Who The Canadiens Should Keep For Next Season

The Habs' season has been over for a few days now, and even though they threw away a perfectly good opportunity to get to the second round and eliminate the 'Ruins, which would have gotten Humpty Dumpty fired, one can't help but feel the Habs overachieved and played as well as they could given their personnel situation. Let's face it: not many teams would have gotten as far as the Habs did with their #1 and #2(arguably) defensemen lost for the entire season. The injury to Max Pacioretty was the final nail in the coffin for a team plagued by scoring troubles all year.

Now we have to look forward to next season; and there are plenty of roster decisions to be made. Here's my take:

KEEP:

Andrei Markov
Poor guy can't catch a break (yes I went there). Many people have been saying #79 is now damaged goods, that he'll never play another full season in the NHL. I'm more of an optimist in his case, and I think his recent injuries were more a result of bad luck than anything else. Knee-on-knee collisions and freak skate injuries aren't common, so I think Marky's streak of season-ending injuries will end sooner than later.

He's the Habs' #1 defenseman, their powerplay quarterback and best player. There is no way they can afford to let him walk. Roll the dice and sign him to a long-term, cap-friendly contract. 8 years, 32M deal, perhaps.

Josh Gorges
Another player the Habs cannot afford to let go. Thankfully he's a restricted free agent, and I don't think it would cost too much to sign him to a long-term extension since he made it clear he wanted to stay for the long run. He doesn't have much offensive upside (even though he showed some flashes this year), so the cap hit should be low. Just get it done Pierre.

James Wisniewski
The Wiz was brought in to replace the offense lost with the absence of Andrei Markov. A good puck-moving defenseman, Wisniewski had a career year with 51 points and will not come cheap, but I feel he is worth the price if he can settle for around 4-5M in a multi-year deal.

Hal Gill
Big Hal may not be the flashiest or fastest skater out there, but his importance in the locker room and on the penalty kill cannot be doubted. Let's hope he wants to stay in Montreal for a hometown discount.

Mathieu Darche
There's no reason not to re-sign the guy, he's been all heart & soul for the Habs all season. He made 500k this year and would probably re-sign for something similar just to stay here.

Jeff Halpern
Great utility guy, great on faceoffs. Sign him to a cool mil to center the 4th line.

Other no-brainers:
Max Pacioretty (RFA)
David Desharnais (RFA)
Ryan White (RFA)
Yannick Weber (RFA)

LET GO / TRADE / BUY OUT:

Andrei Kostitsyn
The Kostitsyn experiment in Montreal is all but over. After another under-achieving season, there's just no way this guy is back in the bleu-blanc-rouge next year. Qualify him then trade him for whatever he's worth, which is probably not much.

Alex Auld
OK backup but there are better backup goaltenders out there.

Roman Hamrlik
It breaks my heart to let him go, but it's between him or Gill and I'd rather have the big stick (that's what she said).

Jaro Spacek
Buy him out or trade him.

Benoit Pouliot
Much like AK46, he showed flashes of potential all season but couldn't play well consistently enough to warrant a spot over guys like Desharnais, Pacioretty and White. Qualify + Trade.

2011-2012 LINEUP:

Pacioretty - Gomez - Gionta
Cammalleri - Plekanec - Desharnais
??? - Eller - Darche
Moen - Halpern - White

Markov - Gorges
Subban - Gill
Wisnewski - Weber

Price
???

OFF-SEASON NEEDS:

Offensive-minded top nine forward, depth defenseman, back-up goaltender.

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29 Comments

Jason Pietroniro's picture

Agree with most of this. Minus the Wis. Forget his absent minded style of play. If you keep Markov, let the Wis go. We got Weber Subban and Markov. Enough.

DD in top 6 I can't agree on either. We need to bring in a guy. Apart from Pac our top 6 is too small.

George Prax's picture
Jason Pietroniro wrote:

Agree with most of this. Minus the Wis. Forget his absent minded style of play. If you keep Markov, let the Wis go. We got Weber Subban and Markov. Enough.

DD in top 6 I can't agree on either. We need to bring in a guy. Apart from Pac our top 6 is too small.

Well they already said that Halpern isn't coming back so I'd guess DD centers the 4th line with Eller on the 3rd (or vice versa, or bring up Leblanc if anyone gets injured). So I agree, the void is in the top 6 but transferable to 2 top 9 forwards.

As for Wiz, I disagree. Even with markov this team was lacking a shot on the blueline. Subban can do it obviously but he's also going to be getting a lot more defensive duty. With another powerplay guy leaving (hammer) and Spacek being completely useless, I'd say keep wiz.

