Lafrenière A Healthy Scratch – Habs’ Curious

By JD Lagrange – Here we go again… a French Canadian players is a healthy scratch and it doesn’t take much to get the internet excited about, particularly amongst the Habs’ fan base. New York Rangers’ head coach Gerard Gallant has decided to make former first overall pick Alexis Lafrenière a healthy scratch. No matter how we try twisting this, it’s not a good thing for the young man. This will undeniably raise questions about his future in the Big Apple and it certainly will start the rumour mill everywhere, not only in Montreal.

Kent Hughes wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t call Rangers’ GM Chris Drury to enquire about Lafrenière’s availability and get a feel for the asking price. So let’s not be offended if fans and Montreal media members alike are curious about the possibility of a trade with the Canadiens.


On social media, many fans are acting frustrated, or are laughing at the idea of trying to get Lafrenière on the Canadiens. They seem to think that there are no other reasons but language. It’s not surprising, they do the same when it comes to Pierre-Luc Dubois, a well established NHL player. But let’s put things into perspective for Habs’ fans:

  • Lafrenière averaged 0.38 points per game in his first season in the NHL. Juraj Slafkovsky averages 0.32 points per game so far.
  • Kirby Dach’s career high was 26 points coming into this season. Lafrenière had 31 points last season. Both are 21 years old.
  • Lafrenière also had 19 goals last season. Only Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki scored more for the Canadiens last year.
  • It took Jonathan Huberdeau four years to score 20 goals, and six years to score more than that (he had a 10 goals season in between). In his first three season, trade rumours were haunting Huberdeau too.
  • At the age of 23, Buffalo Sabres Tage Thompson had a total of 18 goals and 17 assists in four seasons with the Sabres and Blues. He broke out last season, his fifth in the NHL, with 38 goals. In less than 2 ½ seasons, Lafrenière already has 36 goals, 33 assists, 69 points in the NHL.
  • Lafrenière’s 17 points so far this season would put him tied for fourth on the Canadiens, who are looking for secondary offense past Suzuki and Caufield.
  • Think of trying Lafrenière on a line with Dach for a minute…

What to trade?

If the Florida Panthers where solidly anchored into a playoffs’ spot as most thought they would be, it wouldn’t be farfetched to forego their first round pick for the Canadiens to get their hands on Lafrenière. But with the odds being what they are today, it is very unlikely that Kent Hughes would take that kind of gamble for either of the first picks the Canadiens own for the upcoming NHL Draft.

But if Hughes could get his hands on a first round pick from a playoffs’ team, say for Joel Edmundson, for example, that pick certainly could be “sacrificed” to take a gamble of Lafrenière. But then again, Ryan Lindgren is playing top-4 on the left side for the Rangers. A guy like Edmundson would be a good addition for a playoffs’ push, wouldn’t he? So how could the Habs sweeten the deal in addition to the big defenseman?

With that said, the question remains… Can they put forward the best offer for the Rangers? The Blue Shirts are rumoured as a potential destination for Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane and it’s not too farfetched to think that Lafrenière would be a very tempting piece in the return heading to Chicago. The Habs don’t have a Patrick Kane to offer.

So to sum it up, don’t hold your breath if you wish to see Lafrenière in a Habs’ jersey this season. But to laugh at the idea, or to think that it’s only because of the language that he speaks holds no water. If I were a betting man, I would say that the odds of seeing Lafrenière in Montreal are slim, but fans should not give up hopes for Dubois, a more feasible trade considering he’s one year away from free agency.

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Addressing The Need On Right Defense

By JD Lagrange – The Canadiens have one glaring need for a right-handed defenseman, a need that has been amplified by the trade of Jeff Petry. You can now add a second need in goal, since Carey Price’s season – perhaps career – appears in jeopardy due to a hailing knee, prompting the team to have contract extension talks with Jake Allen.

But what I want to focus on is the gaping hole on right defense. After trading Petry, Canadiens’ General Manager Kent Hughes was clear when stating that he would like to add a veteran right-shot defenseman. For whatever reason, he has yet to be able to do so. As training camps are about to get underway, the Canadiens’ options are more limited, but there are still a few valuable potential solutions out there.


There are two names that come to mind when it comes to right-handed defensemen who have yet to sign with a NHL club.

P.K Subban: He doesn’t need introduction, does he? He’s dynamic, he has a good shot and he knows the team, the place, the fans, the media. That familiarity goes both ways though. He’s often distracted with his off-ice business, he has slowed down a lot, he’s well known by referees (not in a good way). Personally, I would stay away from him.

Anton Stralman: Known as an ultimate professional, he’s been flying under the radar his entire career. He too has slowed down but he was still playing over 21 minutes a game last season. He’s good at everything he does, although not outstanding in any category. He could buy a year of development for young Justin Barron.

0:35PP TOI/GP0:08
0:52PK TOI/GP2:56


Another option is addressing the need through trade. While there are likely more opportunities out there, two names are at the top of my personal list.

1- The New York Rangers are shopping Nils Lundkvist and speculations are rampant around the Canadiens. Now, news came out confirming that he will not attend the Rangers’ training camp. But don’t expect GM Chris Drury to fold like a cheap tent. He has a price in mind and he won’t flinch, as proven when Vitali Kravstov held out a year ago.

2- Some less reliable rumouroids are tying the Habs to Oilers’ veteran Tyson Barrie. I could definitely see either one of them as a good option. Barrie has two years remaining to his contract with a respectable cap hit of $4.5 million per season. Last year was the first time he played under 21 minutes a game since the 2013-14 season, and it was due to the Oilers now having Cody Ceci and young Evan Bouchard taking more minutes. He would greatly help the Canadiens’ anemic power play.


Ethan Bear

Another option, particularly getting this late in the off-season, is to way to see which team(s) are going to try sneaking players through waivers. As the Canadiens finished dead last in the standings last season, they will have first dib at any player sent through waivers.

Carolina added Brent Burns on RD. They signed Calvin De Haan to a PTO, he who can play both left or right defense. They also have Ethan Bear, Dylan Coghlan and Jalen Chatfield on the right side. All must clear waivers.

Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Seattle (Cale Fleury, Brogan Rafferty?), Colorado, Detroit, Anaheim and Arizona are teams to keep an eye on as well, as they have lots of depth on defensemen who must clear waivers.


So unless the right deal comes about through trade, you get the feeling that the Canadiens will wait to see what will come through on the waiver wire prior to the season to start. And if that fails, they may turn to a UFA.

What I do know is that it’s less than ideal to play a defenseman on his wrong side. It’s even worse when it’s a young player trying to adapt to the speed of the NHL. As Hughes recognized, he must find a solution as relying on 20 year-old Barron to be ready is a huge gamble. The Canadiens cannot afford to burn the kid.

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