Could Carolina Hurricanes 24-year-old right-shot defenceman Ethan Bear be a free agent target for the Montreal Canadiens?
There’s growing speculation that Bear won’t receive a qualifying offer from the Hurricanes and if they had NHL Betting odds on whether Bear will become an unrestricted free agent on July 13 when the 2022 NHL free agent market opens up, they would be in favor of Bear becoming a UFA. After scoring five goals to go with nine assists, and finishing at a plus 1 in 58 regular season games this past season, Bear was a healthy scratch for all 14 Stanley Cup Playoffs games for the Hurricanes.
In the most recent 32 Thoughts Podcast with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek, Friedman speculated on Bear’s future with the Hurricanes.
“I can’t imagine that Bear is too happy there,” Friedman told Marek. “I can’t imagine that he would want to stay after not getting a game in the playoffs but they might lose some bodies on D. Who knows what’s going to happen to [Tony] DeAngelo? Who knows what’s going to happen with Ian Cole? They might need defencemen. I’m just not convinced that Bear is going to want to stay there after this.”
Now it should be noted that in the Hurricanes’ exit media availability on Thursday, Ethan Bear entered the room to address the media on crutches and with a walking boot on his left foot. The 24-year-old, 5-foot-11, 197-pound rearguard told the media he had a procedure to remove something and it was ‘nothing serious’, but then went on to talk about what became a frustrating season for him after a bout with COVID in late November.
“I just couldn’t get my rhythm back after that. It was tough,” Bear said. “I’ve never been through something like that. For a long time I was out of it. You couldn’t breathe and I didn’t know if I was out of shape or like you simply couldn’t. I just feel like I never got my game back under me, then not playing in playoffs was pretty tough.”
However, the fact that the Hurricanes still termed Bear as a healthy scratch throughout two full rounds of playoff action, is a clear indication that his decline after the COVID bout left him in the doghouse with head coach Rod Brind’Amour.
“He’s got a few issues. Doesn’t stay in shape very well, which hurt him in Edmonton and clearly didn’t fly with Rod the Bod, for sure,” an NHL source said of Bear to Montreal Hockey Now Thursday. “He’s small, but moves a puck well. What he’s really good at is getting back to a dump, and turning the puck north in a hurry with an accurate pass. Walks a blue-line OK, but challenged to defend because of size. Guys his size have to be uber-dedicated, and his fitness issues open the door to speculation. Betcha he could be had for cheap.”
So should Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens, who are clearly getting younger and in need of a right-shot defenceman, take a chance on the 2015 fifth round pick (124th overall) by the Edmonton Oilers, if he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 13?
Bear, who was acquired from the Oilers by the Hurricanes in exchange for forward Warren Foegele last July is coming off a two-year contract that carried a $2 million salary cap hit. If the source above is correct, he could come at a bargain basement price for the Montreal Canadiens.