Habs Blue Line: Analyzing the Left Side

After six seasons and what seems to be more roster moves than he recorded points in his 1191 game career (181 if you were wondering); it seems Marc Bergevin has finally laid down the groundwork to a foundation the organization can move forward with. A young core that may lack star power, although a couple players are very much in the early stages of their development, but one that contains skill and depth at every position… all but one.

Habs prospect Romanov celebrating his goal at the IIHF world junior hockey championship. (Photo: Darryl Dyck, CP)

With Shea Weber and Jeff Petry still under contract and playing big minutes in Montreal and with former first round pick Noah Juulsen, who should be rejoining the team sooner rather than later; in addition to Josh Brook and Cale Fleury both progressing quite well, one would think the right side of the Canadiens defense should be in good hands for years to come. Unfortunately, things seem a bit gloomier on the left side. I’ll save everyone some time and remove Alzner and Schlemko from the equation right away, same goes for Jordie Benn who’s contract expires on July 1st. After shedding some deadweight the team is left with nothing but question marks on that side of the defense. Is Victor Mete a top-4 defenseman? Are Reilly and Kulak even NHL regulars? Where does Alexander Romanov fit in and when? Unless all or at least some of the above take major leaps in the coming months, this will remain the area of concern for Bergevin and one he will no doubt be looking to address… via trade, free agency and most importantly the upcoming draft.

The 2019 NHL entry draft will be held in Vancouver in what is regarded as a forward heavy draft. Which isn’t to say there will be a shortage of blueliners available when your Canadiens make their way to the podium. I’d like to focus on two in particular who fit the description of exactly what Trevor Timmins should be eyeing.

Cam York
Quite possibly the best skating defenseman in this class, coached and mentored at a young age by none other than Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer, York has all the necessary tools to become an impact player from the back end in the near future.

Matthew Robertson
Enjoying a fantastic season with the Edmonton Oil Kings, the 6’4″ and nearly 200-pound defender loves to carry the puck out of the zone. Projected by most to fill a top-4 role at the next level, Robertson looks like a sure bet to get scooped up mid-to-late first round.

With the NHL annual trade deadline festivities about to kick off, we should all be accustomed to the dozens of rentals for picks and prospects transactions that are about to go down. With little to no assets to sell off and a team not yet ready for serious contention, it might be wise for Montreal to steer clear of those particular deals that go down at this time of year. The kind of trade Bergevin should be on the look out for usually transpire in the off-season. Once again, we’ll narrow it down to two players I believe Bergevin should have his eyes on.

Esa Lindell (Dallas)
With John Klingberg locked up for 3 more seasons and the emergence of 2017 3rd overall pick Miro Heiskanen, Lindell sits comfortably on the Stars’ second pairing. A RFA at year’s end, he could be a player Dallas dangles to try and find offensive help for their big 3 and if that happens, Bergevin should be ready and willing to acquire the 24-year old Finn.

Vince Dunn (St. Louis)
One of the better all around young defenseman in the league, Dunn is piecing together an impressive sophomore season for the struggling Blues. The 22-year old Mississauga native could be an ideal partner for captain Shea Weber. Only issue is how eager Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong would be to part ways with his young blueliner. My guess is, not very.

And finally let’s take a look at two players who could be intriguing to the organization come July 1st. It’s no secret that contracts signed by unrestricted free agents are mostly player friendly, it’s just the nature of things when you create a bidding war over players’ services. A day most hockey fans look forward to but also one that several GM’s across the NHL end up regretting.

Jake Gardiner (Toronto)
With the Leafs’ other pending free agents it appears that Gardiner will be looking for a new home this summer. A gifted offensive player, the once Anaheim 1st round pick, has taken his fair share of heat due to his defensive shortcomings; an aspect of his game that has improved under Mike Babcock. At 28, he’s still relatively young but don’t be surprised if he signs somewhere in the 7 million a year range, at which point I would expect the Habs’ front office to pull out of the running.

Alex Edler (Vancouver)
In his 13th season with the Canucks, Edler has spent more than his share of time on injured reserve. Turning 33 before the conclusion of this season, he doesn’t really fit the youth movement mentality but there’s no denying that when healthy, he can be a very efficient top-4 defenseman. I would expect his price tag to come in a tad under Gardiner’s, but considering his age and health history, I would opt for a younger option.

After spending the better part of the last 12 months bolstering up the center position, Bergevin is now faced with the task of reinforcing his D core. His team is in desperate need of players capable of playing big minutes besides Weber, Petry and company. I’m sure we’re all gonna be keeping a close eye on what he does next… and once he does, we’ll all be here to discuss it in great depth.

Who do you think the Habs should target for the vacant spot alongside Shea Weber?

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2 Responses to Habs Blue Line: Analyzing the Left Side

  1. Very good post Brian!!

    I agree that the Habs should absolutely not picking up any rentals this coming Trade Deadline. Unless they are: young, very talented and swear on a stack of Bibles that they wish to play the remainder of their career only for the Habs. We do not need to be giving up future assets for players who are in the downturn and over 32 ie Edler.

    Of the players noted about acquiring in your article I would only be in favour of two maybe three. The young guys noted that are playing for the Stars and Blues. Gardiner is kind of iffy and we definetly would ot want to be paying market or above for him.

    The only other guy I would be interested in the Habs acquiring and it did not show up very well in your story would be Mitch Marner with the Leafs. Hey he’ll be looking at about $11mil going forward. With big future contracts for Matthews and Reilly and later Tavaras we could help them out by sending them Drouin and Benn+Alzner+Schlemko straight up for Marner. Bergy pulls that off and all past Sins are forgiven.

    Roger Steels January 4, 2019 at 12:37 am Reply
  2. hi brian
    read your stuff,pretty good insight my friend.however we let quite a few young defencemen go,traded,etc.during the bergevin era(my way or the highway)without giving them the chance to made the scouts proud.we did not seem to learn from the bob gainey-pierre gauthier tandem era(i love them both).when we traded away our future captain and defenceman extraordinaire-now in tampa,helping them get to the cup as a veteran.
    (ryan mcdonough).
    we sacrifice the future for immediate mediocraty,it seems to repeat itself.sammy pollock,dick irvin sr.scotty bowman,serge savard amongst others;would not be too pleased.we had drafted some very good defenceman in recent years.did not do them or our team justice in how we handled/developed them,i would suggest.
    jared tinordi,
    morgan ellis,
    nathan beaulieu,
    alexie emelin,
    amongst others,my mind is going blank,
    anyhow,i believe that we need to give our scouts the justice they merit,when we draft our players.keep them.develope them.show confidence in them.give them the chance to make the team proud.
    take good care
    bye for now
    le petitbillch4,

    dino January 6, 2019 at 9:09 pm Reply

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