Where Do the Habs Go From Here?

Rangers defeat the Habs in the first overtime of Game Five. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

“This was a wasted opportunity”. That’s what captain Max Pacioretty had to say after the game six loss to the New York Rangers Sunday night (via Amanda Stein of TSN 690), and it’s honestly hard to argue with him. In a year in which the Habs finished atop the otherwise weak Atlantic division, this felt like the year the Canadiens had a legitimate shot at going deep into the playoffs. But, as we all saw Saturday night, it was not to be for the bleu, blanc, rouge.

The Canadiens’ post-season failure can be chalked up to one thing: lack of offense. The team was able to muster up a mere 11 goals in their six playoff games, which is simply not good enough. What’s even worse, is that Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk did not account for a single one of those goals.

It’s hard to blame Pacioretty and Galchenyuk for their lack of offense, as they lacked legitimate offensive support. As hard as Marc Bergevin tried to sell guys like Paul Byron, Phillip Danault and Artturi Lehkonen as top six forwards, it was clear in the playoffs that Montreal simply was just too weak up front. When the opposing teams know it only has to shut down three players (Pacioretty, Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov), it makes scoring that much more difficult.

So where does Bergevin go now? The team’s core players aren’t exactly young, so how much longer can they compete? Carey Price turns 30 in August, while Shea Weber will be 32 the same month. Tomas Plekanec (34) is passed his prime by a long shot, while Andrei Markov (38) doesn’t even have a contract next season. Pacioretty is still a reliable 30-goal scorer at the age of 28, but how much can he handle by himself?

Galchenyuk was slated to be the team’s long term top line centre, but there are still major concerns with his ability to play the position five years into his NHL career. He is also owed a new contract at season’s end, so it will be very interesting to see where Bergevin goes with that. Is he traded? Does the GM give him a long term deal and hope he figures it out? Does he attempt to lock Galchenyuk to another “bridge deal”? The questions are endless.

Aside from Galchenyuk, the team lacks young, high-end offensive players. Brendan Gallagher and Andrew Shaw are great high-end role players, but both are better suited for “support roles”. Danault had a fine season, but his lack of offense showed majorly in the playoffs. Paul Byron had a break out season, scoring 20 goals for the first time in his career, but is it likely he will repeat?

As for the prospects, there aren’t many forwards who are projected to be top six material. Mike McCarron had a solid first year, but it’s hard to see him as more than a high-end, third line power forward. Charles Hudon could help, as he had yet another impressive AHL season, posting 49 points in 56 games. Maybe he can translate that success into the NHL as soon as next season (if they give him a chance).

Nikita Scherbak is another prospect the Habs have had high hopes for, but he has struggled in his two seasons in the AHL, scoring just 20 goals in 114 AHL games. Can he make a difference in the NHL if he’s struggling to score goals in the AHL? He may need another 1-2 years to figure it out.

Seeing as how the offensive prospects are thin, Bergevin could re-sign Radulov, who was arguably the team’s MVP all season (including playoffs). As it may sound simple, there may be a catch. As reported by Tony Marinaro of TSN 690 last month, Radulov is reportedly seeking an eight-year deal. Even though Radulov was a major success this season, would it be wise for Bergevin to lock up a guy who turns 31 in July for another eight years?

Could Bergevin look to part ways with Noah Juulsen and/or Mikhail Sergachev, the team’s two best defensive prospects, in an effort to add young forwards? It seems hard to imagine Bergevin doing so, as he was reluctant to give up young pieces at this year’s trade deadline to add Matt Duchene.

Aside from all this, there is one question that stands above all the others heading into this off season: Carey Price’s future. It is no secret that Price will command a mega contract once his current one expires after next season. Considering Hernik Lundqvist is currently the league’s highest paid goaltender, currently making $8.5 million per season, while also including a full NMC, it isn’t hard to imagine Price getting a contract in the neighborhood of $10 million per season while maxing out at eight years. After all, he has been the back bone of the Canadiens the last three seasons.

But if the Habs’ championship window is truly closing, would it be wise to lock up Price to a mega contract? As mentioned before, Price turns 30 in August, so if he were to get an eight year deal next season, it would last until he was 39. Could the Habs rebuild while paying a goaltender in his 30s $10 million per season for close to a decade, especially considering they will be paying Weber $7.86 million per season until 2026? Would it be smarter to obtain future assets for him?

Marc Bergevin will certainly have his work cut out for him this offseason, as the team seems to be at a major cross roads. Bergevin must decide what to do: go all in for next season or start to rebuild for the future, because you cannot do both in the salary cap era.

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One Response to Where Do the Habs Go From Here?

  1. I do not think Bergevin should get to decide anything.I think he should be fired.For the last 2 years we had major problems and he did nothing to solve them. In fact the lack of offensive prowess was there when he took over 5 years ago and he still has not addressed it.Plus with Prices injury last year, he shoved the solution on a raw rookie with no experience, and although he did an outstanding job under the circumstances, his reward was the waiver wire where he was quickly gobbered up.And because of circumstances in Ottawa he was highly important in helping them achieve success.The PK trade was another example of a wasted opportunity. why did Nashville want to get rid of their captain and best dman. They saw a veteran that was rapidly slowing down.Yes he has a great shot and hits hard but he could not carry the puck out of his end,and either iced it or gave it away.And his big body slowed down at the end of this year once again.Plus with a 10 year contract forced by an offer sheet from Philly his contract was a disaster.Shaw while he did contribute was signed for 2 much and for too long and we gave up too much to get him. Rads was the only bright spot during the summer but he will want too much and for too long and will probably not be in Montreal next year.Price is the only backbone of this team that no matter what people say can not be let go.Chucky needs the team to decide if he is a center or winger and what line..he never knew from one game to the next what he was.Therrien destroyed his confidence.Petry was our best dman in the playoffs not Weber..all the additions other then Benn at the trade deadline were useless. MB called them character players, I call them making us older and slowed..other then Benn and maybe Davidson, I can not see the rest there next year…sad times in Montreal and all will start with replaced Bergevin..

    bay bye April 24, 2017 at 4:46 am Reply

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