44-30-8, 96 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division
Missed the postseason for the second straight year
Additions: F Riley Barber, F Nick Cousins, F Phil Varone, D Ben Chiarot, G Keith Kinkaid
Subtractions: F Daniel Audette (signed with Springfield, AHL), F Nicolas Deslauriers (traded to ANA), F Andrew Shaw (traded to CHI), F Hunter Shinkaruk (signed with Charlotte, AHL), D Jordie Benn (signed with VAN), D Brett Lernout (signed with VGK), G Antti Niemi (KHL)
Still Unsigned: None
Re-signed: F Joel Armia, F Charles Hudon, F Artturi Lehkonen, F Michael McCarron
Offseason Analysis: The Montreal Canadiens didn’t even get a meeting with John Tavares last offseason and they tried to ask out a couple of potential suitors to the prom this offseason, but were ultimately rejected.
Before Habs fans try to claim that technically Sebastian Aho accepted their offer, but was then taken back by his… still current romantic partner (Carolina), let’s remember that this is only a terrible attempt at a metaphor or whatever.
The bottom line is Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, wanted to get Matt Duchene in free agency this offseason, but lost out to the Nashville Predators– which was inevitable given Duchene was building a house in Nashville anyway.
Then Bergevin turned to his next option– becoming the “villain” among his peers by submitting an offer sheet to another team’s restricted free agent.
That RFA happened to be Aho, the Carolina Hurricanes forward who remains a Carolina Hurricanes forward after signing a five-year, $8.454 million per season offer sheet from the Habs that was officially matched by the Canes about a week later.
If Bergevin was really comfortable with paying a steep compensation price, he likely offered more in cap hit, length of the deal and, well, just about everything else.
Instead, Carolina wasn’t fazed by the $8.454 million annual cap hit, despite a little more than $21 million front loaded in the deal in signing bonuses and Hurricanes owner, Tom Dundon, simply wrote a cheque for Aho to cash in and avoid a long offseason of “uncertainty” as many other RFAs faced around the league.
While Bergevin may have done the Hurricanes a favor, Tampa Bay Lightning center, Brayden Point is still unsigned, so…
Actually, on second thought, Montreal only has about $4.045 million in cap space now since missing out on Aho and signing defender, Ben Chiarot, to a consolation prize, three-year, $3.500 million per season contract.
It’s not that Chiarot isn’t a durable defender, but rather, that the Canadiens really could use a young, promising forward to shore up a legitimate top-six– especially with pending-RFA Max Domi in a contract year.
Montreal wants to get back into the postseason, but they don’t just want to make it– they want to make a splash and go on a deep run. Especially since they’re the most recent Canadian team to win the Cup, having done so in 1993, which seems like ages ago, right?
Seven teams have joined the league since a Canadian market last hoisted the Cup high above their heads in a celebratory skate.
Head coach, Claude Julien, transitioned his style from a more veteran dependent coaching style to a more contemporary “play the kids” approach last season and it got Montreal to finish two points outside of the playoffs thanks to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ defeat of the New York Rangers in the last weekend of the regular season.
The good news for Julien? His roster is about the same, so there’s a lot of familiarity in the room in their quest for progress.
Keith Kinkaid signed a one-year, $1.750 million deal to backup Carey Price this season and can be useful in offsetting Price’s workload, though Kinkaid’s looking to bounce back from a dismal year with the New Jersey Devils last season.
Kinkaid amassed a 3.36 goals against average and an .891 save percentage in 41 games played while New Jersey transitioned from Cory Schneider to Mackenzie Blackwood (when healthy) in the crease as their starter.
One thing’s for sure for the Habs this season– if they don’t make it back to the playoffs in 2020, there’s going to be some change coming.
There just has to be.
Offseason Grade: C
Nothing spectacular walked into Bell Centre in the offseason and nothing spectacular walked out. That’s not terrible, but might not be up to the expectations of a fanbase and front office that expects to win every season.
That said, Montreal is due for a resurgence in the standings sooner, rather than later. It’s just going to take a little more work than… whatever was done this offseason.