need to accept a big pay cut before the Canadiens would be interested.
With the contracts of Sean Monahan, Evgenii Dadonov and Jonathan Drouin coming off the books, the Habs can potentially free up almost $17 million in cap space. Potential trades involving players like Mike Hoffman and Joel Edmundson could create even more space – space that will allow Hughes to be more active in the UFA market when July rolls around.
When you add in any trade acquisitions that may occur and players who may graduate from within the organization, the addition of one or more free agents could result in another year of significant improvement for the Canadiens and playoff spot next season.