Active offseason gives Montreal Canadiens’ fans plenty of hope

With Marc Bergevin being one of the busiest general managers during the NHL offseason, the Montreal Canadiens and their fans are anxious to get a look at their new additions. The Habs signed unrestricted free agent centre Tyler Toffoli to a four-year deal worth $17 million and acquired goaltender Jake Allen, defenceman Joel Edmundson and forward Josh Anderson via trades. In addition, 20-year-old blue liner Alexander Romanov inked an entry-level earlier in the year and has a good shot at making the lineup.

The 28-year-old Toffoli was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings with the 47th overall pick in 2010 and helped the club win the Stanley Cup four years later. He was traded to Vancouver in February and posted 24 goals and 20 assists in 68 games last season with another four points in seven postseason outings in Vancouver. In total, Toffoli has racked up 145 goals and 155 helpers for 300 points in 525 regular-season contests with 11 goals and 25 points in 54 playoff games.

Toffoli has proven to be a dependable player at both ends of the rink as he led the NHL in plus/minus in 2015/16 with a plus-35 and led the league with five shorthanded goals in 2014/15. He’s also useful on the power-play as he’s notched 32 goals and 56 points with the man advantage so far during his career and has 27 game-winning goals.

The 26-year-old Anderson was acquired from Columbus in a trade for fellow forward Max Domi and a third-round draft pick and then signed a seven-year deal for $38.5 million. It may be seen as a bit of a gamble for the Canadiens since Anderson was limited to 26 regular-season games in 2019/20 due to injury and posted just one goal and three assists with a minus-8 rating. The 6-foot-3-inch 220 lb winger has tallied 65 goals and 115 points in 267 career games with eight points in 21 playoff games.

With Toffoli and Anderson up front, head coach Claude Julien has three solid lines to roll out. Youngsters Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi have plenty of potential as they continue to improve with each passing game and each of them scored four goals in this year’s playoffs to lead the squad. The centres have already exceeded many fans’ expectations before reaching the age of 21 and Suzuki often played on the team’s top line in the playoffs between Brendan and Tomas Tatar.

Of course, the club also has another excellent prospect up front in Phillip Danault. Suzuki contributed 13 goals and 41 points in 71 contests in 2019/20 while Kotkaniemi added six goals and eight points in 36 outings and Danault was second in team scoring with 13 goals and 47 points in 71 games with a team-high plus-18 rating. Suzuki also co-led the team in the playoffs with seven points in 10 games along with Jonathan Drouin.

On the blue line, the 27-year-old Edmundson was picked up in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes for just a fifth-round draft pick and promptly signed to a four-year, $14 million contract. The 6-foot-4-inch native of Brandon, Manitoba was originally drafted 46th overall by the St. Louis Blues in 2011 and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2018/19. He’s notched 20 goals and 72 points in 337 regular-season games with a plus-25 rating with six goals and 15 points in 53 playoff outings with a plus-10 rating.

An other key newcomer from St. Louis was 29-year-old goaltender Jake Allen as next year’s pending free agent was acquired for a seventh-round draft pick in 2020 and 2022. Allen was then given a two-year contract extension by Bergevin for $5.75 million to back up Carey Price in the crease. Allen was drafted 34th overall by the Blues in 2008 and also helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2018/19.

He brings plenty of experience with a career regular-season record of 148-94-26 in 289 games with a goals-against average of 2.50 and a 91.3 save percentage. Allen is 11-12 in 29 playoff games with a 92.4 save percentage and a 2.06 goals-against average. He also managed to be named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team twice as he made the squad in 2012/13 after playing just 15 regular-season games and again in 2014/15.

But while the newcomers and youngsters will be depended upon to lead Montreal to the playoffs and beyond in 2020/21, key veterans Carey Price and Shea Weber also need to keep up their fine play. Both players are signed until 2026 with Price going 27-25-6 in net last season with a 2.79 goals-against average and a 90.9 save percentage while Weber posted 15 goals and 36 points in 65 games.

This is a make or break season for Montreal though as Price and Weber are nearing the ends of their careers. The Habs performed well in this year’s postseason, but fans and management won’t be satisfied next year if they can’t progress to the second round.

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