On the PP:

Markov - Wiz
Subban - Gorges/Weber/Pleks-Occasionally

He's worth the money and they have the room. Who else do you put back there?

George Prax's picture

Can't really disagree with anything here. I think the moves for Gauthier this season are mostly pretty obvious.

I agree it's between Gill and Hamrlik, as there are too many old and fragile bodies on the blueline, and Gill wins that race with leadership and what he does for Subban. I wouldn't buy out Spacek because it's a pretty big cap hit for two years, so just keep him as a 7th, whatever.

Wiz gets Hamrlik's money, Markov stays the same, Gill comes back at a discount, Gorges gets the difference, Weber / Subban peanuts, Spacek either stays on or goes to the minors, so they actually save money there.

Up front, again, pretty straight forward but they desperately need that big body now, they have the room and the money, get it done!

I was actually hoping they'd pick up Leighton off waivers to be the back-up but oh well, going to be interesting to see what they do there. I can definitely see them just taking Auld again, he was fine this year and he'll be cheap again.

Otherwise, here are the UFA options:

- Mike Smith
- Johan Hedberg
- Chris Osgood (lulz)
- Ty Conklin
- Marty Turco (used to sitting on the bench anyway)
- Peter Budaj
- Mathieu Garon
- Josh Harding
- Jose Theodore (double lulz)
- Jason Labarbara
- Brian Boucher
- Patrick Lalime
- Joey MacDonald
- McElhinney, Curtis

And I'm actually leaving a lot off the list. So there's definitely no shortage. Take your pick.

Phil T's picture

David Desharnais has been playing great and put decent numbers with very limited minutes. I think he can definitely deliver consistent scoring with top 6 minutes; I think it's worth trying. Playing a guy like him on the 4th line is just a waste of talent.

George Prax's picture
Phil T wrote:

David Desharnais has been playing great and put decent numbers with very limited minutes. I think he can definitely deliver consistent scoring with top 6 minutes; I think it's worth trying. Playing a guy like him on the 4th line is just a waste of talent.

5'7" 175lbs.

He played half a season, and broke down near the end. Forgetting the injury against a bigger Bruins team, he went something like 15 games including part of the playoffs without a point. He never played top six minutes this season, so I don't understand how it would be possible for him to just magically start playing big minutes this season.

The problem with this team's top 6 is physicality and size. Putting the second-smallest forward on the team on the top six is counter-productive, even if he has a couple of hot streaks in him. I have no problem with DD acting like a pivot between the bottom 2 lines and the top six but he's not a regular top sixer, no way. Not to mention he's a center and a pretty good one.

Gotta fill that need externally, or you're looking at another year of a DD/Pyatt/Moen/Darche rotation, or just bite the bullet and take another chance on Kostitsyn.

Derrick Newman's picture

8 years, $32 million for Markov? For a 33 year old defenceman with injury problems? i think you are out to lunch here Prax. I know you said his injuries were freak accidents but he is still getting injured. Especially with PK coming into his own, do the Canadiens really need to commit 8 years to this guy? i wouldn't think so, but this is an outsiders perspective.

George Prax's picture
Newman wrote:

8 years, $32 million for Markov? For a 33 year old defenceman with injury problems? i think you are out to lunch here Prax. I know you said his injuries were freak accidents but he is still getting injured. Especially with PK coming into his own, do the Canadiens really need to commit 8 years to this guy? i wouldn't think so, but this is an outsiders perspective.

Actually I had lunch three hours ago. I had a steak sandwich with pasta salad, and a coke. It was delicious. Thanks for asking.

Ya I didn't write the article. I actually agree with you lol, that's a ridiculous contract, even at a sliding rate. I'd be surprised if he gets more than 3. Personally I'd sign him 1 year 5.5 million but I know he wouldn't take that. Three Years $15 million is fair.

Phil T's picture

Prax had nothing to do with the article Newman, lmao

Dan Lazar's picture

IMO
Markov shouldn't get an 8 year maybe a 5 tops, he is 32....

Wiz and Weber.... not very deffensive duo... J-M's play strategy doesn't have much room for that... old people would die of heart attacks in our own zone... I think the habs will let Wiz go Sad

If J-M has a word in any of this... Pyatt will stay also... I think something naughty is happening behind the scenes....

From the junior games I watched.... I doubt Louis Leblanc is ready for a full year in the NHL... I think he is great but needs maybe a little more time in the AHL and some Call up work for the Habs... Don't see him as a permanent solution....

