That’s what the Canadiens can look forward to in 2014.
But there won’t be any immediate changes and fans who are concerned that Max Pacioretty will be traded can rest assured that a team short on size and scoring punch isn’t about to trade one of the few players on the team who supplies both.
Most of the changes will be geared to improving for the 2014-15 season and beyond, but general manager Marc Bergevin is constantly looking at moves that could improve the current roster as long as they don’t take away from the core talent or mortgage the team’s future.
With the Canadiens holding their own in the Eastern Conference, Bergevin is in position to go shopping for a missing piece or two. The Canadiens have enough room under the salary cap to add around $9 million at the trade deadline and that would be enough to bring in a beefy winger for the playoff push.
But Bergevin’s major task will be to put together the roster for next season, and that starts with determining which players will be on the blue line in 2014-15. The only two regular defenceman currently signed are Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin, which means Bergevin has some heavy lifting to do. P.K. Subban is a priority and the talks have already started on what will be the richest contract in the club’s history.
And then there’s Andrei Markov. He has been the Canadiens’ best defenceman for most of the past decade, and as good as Subban has been this year Markov has been a tad better. Markov has always been easy to deal with and the key this time will be to find a contract that is fair to both sides in terms of money and length.
Francis Bouillon, who is 38, wants to play another season, but he and Douglas Murray will have to look elsewhere. Raphael Diaz is an unrestricted free agent, and while he would like to stay and Montreal would like to keep him, the business of hockey will come into play. Diaz can probably command more than his current salary of $1.225 million on the open market.
The bottom three defenceman on the depth chart are expendable because the Canadiens have to start making room for their younger defencemen — Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn. Tinordi and Beaulieu are first-round draft picks, but it is Pateryn who has made the most progress to date with the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
The business of hockey will be in play as Bergevin tries to beef up the forward lines. Brian Gionta has been an exemplary captain, but the Canadiens can use his $5-million salary to shop for a free agent with some size.
Ideally, the Canadiens hope to build through the draft, but that might prove to be a long process. Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher have worked out, but Michael McCarron, the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder who was drafted in the first round this year, has had a rough transition to junior hockey. After a quick start with the talent-laden London Knights, he has been dropped to the fourth line with five goals and eight assists in 33 games.
The top forward in Hamilton is Martin St. Pierre, an undersized AHL lifer. Time is running out on 2009 first-round pick Louis Leblanc, and most of the junior prospects are on the small side. Success on the ice means the Canadiens will again be picking at the bottom of the first round, which means Trevor Timmins, the director of amateur scouting, will have to do some magic.
The changes in the NHL broadcasting landscape will have little effect on Canadiens fans in Quebec with RDS taking a chunk of the games in French. What remains to be seen is what impact the deal will have on fans outside Quebec, who are currently subscribing to RDS. There’s the distinct possibility that the RDS package, which is technically a regional deal for 60 regular-season games, won’t be available outside Quebec and Eastern Ontario. The other 22 regular-season games and playoffs will be on TVA Sports in French.
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