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Canadiens Free Agency: Searching For The Next Sean Monahan

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montreal canadiens ufa targets tarasenko

Kent Hughes made no bones about the lack of marquee free agents signings by the Montreal Canadiens. Like most teams, the Habs are interested in adding some talent to their top six, but they simply aren’t willing to destroy the age structure of the core group of players by offering a veteran player the type of term that would handcuff their long-term financial manoeuvrability.

It’s a wise approach to free agency, especially when we consider teams reacted to the news that the salary cap would be going up with the same type of consideration for the future and restraint a golden retriever would display if it were given a plate of pasta.

“We have so many young players,” explained Hughes. “So, we aren’t worried about paying a player, but term is an issue. We didn’t want four or five-year deals. We wanted to add a player if they were able to play in the top six, with a short term. If we could do it, that’s great, but if not, it’s not a crucial aspect of our long-term rebuild. The first day [of free agency] involved finding a premiere player that wants a short term, which is hard, but you have to try.”

Few fans would fault the team for being hesitant to offer long-term contracts to aging players, but there’s certainly some truth behind the idea that the Canadiens could stand to add a player to the lineup who is capable of playing in the top six, or at the very least, anchor the third line.

The Habs may not be able to offer older players term, but their recent success in rehabilitating Sean Monahan’s market value points to a strategy that could entice another veteran around the league who is looking to extend his shelf life in the NHL. With Day 1 of free agency in the books, and most of the players hellbent on signing long term deals on their way to new teams, let’s take a look at the remaining available free agents who could benefit from the Canadiens’ re-branding services.

Vladimir Tarasenko

Say what you will about Tarasenko’s defensive game, but he certainly would fill a pressing need. Even while bouncing from team to team, the 32-year-old has managed to maintain a very respectable goal-scoring pace, with the vast majority of those goals coming while the teams were at even strength. Without getting bogged down in the details of his usage, his even-strength goals-per-60 production last year would have easily ranked first among all Canadiens players.

Of course, he doesn’t profile as the ideal Martin St-Louis player, but most coaches would appreciate adding a player of Tarasenko’s ilk to the lineup, especially a lineup that’s as offensively started as the one coached by St-Louis.

Tomas Tatar

Yes, we’ve been down this road before. But despite his unceremonious exit from Montreal, it’s fair to say Tatar was incredibly underrated during his time with the Habs. The days of Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, and Phillip Danault putting together some of the best underlying numbers in the history of the NHL are behind us, but the 33-year-old winger could bring value to the organization, both on and off the ice.

Adding another Slovak to the lineup would surely put a smile on Juraj Slafkovsky’s face, as they could discuss Montreal’s shocking lack of quality bryndzové pirohy and bryndzové halušky, but beyond the familiarity factor, Tatar’s penchant for controlling the flow of the game thanks to his excellent work in the neutral zone would also be welcomed by St-Louis. The Montreal Canadiens struggle to produce off the rush, and Tatar happens to be the type of player who knows how to position himself in the neutral zone to provide outlet options for defencemen who are under pressure.

The Third Option(s) For The Montreal Canadiens

It’s not easy to find players on the wrong side of 30 who could still bring some value to the table for the Habs while also benefitting from the opportunity they have to offer in the team’s top six. James Van Riemsdyk and Adam Henrique are a little too old to consider. The same can be said about the former captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Max Pacioretty. He did a fairly good job re-inventing himself after two horrific ruptures of his Achilles tendon, but the main issue, beyond his injury history, would be his lack of speed.

That wouldn’t be a problem for 25-year-old Kailer Yamamoto, who was not offered a qualifying offer by the Seattle Kraken on Monday, and thus became a free agent. The question becomes whether he still has the ability to reach 20 goals, as he did in 2021-22, or whether the last two seasons are indicative of a player who is in the midst of a production free fall.

The good news is he’s maintained strong underlying numbers, both with the Seattle Kraken and the Edmonton Oilers, but the last thing the Habs need to do is add another player to the lineup who will struggle to provide secondary or tertiary scoring on a regular basis.

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Shai

How about Roslovic or Sprong?
Either could be good for 20 and would probably jump at a 2-year deal for less than $3 million/per

Pete

Buyer beware on Sprong, and his family of “advisors”. There’s a reason he’s bounced around, and the Habs will wisely avoid it.

morrisk

Are we talking about Monahan because we think we can extract another 1st rd pick in the deal…or is this just for a body on the 2nd line?

If the article is willing to look at Yamamoto as a UFA signing (who is 25), then why not instead go after Necas (who is also 25)? Not only is Necas much better and can easily hold his own on the 2nd line – did I mention he’s 25? Same approximate age as “the core”. So a long term deal with him is feasible. Say $7M x 6 years, which is reasonable. It would cost a 1st, a 2nd, and a 3rd in next years draft. But we already have 2 1st round picks, and if Matheson is traded at some point, there’s a third. Plenty of draft capital to sign Necas to an offer sheet.

This is the only legit move that is, well, legit – and exactly what we need.

Eddy

According to reports Carolina is not only looking for future assets. They also want an established player who can help them immediately.

morrisk

That’s not how a RA offer sheet signing works.

If the Habs make him an offer, Canes must either match it or let him go to MTL. For compensation, they get a 1st, 2nd, and a 3rd rd pick in next draft. No team that makes Necas an offer must meet the Canes “demands”.

The deadline for NHL teams to issue qualifying offers to pending restricted free agents was 5 p.m. ET on Sunday. By issuing the offers, teams are given the right of first refusal or draft choice compensation should the player sign an offer sheet with another team.

So, at this point, the Canes can no longer get what they want. Any team that offer sheets Necas has them by the balls, so to speak.

