Habs Sign Defenseman Chris Campoli to One-Year Deal

In an effort to fill the void left by ailing defenseman Andrei Markov -- once again -- the Montreal Canadiens have made a late acquisition on defense. According to TSN, the team has signed defenseman Chris Campoli to a one-year, $1.75 million contract.

27-year-old Campoli has played 397 games in the NHL since the lockout, putting up 33 goals, 102 assists and a -39 rating with the New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, and most recently, the Chicago Blackhawks -- who walked away from an arbitration hearing for the player back in July. The North York, Ontario native stands at 6'0" and 190lbs, which seems to be about the norm for the Habs these days.

Campoli is a former seventh round pick who definitely exceeded those expectations over his career to become a regular NHLer, but isn't exactly known for being defensively sound. The defenseman has never been a plus player in the NHL, despite several decent offensive seasons. He could probably eat some time on the powerplay while keeping Markov's -- or who ever else's -- seat warm on the back-end.

The easy explanation, as mentioned, would be to "blame" the signing on Markov's aggravated injury, but there could be more to it. The team has known about Markov's status since before the beginning of training camp -- although we haven't exactly had any updates on the matter since -- so the timing of the signing is interesting to say the least.

The Habs have now taken the ice for five pre-season games. Four of those have been losses, and the only win was a squeaker in a shootout against the Senators. I'll be the first to tell you that pre-season box scores mean little to nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it would be foolish to suggest that everything is fine and dandy on defense for the team.

Outside of P.K. Subban, the Canadiens are looking to ice a d-corps that includes two slower players in the twilight of their careers, one recovering from reconstructive knee surgery seven years in the making, a Russian rookie still getting used to North American ice, and a Swiss defenseman that has failed to take advantage of his shot with the team this pre-season. The Canadiens entered camp with a surprising amount of defensive depth in the prospect pools, but it was going to be a challenge icing a proper group of six if Markov was due to start the season on the shelf.

Yannick Weber and Alexei Yemelin have impressed us in small spurts in five game so far. Yemelin showed us his impressive hitting prowess in his first game, but failed to otherwise make an impact. Weber has played big minutes in his games so far, but the results in those games speak for themselves. Lord only knows what could be in the cards for Hal Gill and Jaro Spacek this season, so it's understandable if the Canadiens wanted to take some pressure off of Gorges and Subban with someone with NHL experience.

That said, Campoli isn't exactly the cream of the crop, and you don't have to look any further than the fact that up to the last week of September, the 27-year-old defenseman remained unsigned. Consider him a younger Paul Mara or Brent Sopel. $1.75 million may sound like a considerable sum to pay for such a player, and for depth, but despite illusions put up by some of the Canadiens' prospects at camp, it may have been needed.

That said, I would have liked to see what Weber could have done in a regular NHL defensive shift, or frankly, even someone along the lines of a Brendon Nash or Alex Henry, or even Raphael Diaz or Mark Mitera. I'm not sure that I'm a fan of the lack of confidence this move expresses towards the d-corps at the hands of the management.

In any case, the move seems very typical of the Habs. Depth defenseman who haven't proven much in their careers trying to fill shoes that are way too big for their feet. Not surprising. It's more than likely that a large portion of the Canadiens' fanbase will end up breathing a collective "meh" when the dust on this signing settles.

As it stands, the Habs defense tandems could look as follows on opening night in Toronto on October 6th:

P.K. Subban - Jaroslav Spacek
Josh Gorges - Alexei Yemelin
Hal Gill - Chris Campoli

Yannick Weber

What do you think? Are you okay with Chris Campoli patrolling the Canadiens blueline to start the season, or would have rather seen Weber or someone else internally fill in for Markov while he nursed his injuries?

3 Comments

Marco Perruzza's picture

Jaro Spacek on the number 1 defense pairing? WOW. As I mentioned in your earlier post not replacing Roman Hamrlik and James Wisniewski was a terrible mistake. I agree with the indifference towards the Campoli signing, he is what he is and he'll help as a third pairing blueliner. The bigger problems are Spacek, Gorges and Gill on that backend. I sense a difference in your tune from your offseason rankings. Bottom line is the defense will only look good if Carey Price is a top five goalie again.

George Prax's picture

Markov was the one who was supposed to replace Hamrlik and Wisniewski, and he screwed the team over by signing when he wasn't 100%. The only reason I put Spacek on that pairing is because I don't really want to see him paired with Campoli and I'd rather Gorges with Yemelin. He likely won't be playing the 25+ minutes a night that Subban will be playing, so it's just a matter of splitting everyone evenly with partners who they can feed off of.

And by the way, from a lot of early analysis Campoli seems to be a poor man's Wisniewski. Decent point producer, not a great skater, only difference is Campoli won't be spending the first eight games of the season suspended. And Hamrlik is in the twilight of his career. We've discussed this before. The Canadiens are bringing in Yemelin, a presumably healthy Gorges who's looked good so far in the preseason (it boggles the mind that you seem to brush him off so easily just because he had an injury), and a pretty deep prospect pool to choose from if they need someone else. My problem isn't that the Canadiens' aren't good on the blueline, it's that they don't seem to have confidence in their own players.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

This is not good news. To me this shows that Yemelin is not as advanced as one thought and Markov looks to be in trouble once again. I don't know what to think of the Canadiens this season though Prax. They look once again to be a playoff team, but something just doesn't sit right with me. I hope they can stay healthy, because they are a fun team to watch. Nice read and good luck this season to the Habs!