CFN – In the aftermath of the second round exit by the Habs to Tampa Bay the hockey buzz is that Montreal needs to get bigger at the Centre position, especially for the play offs.
The Habs as a whole did not have a great post season. First they let Ottawa back in the first round instead of finishing them off. Against Tampa their weaknesses were very apparent.
While Carey Price will win some hardware for his regular season he again failed to shine in the Post. Until he can have a solid post season he will not enter that rare zone of truly great goalies. Gaudy regular season stats might make for good chatter, but winning the cup is what it’s all about.
David Desharnais is the number one target of armchair GM’s. The wee fellow has notched 13 points in 38 NHL Play off games. Not impressive. In the regular season he puts up his 50 points (playing with Pacioretty doesn’t hurt) gets good face off numbers, and plays some d. You can do a lot worse. He also does that for only a $3.5 M cap hit.
Tomas Plekanec is no giant either, but he does a lot of things really well. He’s not a true #1 Centre, but they don’t grow on trees. He had his best offensive year of his career over all, but again wilted against Tampa. He’s not chopped liver and this writer appreciates and values his spot on the team and his friendly cap hit of only $5M. He nearly made it to 50% on face offs, one of his only real weaknesses.
Lars Eller is an enigma. His defensive skills clearly outshine his offensive ones, but he also has never been given a terribly long chance to play more offensive hockey with higher caliber wingers. I think Lars could put up 40-50 points playing a bigger role. Again, that wouldn’t make him a true #1, but it probably would be an improvement over Desharnais and depending on which way Montreal went with its #3 could be very interesting. He has size, physicality and is over 50% in face offs. The Habs could do worse. His cap hit is only $3.5M.
Alex Galchenyuk is still a work in progress. For whatever reason the team has been hesitant to this point to turn him lose at the position they drafted him at. Watching him in the play offs I think he’s suffering a bit from Pierre Turgeon disease. Turgeon was a gifted offensive player who was a bit soft. He scored a lot from play making and the perimeter. The question is if Galchenyuk can take the steps to intensify his game and make it to the next level?
Depending on his RFA contract which most likely will be a bridge unless Marc Bergevin feels Alex is his future stud and goes all in. Clearly Galchenyuk has some upside. If Desharnais is moved to a team out West, like Arizona, clearly Galchenyuk would have a spot opened up for him.
Plecky, Galchenyuk, and Eller would not be he worst top 3 Centers in the NHL. Torrey Mitchell as a 4th is livable too, although I preferred Malhotra who notched nearly 60% in the face off circle. In close games that one face off win can be crucial.
So with a limited potential free market what’s out there?
Antoine Vermette would seem a perfect fit if Montreal isn’t sold on Galchenyuk or Eller in a more offensive role. At 32 Vermette would be a short term solution. Essentially a 40 pointer with good D and great face offs and a bigger body. His cap hit will probably be about $4.5M or if teams are desperate enough this season even higher. Vermette has played wing too which helps.
Most likely though if the Habs want a big centre for next season it will be via trade. With the pressure that is being a Montreal Canadien it probably will have to be a known quantity.
The best of the lot out there, if they could swing the deal would be Ryan O’Reilly from Colorado. The Av’s need D and Montreal might be able to oblige them. Actually the numbers aren’t that different between O’Reilly and Desharnais, but the size and upside is. The question is what would it take to make the deal and of course the cap hit of Ryan which is nearly double Desharnais.
Nathan McKinnon is RFA and not as proven as O’Reilly. Of course he’s younger as well. He does offer a higher offensive threshold than O’Reilly.
Mike Richards might be an interesting fit if you could move Desharsnais and felt confident in giving Eller more O time? Richards offers grit, experience and would make an interesting 3C for the Habs. Not sure if Richards could survive our nightlife though 🙂 LA would surely pick up some of his contract and the asking price would be favorable.
The Leaf’s Tyler Bozak would be an interesting fit. He’s not BIG, but he’s very solid and with both Plecky and Bozak you’d be very solid up the middle. He’s only got a $4.2M cap hit for three years.
If the Habs want an expensive band aid Patrick Marleau would be a solution, if he agreed to play for Montreal? He’s big, he delivers offense. He’s old though, and essentially a one or two year solution. He has a high cap hit and would probably take a serious asset to pry out of San Jose.
Brandon Dubinsky would be this writer’s choice. He has size, grit, and scores. He’s only 29. He’s signed long term for $5.85M per. His price would be steep to pick up in trade.
Marc Bergevin’s dilemma is to improve over what he has without having to give away the shop. That’s easier said than done.
Clearly Montreal has gone the distance with Desharnais. There is some hope on the farm, but nothing imminent for next season. And Montreal is now locked and loaded to some talented players than need to get over the hump and make a deep play off run. That will take some upgrading. Also, Plekanec’s contract is almost up and that means resigning him or moving him.
Trading Plekanec and something for Dubinsky might be a deal in the making, but you still have to most likely move out Desharnais.
Bottom line is that good Big Centre’s are not easy to find which is why they are sought after at the draft so early.
They take time to mature too unless they’re early first round studs.
What do you think Hab fans? Who stays? Who goes? Who would you want to trade for? You can post your comments below.