Mike

Necas hasn’t done enough in my opinion to warrant that a high salary commitment or what the Habs would have to give up.
If he’s that good, why hasn’t he cracked their top 6?
I’m glad they haven’t given in to the canes demands

mikey_sl

some red flags around necas and I dont think I want to commit to him/zegras without a 2 yr tryout. The only really useful spot is second line wing with Dach and newhook. That Seat will be demidov’s in 2025/26 so blocking him is questionable planning. Aside from one big season 2 years ago he is only a little better than newhook statistically (oints/size). So why are we prepared to give him 7 mil?

morrisk

Because Necas at this point is better than Newhook. At $7M per, that’s average pay for a good 2nd line winger. Besides, Newhook makes half that amount, so having him play on the 3rd line would be OK. Then when Dem arrives, he’s got the 2nd line (or higher), if warranted.

Bev Seney

I agree with that suggestion, in fact I made it myself last week. Myself I would trade Matheson plus a 2nd for Necas. Maybe that has been offered? But surely the makeup of a deal is there.

Dana

How is that legit or the only legit move the team can make? Can you explain how there is not one other legit move possible ? Are you aware that not one member of the Habs core is 25? Not one!

Hughes has said he looks for players that thrive when the game is on the line. While there is a lot to like about Necas, his speed skill and size are intriguing ( I don’t know if many would classify him as a top 50 best forwards) I’m not sure he’s that type of clutch guy and I don’t think he has the physicality element that management covets. However, there are rumors we have talked to Carolina but also rumors that Waddell was still bitter and not willing to deal with us before he left so it’s uncertain.

You are suggesting that Necas is worth as much as Slafkovsky to the team and you are willing to give up all least 3 picks to get him. I’d have to check to see what the payment in terms of picks is at 7.6. Why not 6.3AAV for 4 years? How did you arrive at 7.6/6?
My personal evaluation is he is worth about a mid first round pick. He wants out which lowers the teams leverage in trading. I don’t think Hughes wants to do offer sheets. GMs avoid them and there is a lot of pushback when they occur. Not worth tainting his reputation in the eyes of his peers, in my opinion.

morrisk

I stated $7M x 6 years. These are approximate numbers. If $6.5M x 5 gets the deal done, then so be it. But MTL would have to make him an offer he would want to sign…the the Canes would either have to match or let him go.

He’s going to want at least 5 years. He’s 25 yrs old. He’s good. He’s the best FA option out there for the Habs right now. All other have been taken. Its not a huge overpay, like so many other signings were over the past 48 hrs.

Greg

He’s soft, and no way should we trade any 1sts during a rebuild when we have no idea where they’ll land. Yes, yes, yes, it’s more likely Florida’s pick next year, but if Calgary finishes out of the bottom 10, we get theirs. Adding a player for 7 years before you even see him play for your team is foolish, ask Blake or Treliving how that worked out for them.

If he’s so good, why doesn’t Carolina sign him now all the better options are gone? When the team that knows a player best (and is still a contender) doesn’t want him, other teams should be wary. One bad signing for that term and $ will mess with the rebuild.

gig young

It is bizarre that Columbus signed Monahan for 5 years at $5.5 million per year.

Tyrone

Ideal mentor for Fantilli and Lindstrom now that he’s healthy.

morrisk

don’t count on that staying that way…

Tyrone

Laine could be a Monahan-like reclamation project. He’s got 2 years left on his contract. If we took on his entire salary and Columbus also gave us a 1st round pick for our “future considerations”, I’d be willing to consider it. Although, I’m of the opinion that we don’t need to sign anyone, and just let the kids play instead.

Dana

I think Laine is a good fit, in fact a preferred option as he could still improve a lot if the environment was right- especially if you could leverage something for taking him. No big downside really as the term is only 2 years.
I don’t know how you plan to fill the top 6 with only 5 legitimate top 6 forwards, one of which will play in Russia this year. I don’t think newhook is a strong top 6 option. Who do you have playing and staying in those roles on the second line or are you thinking the team will be adding later to fill out the roster?

Greg

Kailer is small, and that as much as anything has held him back. I wouldn’t bother, he’s not a legit option. Trading for Nick Robertson would be a better option, imo, and it’s not like he’d cost much. Completely underutilized in Toronto, he could be a guy to look at.
Necas I hope goes elsewhere.

Alex

At this point the best option would be trying to get Patrick Laine and his full contract in exchange of some good assets and a bad contract. He could fetch us alot on trade deadline if he gets back tonis usual self or if he manage to bounce back and be that dominant player he was meant to be. Then inhabe no issue keeping him. He’s got a 2 years contract which is affordable lenght wise. If we can convince them to take one of Dvorak, Gallagher or Anderson, in the deal that would be best case scenario. We have ton of picks, prospects and young defensemen.. hope we can land him with those assets

Eddy

In order to acquire a good player via a trade, you have to trade a good player. For example the Canadians traded Kirk Muller, Craig Darby and Mathieu Schneider to acquire Pierre Turgeon. They traded Stephane Richer and Tom Chorske to acquire Kirk Muller. They traded Eric Desjardins, Gilbert Dionne and John LeClaire to acquire Mark Recchi. They traded Russ Courtnall to acquire Brian Bellows. They traded Shayne Corson and Brent Gilchrist to acquire Vincent Damphouse. They traded Chris Chelios to acquire Denis Savard. They traded Claude Lemieux to acquire Sylvain Turgeon. They traded Keith Acton and Mark Napier to acquire Bobby Smith.

NELSON NEVES

Wrong move by Hughes. He should have signed Monny to the same contract the Blue Jackets did. Not alot of money and term for what he would bring in terms of skill, effort and veteran leadership.