I would ALSO love Martin to Switch roles with Muller... I think it would be the best for both Muller, and the Habs.... and maybe Martin... Pay raise for Muller, give him the team have Martin as an Assistant, keep most of the same playbook but with some extra BALLS... ( just a dream.... )

Jason Pietroniro's picture

I can't get over my personal hatred for the Wis. Plus at 4-5 mil Its a bit risky. He's hot and cold within the same game. I dont recall him scoring that many times on the PP apart from his first few games into the season. his inconsistancy defensively worries me. If he ends up a wash next season because we can't use him to his abilities, Im afraid we'll have a Komisarek on our hands. If he played bottom d pair with limited ice time and only PP I would say ok, but not worth it at that point. 4-5 million should be reserved for better dmen in our system. Markov, Subban, Weber and _______ something cheaper than 4-5 million. Keep the cash for our top 6,. seems we can throw anyone back there and avoid getting scored on.

Phil T's picture

Woah there cowboy, comparing The Wiz with Homosarek is a bit of a stretch.

The reason I want to throw more years at Markov is that he's most likely to accept a lower cap hit. I think they'd be looking for a lot of dough short term with Don Meehan as his agent.

demez's picture

8 years for a guy that's needed back to back reconstructive surgeries? Pass me some of that shit. Let him walk, he'll never be the same.

Gorges stays, I'd keep the Wiz for 4mil/multi years, any more than that and I'd let him walk, he's a solid top 4 defenseman but he's weak in his own end, he needs a strong defensive partner. I'd keep Ham if he's willing to take a major paycut like he said he would, anything up till 2 mil I'd keep otherwise bon voyage.

George Prax's picture

Ok, so we let two top four defensemen walk (when the Canadiens have more than enough cap space) and possibly a third if he wants more than 2 mil, and you replace these guys with...?

demez's picture
George Prax wrote:

Ok, so we let two top four defensemen walk (when the Canadiens have more than enough cap space) and possibly a third if he wants more than 2 mil, and you replace these guys with...?

You're telling me you'd give Hamrlik more than a 2 mil contract? For what reason? You think he'll be in high demand by any other team that he'd be offered more than 2.5 mil a season? The guy's 37. As for Markov, bon voyage if he doesn't want a 1 year contract, I wouldn't take a long term risk that this guy can ever properly compete again.

Who else am I letting walk, Wiz? He's had a great season offensively but for more than 4 mil a year? He's not worth that kind of money. Ernhoff and Bieksa are both free agents this summer, I don't see the Canucks re-signing both, I'd rather have either of them over Markov.

George Prax's picture
demez wrote:
George Prax wrote:

Ok, so we let two top four defensemen walk (when the Canadiens have more than enough cap space) and possibly a third if he wants more than 2 mil, and you replace these guys with...?

You're telling me you'd give Hamrlik more than a 2 mil contract? For what reason? You think he'll be in high demand by any other team that he'd be offered more than 2.5 mil a season? The guy's 37. As for Markov, bon voyage if he doesn't want a 1 year contract, I wouldn't take a long term risk that this guy can ever properly compete again.

Who else am I letting walk, Wiz? He's had a great season offensively but for more than 4 mil a year? He's not worth that kind of money. Ernhoff and Bieksa are both free agents this summer, I don't see the Canucks re-signing both, I'd rather have either of them over Markov.

I wouldn't give Hamrlik anything, if you look at my original post I let him walk Tongue. That said, if the first two (Markov and Wiz) walk, then you have no choice but to bring Hamrlik back possibly at more than 2. But like I said I wouldn't give him anything lol.

Markov, like I said, it's a risk but one I'm willing to take frankly. I wouldn't go 8 years but I think 3 would be reasonable. Give him some stability and room for comfort. As for Wiz, 5 mil is the price for an offensive defenseman these days and I'm not sure they're as readily available as you make it seem. Ehrhoff or Bieksa would still have to sign him and I'm not sure about that.

I just feel like for the next 2 or 3 years, the Canadiens are in better position against the cap and this is when they can afford to take a risk or two on the back-end. A million extra for Markov and or Wiz won't change much in the grand scheme of things in my opinion.

evilbobsaget's picture

I know this wont be popular, but unless Markov is willing to do a 1 year at a very low cost (4 million or so) then I would let him walk. There is no telling what kind of form or condition this guy is going to be in and unless he can prove his ability in a evaluation camp or something, I'd much rather spend the money on getting a power forward of some kind.

I fully support resigning Wiznewfie and Gill. Hamrlik has said he will take less money and call me old fashioned, but I think we should give him mutual respect and loyalty for the job he did.

Play Spacek or send him off into the minors/waiver void.. either way. Buying him out is not the answer and quite frankly, I don't think he is that horrendous.

If we have a hole to plug, we can always resign Sopel.

