By Bob Trask – As Canadiens’ fans look toward next year, many have an idea of what the lineup should or could look like. Hypothetical lineups for those who expect the Canadiens to contend will look different from those who think another year at the bottom of the standings for the purposes of acquiring a high draft pick is the route to go.
My view is that it will be a transition year where the Canadiens will improve over this year but not to the extent that they will be Stanley Cup contenders. With that in mind, my fantasy lineup includes a handful of returning veterans and a couple of free agents to help support the younger players in their development.
The Canadiens will be in no rush to beef up their goaltending. It is more likely to be the last piece of the puzzle to be added so my two goaltenders for next year are penciled in as
- Jake Allen
- Sam Montembeault
With maturity this could become one of the core strengths of the Canadiens and after being pushed into the deep end of pool and not drowning, I can see youth taking over completely at that position. Which means no more Joel Edmundson.
- Kaiden Guhle
- Arber Xhekaj
- Jordan Harris
David Savard is one of those veterans who I believe will return because of his leadership, his penalty killing abilities and they way he meshed well with Kaiden Guhle at the start of the year. This is also a position where I believe there is potential to add a free agent. Hello, John Klingberg… can you help our PP
- David Savard
- John Klingberg
- Jonathan Kovacevic
In today’s NHL even 7th defensemen get a reasonable amount of ice time and I believe Montreal might be tempted to go with youth over a veteran next season. Because they will need to eventually groom someone to take over from Savard and because Kovacevic may be their least used d-man going forward, Justin Barron may fill the role. Or maybe Barron plays the 3rd pairing with Kovacevic becoming the extra.
- Justin Barron
Nick Suzuki is the only sure thing at center. Some want Dach at center and some see him as a RW while even more want Monahan and/or Dvorak gone. In a transition year, I don’t expect the surgery to be radical unless Monahan is traded for a king’s ransom. For the purposes of this fantasy lineup, I have returning to the team both as a mentor and a solid contributor. Than means Dach is moved to the wing and I don’t see Owen Beck earning a spot when he has junior eligibility left.
- Nick Suzuki
- Sean Monahan
- Christian Dvorak
- Jake Evans
Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky have two spots nailed down but after than the picture gets fuzzy. I will go out on a limb and say Emil Heineman will earn a spot, leaving a handful of players fighting for the 4th line position. Mike Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin and Evgenii Dadonov seen unlikely to be back leaving Michael Pezzetta, Rem Pitlick and Anthony Richard as the remaining candidates. The Habs could also explore the UFA market here in an attempt to find a player who fits the team’s vision.
- Cole Caufield
- Juraj Slafkovsky
- Emil Heineman
- UFA signing
This is a position that has been a huge disappointment for the Canadiens this year. Their best RW is Kirby Dach who started the year as a center but the other pieces just haven’t fit. Josh Anderson is unsuited to play with Suzuki and Caufield while Brendan Gallagher just doesn’t fit will with what Marty St. Louis is trying to do. Armia puts a bow on the package of disappointment with zero goals this year. Almost anything the Canadiens try can’t be worse than this year. Unless a veteran is traded however, the team’s hands are more or less tied.
- Kirby Dach
- Jesse Ylonen
- Josh Anderson
- Brendan Gallagher
Extra forwards need to be able to fill one or more rolls on a team and do it at a reasonable salary. Michael Pezzetta can provide some grit when needed and Anthony Richard adds breakaway speed to the lineup. Keeping these two players on the roster provides the coaching staff with some different options. Joel Armia’s name has not yet been included in this fantasy lineup and one almost has to expect that the Canadiens would like to move him.
- Michael Pezzetta
- Anthony Richard
This lineup was put together with the goal of creating a team that would continue to develop over the course of next season. Within lineup are a handful of veterans, some of whom could be moved by next season’s trade deadline. It’s highly doubtful that Kent Hughes would purge the team of all veterans by the end of this season and he still needs players with NHL experience in the lineup.
As the season unfolds next year, I would fully expect significant changes to this initial lineup and a deadline trade or two this year would completely change the picture but you can be sure that Kent Hughes has a vision in mind
How does your fantasy lineup compare? Do you prefer another season of pain, do you hope for a modest progression or do you think the Canadiens would be close with a couple of key additions?