NHL Rumor Mill – April 11, 2020
Check out the recent Montreal Canadiens speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined the Montreal Canadiens’ long-term needs. He feels they need to pay a handsome fee to bring in a suitable backup goaltender for starter Carey Price. The market could include such notables as Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Cam Talbot, and former Habs playoff hero Jaroslav Halak.
The Canadiens also lack proven snipers and more NHL-ready defensemen. O’Brien wondered if they should at least try a mini-reboot and sell off the likes of Tomas Tatar, Jeff Petry, Jonathan Drouin, and perhaps Brendan Gallagher.
THE ATHLETIC: Arpon Basu and Marc-Antoine Godin recently suggested the Canadiens are in a good position to take advantage of a potentially flat salary-cap for 2020-21. They would have flexibility other clubs wouldn’t have, making it possible to target cap-strapped clubs in need of shedding salary before next season. They could also attempt to sign a rival club’s top restricted free agent with an offer sheet.
TVA SPORTS: Louis-André Larivière recently wondered if Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin might target Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev with an offer sheet. Bergevin traded Sergachev three years ago to the Lightning for Drouin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens have over $63 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21, with restricted free agents Max Domi and Victor Mete their only notable players to be re-signed. Assuming both are inked for a combined $7 million, Bergevin will have around $11 million at his disposal. He could have more if each club gets a compliance buyout because of the effect upon league revenue by the coronavirus, or if the league and PA agree to a slightly higher artificial cap.
Bergevin must use that cap space to improve his roster. There will be teams looking to sell in the off-season. He would be wise to exploit that opportunity. Landing a quality player probably won’t cost a roster player. The Canadiens have considerable depth in draft picks to draw upon for trade bait. They hold 13 picks in rounds two through seven of this year’s draft, and seven picks in rounds three through five in 2021.
I agree with O’Brien regarding the need for a reliable backup. They’ve gone cheap in that department in recent years and it’s cost them whenever Price was struggling or sidelined. They cannot make that mistake again. Signing one of those UFA goalies listed by O’Brien would address that need.
Bringing back Sergachev via trade or offer sheet would go a long way toward boosting the Canadiens’ defense corps. However, I doubt Lightning GM Julien BriseBois has any intention of parting with him. An offer sheet only works if the targeted player is interested. Sergachev probably prefers playing on a Stanley Cup contender in a warm-weather, low-tax state.
Bergevin resisted the temptation to shop Tatar and Petry at this year’s trade deadline. If the Canadiens are still outside the playoff picture before next season’s deadline, those two will likely hit the trade block. Gallagher, too, if the Habs aren’t willing to pony up big bucks to keep him in the fold. Drouin’s struggles and $5.5-million AAV through 2022-23 won’t be easy to move.
I believe 2020-21 is a make-or-break season for Bergevin. If the Habs aren’t in playoff contention by the middle of next season, he could be out of a job. Team president Geoff Molson has been very patient but I daresay he could reach his limit if the Habs remain outside the postseason picture.