Hamrlik - Gorges
Subban-Gill
Spacek-Wiz
Weber/ Sopel/ who ever

George Prax's picture
evilbobsaget wrote:

I know this wont be popular, but unless Markov is willing to do a 1 year at a very low cost (4 million or so) then I would let him walk. There is no telling what kind of form or condition this guy is going to be in and unless he can prove his ability in a evaluation camp or something, I'd much rather spend the money on getting a power forward of some kind.

I fully support resigning Wiznewfie and Gill. Hamrlik has said he will take less money and call me old fashioned, but I think we should give him mutual respect and loyalty for the job he did.

Play Spacek or send him off into the minors/waiver void.. either way. Buying him out is not the answer and quite frankly, I don't think he is that horrendous.

If we have a hole to plug, we can always resign Sopel.

Hamrlik - Gorges
Subban-Gill
Spacek-Wiz
Weber/ Sopel/ who ever

The only problem I have with Hamrlik is that he's only going to get older, and if they keep Spacek and Gill that's 2 more 37+ year olds on the blue line. You just can't have that. One of the three AT LEAST has to go. I understand the skepticism with Markov but at the same time when he's healthy the guy is still a top defenseman in the league. Clearly depth was one of the reason they lost to the Bruins, and if he can stay healthy, that isn't going to happen again. That's why I take a risk on Markov.

I agree with Spacek, he's been back but not bad enough to justify a 1.5 million cap hit for 2 years for nothing.

evilbobsaget's picture

I see the 37+ argument. But remember, this is Spacek's last season, Gill would probably be a year to year deal and I wouldn't go more than 2 on Hamrlik. So you got yourself a little insurance policy should we( and Inevitably will ) lose a defenseman. Should someone like Tinordi or Alex Henry ( loling as I type that) have a Paul Coffey like break-out at camp then either one of the three can be sent packing waver/ Farm style... most likely Spacek.

It buys us a year for a prospect to come up is what I'm saying.

George Prax's picture
evilbobsaget wrote:

I see the 37+ argument. But remember, this is Spacek's last season, Gill would probably be a year to year deal and I wouldn't go more than 2 on Hamrlik. So you got yourself a little insurance policy should we( and Inevitably will ) lose a defenseman. Should someone like Tinordi or Alex Henry ( loling as I type that) have a Paul Coffey like break-out at camp then either one of the three can be sent packing waver/ Farm style... most likely Spacek.

It buys us a year for a prospect to come up is what I'm saying.

But I just don't see the need to be honest. Picard has another year so he can start in Hamilton, Weber will be around, and if they resign Markov and Wiz that gives them plenty of depth on the back end. The only thing I wish they would do to stabilize that group is finally find a way to get Emelin over here.

Shahab Khan's picture

I agree with most of what everybody has said...

I would like to team to go out and get another young forward whether via trade or free agency or maybe someone from Hamilton

demez's picture

Well I'd give Wiz multiple years at 4mil, if we give him 5 mil then what are we going to give Markov? I wouldn't give Markov more than 2 years, I don't think he's worth that kind of risk, maybe if this was his first major injury but it's not. Yeah obviously Ernhoff and Bieksa aren't a guarantee but I mean we do have options in the free agent market. I think our cap space should be used to finding ourselves another Cammalleri. I'd be willing of course to let Hamrlik walk as well, re-sign Gill on a year to year basis and use the money towards a top D man to replace Markov.

I personally feel Wiz and Gorges are much more important going forward than Markov. I don't think playing this core without replacing Markov would be that bad either if we can fix our offense.

George Prax's picture
demez wrote:

Well I'd give Wiz multiple years at 4mil, if we give him 5 mil then what are we going to give Markov? I wouldn't give Markov more than 2 years, I don't think he's worth that kind of risk, maybe if this was his first major injury but it's not. Yeah obviously Ernhoff and Bieksa aren't a guarantee but I mean we do have options in the free agent market. I think our cap space should be used to finding ourselves another Cammalleri. I'd be willing of course to let Hamrlik walk as well, re-sign Gill on a year to year basis and use the money towards a top D man to replace Markov.

I personally feel Wiz and Gorges are much more important going forward than Markov. I don't think playing this core without replacing Markov would be that bad either if we can fix our offense.

I don't see the problem with 5 each. Wiz practically led the team in scoring second half, Markov's hit is reduced due to injury. Five each for 3 years each is fair, and is just about the time it will take for Subban to start making big bucks. Keep in mind the rest of the defense isn't going to be making much, and in my head, a defensive structure should cost a team around 20 million, and even with those two guys making 5 each that is doable. If you look around the league, most of the good defenses cost somewhere between 18 and 24 million. Five for each put the Habs at 20.5 for next year, factor in a sizable increase for Subban the next year (and take out Spacek's contract) and you're still about there. To me this makes perfect sense and it doesn't take anything away from finding a forward.

