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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Summer Trade Watch 2022

The Fourth Period has released its most recent trade watch list of the NHL’s top-30 players most likely to be traded this summer. Off that list, they have two Montreal Canadiens’ players: Jeff Petry sits at number five and Mike Hoffman is number 25. The also have Montreal as potential destinations for two Quebecois players from that list: Jets’ center Pierre-Luc Dubois and Islanders’ winger Anthony Beauvillier.

Based on that list and on the Canadiens’ needs, let’s have a look at which players Kent Hughes might – or perhaps should – have some level of interest for. In no particular order…

Tyson Barrie

7373441+318:58$4.5M until 2023-24

Yesterday, we mentioned a few right-handed defensemen available on the free agents’ market. Barrie is a trade option as the Oilers are trying to shed some cap space, and already have Evan Bouchard and Codi Ceci on the right side. He has two years left to his very affordable contract which lacks trade protection.

He puts up points on a consistent basis like few other NHL defensemen thanks to his mobility, offensive instincts and an ability to quarterback the power play. It’s important to note that last season was the first time since 2013-14 that Barrie played under 21 minutes per game, due to sharing time with Bouchard and Ceci. He is clearly a capable top-4, although not known for his stellar defensive play.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

81283260-618:56RFA ($5M)

I won’t hide it, I’ve always liked Dubois and I still do. Some are concerned that it would be his third team in a short period of time but he was playing under John Tortorella in Columbus, hated by most players. In Winnipeg, there’s something wrong in that dressing room. Blake Wheeler and Mark Sheifele don’t have the best reputations and head coach Paul Maurice abandoned the team (and his guaranteed contract) in mid-season. The only reason why the Jets would trade him is because he won’t re-sign with them beyond his UFA year and according to Elliotte Friedman, speaks openly in the dressing room wanting to play in Montreal.

Dubois, who just turned 24 in June, is 14 months older than Nick Suzuki so it would give the Habs a one-two punch at center immediately, which is not the case if they draft and develop another center. He’s a lefty (Suzuki shoots right) giving options for offensive zone faceoffs. Big, strong and talented, he owns excellent offensive instincts and can play either center or wing. He has the strength and speed to get to the front of the net and the skill to finish, and he is also a good passer. His 28 goals would have topped the Habs last year and his 60 points are one single point back of Suzuki who was best on the Canadiens.

Dylan Larkin

71313869-1819:40$6.1M until 2022-23

While the Red Wings are not actively shopping their captain, Steve Yzerman has just about everyone available including Larkin. Young veteran center with a 52.3% faceoffs success rate, he can play in all situation. He has speed to burn, making him a breakaway threat any time he has the puck in open space. He will go to the net and get his nose dirty. In his case though, he only has one year left to his contract so buyer beware. Better do your homework and see if you can extend him first.

Pavel Zacha

70152136-2116:51RFA ($2.25M)

The sixth player taken in the 2015 NHL Draft is a late bloomer who is finally beginning to show his talents as he approaches his prime. Standing at 6-foot 3-inches and 210 lbs, his size and strength make him tough to move in the offensive zone, and he is willing to go to the dirty areas. His shot is his biggest weapon. He is playing more limited quality minutes as he is behind Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, both centers, on the depth chart.

As we reported recently, the Canadiens are open to doing a flip of first round pick with the Devils, who apparently want to ensure selecting Juraj Slavkovsky. As the Devils are deep at center, perhaps the cost of flipping the first and second overall pick between the two teams could be New Jersey adding Zacha?

Maxime Comtois

5261016-1714:08$2.038M until 2022-23

I like Comtois, I won’t deny it. At 6-foot 2-inches, 215 lbs, the Longueuil, Quebec native is a big-bodied forward who is also quick and skilled. He is reliable in all three zones, sees the ice well and generates scoring chances for himself and his linemates. He is more than willing to go to the front of the net and is useful on the power play.

He had a very tough season last year and was even a healthy scratch at times. He did manage 16 goals and 33 points in 55 games the previous season, his first full one in the NHL. I loved what I saw of him at the recent World Championship. He was one of Team Canada’s most consistent forwards.

Alexandar Georgiev

33151022.92.898RFA ($2.425M)

Kent Hughes is on record saying that he wants to add a veteran goaltender as insurance in case Carey Price can’t start the season. Having lost his starter’s position to Igor Shesterkin, the pending RFA Georgiev is on the trading block as the Rangers have several UFAs to sign. Reports everywhere claim that they are asking too much in return but if the asking price drops, he could be a good option for the Canadiens.

Ilya Samsonov

44231233.02.896RFA ($2M)

This is my personal preferred option for the Canadiens’ needs. The former first round pick has yet to live up to expectations but he has shown flashes of what he’s capable. It is not unusual to see goaltenders coming into their own between the age of 25-28 so Samsonov would be a very good gamble. And if Price comes back, Jake Allen could be used as trade bait.


There are a few more trade options that didn’t make TFP’s list and that I would strongly pursue. Guys like Vitali Kravtsov in New York, for example, or John Marino in Pittsburgh, Ethan Bear in Carolina, or even Filip Zadina in Detroit.

So if you include the list of pending unrestricted free agents we put together yesterday, combined with this list today, it provides a pretty good pool of good candidate to not only improve the team next year, but for years to come.

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