Tampa Bay Lightning Rival Report: Montreal Canadiens

Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports /

Throughout the off-season, I’ve been taking a closer look at the Atlantic Division opponents of the Tampa Bay Lightning and what kind of transactions they’ve made. Next up, let’s review what the Montreal Canadiens has done.

At this point in the NHL off-season, most teams, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, have already made most of their big moves and look to get ready for the upcoming season. Some teams have traded away their valuable assets for big name players or made a splash in the free agency market, while others have remained relatively quiet during the summer months.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been taking a look at what the Lightning’s divisional opponents have done in the off-season thus far. There have been some moves within the division as well as blockbuster trades and questionable acquisitions among the eight teams in the Atlantic.

The sixth team we’ll look at is the Montreal Canadiens and see what the front office has done to rekindle a roster that has had its ups and downs the past few years, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers in 2014, and 50 wins and a division title during the 2014-15 season. However, the team struggled throughout their 2015-16 campaign, mainly because of the loss of goaltender Carey Price, and finished with a disappointing 38-38-6 record.

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Fans of this storied franchise are questioning the front office for some of the moves, or lack thereof, especially on offense, they’ve made in recent years and are calling for a clean sweep throughout the organization, mainly starting with the bench. Head coach Michel Therrien has received much criticism from fans, the media, and even former members of Habs for not communicating well with his players and his old school defensive coaching style.

With Price going down for most of the season, Therrien lost his main man in goal and from there, he didn’t have much to work with, so it’s not all his fault. Part of it rests on the shoulders of the General Manager, Marc Bergevin, to find who can fill in and step up when someone like Price is out with a serious injury. All was fine in Montreal during the first month or two of 2015-16, when the Canadiens went 17-4-2 in 23 games, until their MVP sustained a lower-body injury in late November.

There’s a sticky situation in Montreal, especially after what happened this off-season, so let’s take a look at what Bergevin and his staff did during the summer to retool the roster and give the passionate fans in Quebec some hope for the coming season.

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Major Transactions

Former head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes and assistant for the St. Louis Blues, Kirk Muller, joined the Canadiens coaching staff on June 2. Muller previously served behind the bench as an assistant for the Habs from 2006 to 2011. [Montreal Canadiens]

On June 27, the Montreal Canadiens acquired forward Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks and signed him to a six-year contract with an average annual value of $3.9 million. Shaw, who played with Chicago for five seasons, has hoisted the Stanley Cup twice and has 137 points in 322 games, all with the Blackhawks. [Montreal Canadiens]

Quite possibly the biggest player swap during the off-season, the Montreal Canadiens traded their top defenseman, P.K. Subban, to the Nashville Predators in exchange for their number one blue-liner, Shea Weber. As you can imagine, fans of one team in particular were a bit upset when this happened. Subban, originally drafted 43rd overall in the 2007 NHL Draft, had anchored the Habs’ top pairing for most of his time in Montreal and for his efforts, he won the Norris Trophy in 2013.

Weber, who served as the captain of the Predators from 2010 through 2016, is well-known around the league for his booming shot from the point and physical play, which is different than Subban’s more fluid and puck possession drive style of game.

Nonetheless, Weber is a fantastic defenseman, even at the age of 31, and has 443 points in 763 games played, including three Norris Trophy nominations, though he’s never won the award. More details on the trade can be found on the Canadiens’ official website. [Montreal Canadiens]

On July 1, the Canadiens signed free agent goaltender, Al Montoya, to a one-year contract worth $950,000. Montoya spent the past two seasons with the Florida Panthers serving as a backup to Roberto Luongo. He was originally drafted 6th overall in the 2004 NHL Draft by the New York Rangers and has compiled a 55-40-18 record since entering the league. [Montreal Canadiens]

Also on July 1, the Canadiens welcomed forward Alexander Radulov back to the NHL and signed him to a one-year contract worth $5.75 million. Radulov, originally drafted 15th overall in the 2004 NHL Draft, spent the first part of his career with the Predators and then left the league in 2012 to go play in his native country for the KHL. The 30-year-old Russian has 47 goals and 122 points in 154 games played, all with Nashville. [Montreal Canadiens]

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Minor Transactions

May 8 – The Montreal Canadiens sign forward Artturi Lehkonen to a three-year, two-way contract

May 18 – The Montreal Canadiens sign forward Martin Reway to a three-year, two-way contract

June 11 – Canadiens sign forward Sven Andrighetto to a one-year contract

June 13 – Canadiens sign former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mark Barberio to a two-year, one-way contract

June 22 – Montreal signs defenseman Joel Hanley to a two-way, one-year contract

July 1 – Montreal signs defenseman Zach Redmond to a two-year contract with an AAV of $612,500

July 1 – The Montreal Canadiens sign defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to a three-year, entry-level contract

July 1 – The Montreal Canadiens sign forward Daniel Carr to a two-year contract

July 2 – Canadiens sign defenseman Philip Samuelsson to a one-year, two-way contract

July 2 – Canadiens sign forward Chris Terry to a one-year, two-way contract

July 5 – Montreal signs forward Phillip Danault to a two-year contract extension

July 22 – Montreal signs forward Bobby Farnham to a one-year, two-way contract

After all of those transactions, the Canadiens are left with around $1.43 million in salary cap space before the regular season begins, per General Fanager.

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At the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, the Montreal Canadiens added 6 new players to its prospect pool. You can find their draft selections below.

Round 1 – (9th overall) Mikhail Sergachev, Defenseman, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Round 3 – (70th overall) William Bitten, Forward, Flint Firebirds (OHL)

Round 4 – (100th overall) Victor Mete, Defenseman, London Knights (OHL)

Round 5 – (124th overall) Casey Staum, Defenseman, Oreboro Jrs

Round 6 – (160th overall) Michael Pezzetta, Defenseman, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

Round 7 – (187th overall) Arvid Henrikson, Forward, AIK Jrs

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After their run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2014 and a solid 50-win season in 2015, the Montreal Canadiens struggled throughout most of last season, mainly because of Carey Price’s season-long injury. There were points during the season when the fans called for Therrien’s firing or Bergevin to finally shake things up in Montreal. However, not much could’ve been done to salvage a lost season that looked so promising from the start.

The Canadiens finished sixth in the division and placed in the middle of the pack in most offensive statistical categories, but were in the top-10 in goals against and bottom-10 in goals against per game. Much of that can be attributed to not having Price in net and being a bit thin on the blue line. In addition, the team finished fairly high in most possession categories, reaching above 50% in SAT and USAT, in most cases.

But in today’s NHL, the Montreal Canadiens need to work on becoming a faster team overall and learn to not rely on Carey Price so much if they want to have success in the regular season and beyond. As we’ve seen, this team can win, but in order to get back to where they want to be, there needs to be a change in philosophy on the ice (and a healthy Price will help). Only time will tell until the new season begins.

Next: Tampa Bay Lightning Rival Report: Buffalo Sabres

This coming season will be an interesting one for the Canadiens and the rest of the Atlantic Division. The two Florida teams are expected to be competing for the top spot in the division, as well as playoff positioning throughout the season, while the Canadiens will try to get back into the playoffs and put some pressure on the teams competing for third place in the division or a wild card spot. In my final rival report post, I’ll take a look at another divisional opponent and review what that team has done in the off-season thus far.