As for getting a top d-man to replace Markov, who do you have in mind, keeping in mind the guy has been a top ten d-man in the league in the past? Easier said than done and I KNOW he can still be that for the Habs.

Phil T's picture

The odds of Markov suffering another season-ending knee injury have got to be low at this point, so I say take a chance with him long term for less money.

Phil T's picture

As for him not being the same, I dont think his knee injuries affected his ability to pass the puck.

George Prax's picture
Phil T wrote:

As for him not being the same, I dont think his knee injuries affected his ability to pass the puck.

no, but not getting the chance passing the puck for most of the last 24 months might affect that ability.

BlahBlah's picture

Haha dont be like leaf fans! Wiz is NOT worth 4-5 Million, and unless the reports before the playoffs were false Markov doesnt want a one year deal, and there's no point signing him for anything close to what he was making, Subban is the #1 defenceman on this team he'll soon enough be paid like one. Markov would be a 3-4 so he should be paid like one if he stays. Buying out Spacek is useless, just re-sign hamrlik and they're your 5-6 pairing. Gill stays with Subban. So if Markov isnt resigned, all that's needed is someone to play with Gorges, easy enough to find. My preference would be Bieksa he's seems like someone how would shine surrounded by the leadership of the Habs, but he might be priced out of 3-4 range

Price will be getting a big raise after next season so really Hamrlik/Gill resigning on the Cheap will be important.

Upfront there should be a complete remake of the bottom 6, time to get tougher, having 4 small guys in the top 6 is okay but having a small bottom 6 as well isnt so good.

And finally if Paches is good to go in a top 6 position, get rid of Kostitsyn and find someone another big winger for the top 6, but that could be hard so resigning AK for 1 year might be all that you can hope for.

Few guys i'd go hard after if i'm PG is Upshall, LaRose, Chris Clark and i would do EVERYTHING to get Michael Rupp!

George Prax's picture
BlahBlah wrote:

Haha dont be like leaf fans! Wiz is NOT worth 4-5 Million, and unless the reports before the playoffs were false Markov doesnt want a one year deal, and there's no point signing him for anything close to what he was making, Subban is the #1 defenceman on this team he'll soon enough be paid like one. Markov would be a 3-4 so he should be paid like one if he stays. Buying out Spacek is useless, just re-sign hamrlik and they're your 5-6 pairing. Gill stays with Subban. So if Markov isnt resigned, all that's needed is someone to play with Gorges, easy enough to find. My preference would be Bieksa he's seems like someone how would shine surrounded by the leadership of the Habs, but he might be priced out of 3-4 range

Price will be getting a big raise after next season so really Hamrlik/Gill resigning on the Cheap will be important.

Upfront there should be a complete remake of the bottom 6, time to get tougher, having 4 small guys in the top 6 is okay but having a small bottom 6 as well isnt so good.

And finally if Paches is good to go in a top 6 position, get rid of Kostitsyn and find someone another big winger for the top 6, but that could be hard so resigning AK for 1 year might be all that you can hope for.

Few guys i'd go hard after if i'm PG is Upshall, LaRose, Chris Clark and i would do EVERYTHING to get Michael Rupp!

Despite what I said about Markov he still has the ability to be a top ten D in the league, so at the top of his game he's still the number one ahead of Subban. At worst he'll be a #1B. And there's absolutely no comparison between Wiz and Homosarek IMO

BlahBlah's picture

No point signing Markov to a big deal Term & $ wise, in 2 years if Subban and Price continue at their pace they'll be getting paid very well, Price hopefully could be had for the same deal as Hiller in Anaheim but for PK see whatever Seabrook gets. Plus there's hoping Tinordi or someone else comes up in the next 2 years to take a top 4 spot.

I would talk deal with Markov and find out what other teams are looking to sign him, but Montreal is too classy to do a sign and trade.

George Prax's picture
BlahBlah wrote:

No point signing Markov to a big deal Term & $ wise, in 2 years if Subban and Price continue at their pace they'll be getting paid very well, Price hopefully could be had for the same deal as Hiller in Anaheim but for PK see whatever Seabrook gets. Plus there's hoping Tinordi or someone else comes up in the next 2 years to take a top 4 spot.

I would talk deal with Markov and find out what other teams are looking to sign him, but Montreal is too classy to do a sign and trade.

I agree with this. Which is why I think 3 years is fair. it's mostly that I've simply had enough of half the blueline being older than the space travel program.