After winning the Atlantic division in the 2014-2015 season, the Montreal Canadiens appeared to be on the verge of something special. Optimism continued to grow when the team won the first nine games of the 2015-2016 season. Soon after, everything fell apart. Reigning Vezina trophy winning goalie Carey Price was injured after 12 games and did not return. His replacements, Mike Condon and Ben Scrivens, were far from acceptable and posted a combined .904 save percentage.
The Canadiens didn’t have enough offense to overcome their poor goaltending. Only two players scored at least 20 goals this season, Captain Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk, who both lit the lamp 30 times. Even with All Star defenseman P.K. Subban scoring 51 points (45 assists), the team just couldn’t generate enough offense, especially on the power play. The Canadiens ranked just 25thin the NHL with the man advantage.
Pending Free Agents: Montreal does not have a lot of pending free agents, which is actually a problem for a disappointing team with little cap space. Two players that could be cap casualties are Center David Desharnais and Defenseman Alexei Emelin. The two make over seven million dollars combined, but produced a total -13 rating.
There have been rumors that the team could look to trade Subban as he would likely draw a significant bounty in return. He is signed through the 2022-23 season at nine million dollars a year. He was a top five defenseman in points per game this year, so while he is paid a lot, it would be very hard for the team to replace him.
Draft Picks: Many of the top players will be off the board by the time Montreal makes its pick at number nine overall, so they may be in the position to take the “best player available”. Two forwards that may be available are Michael McLeod and Alex Nylander (younger brother of Toronto Maple Leaf William Nylander). If they decide to take a defenseman, Olli Juolevi or Jake Bean should be available.
Free Agent Additions: Considering their lack of salary cap space, the Canadiens will have a hard time being active in free agency. Kris Versteeg and Kyle Okposo are two forward options the team may consider, but the main sticking point will be finding enough cash. A backup goaltender would likely be wise to add, but this free agent market is extremely thin at the position. Former starters Cam Ward and James Reimer, while no longer able to carry the full load, may be too expensive for the Canadiens to add as Price’s backup.