It’s been an interesting offseason for the Montreal Canadiens, to put it mildly. First, they traded away the very charismatic and talented P.K. Subban in a deal that was panned by many pundits and not particularly popular among fans in Montreal. It’s believed that Subban’s colorful personality may not have sat well with the old-school sensibilities of head coach Michel Therrien and general manager Marc Bergevin. Shea Weber, the player acquired for Subban, is quiet and serious, as well as talented and accomplished. At this point in their respective careers, Subban is the more dynamic player and one who offers more long-term value. But Weber is the safer, more conservative defenseman and that apparently was the direction Habs decision-makers were going toward.
Next, the team reached an accord with controversial winger Alexander Radulov on a free agent contract. While Radulov’s talent is unquestioned, he didn’t end his last NHL tenure on a good note and there is certainly risk bringing him on board. In a way, the move contradicted the concept of conservatism the Weber acquisition seemed to suggest.
Now it’s been reported that Therrien was overheard recently at a golf course saying that Max Pacioretty was the worst captain in team history (link in French). For his part, Pacioretty dismissed the report and indicated that after speaking with team coaches, he believes the comments were “reported erroneously,” as Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports writes. He also considers it an honor just to be among the few who have worn the “C” in the team’s illustrious history.
It’s quite possible this situation has blown out of proportion, as Pacioretty suggested. Nonetheless, there were rumors last year that the Habs were unhappy with Subban and could look to move him before his full no move clause kicked in. Those stories were denied by Bergevin practically up until the moment the trade was announced. It will be interesting to follow the Pacioretty story in 2016-17 to see if it ends up swept under the rug or if it is yet another example of where there is smoke, there is fire.
Elsewhere in Habs Land:
- The Canadiens, like other teams, are set to open their prospect camp, where they will get a sort of progress report on their top young players. Mikhail Sergachev is the one player sure to attract the most attention from evaluators, according to Eric Engels of Sportsnet. Sergachev was the team’s first-round pick in June, chosen 9th overall. One evaluator, Canadiens director of development, Martin Lapointe, already likes what he sees from the skilled, young Russian defender. “His level of confidence with the puck, at his age, is exceptional. To only be 18 and be so composed with the puck is impressive.” Sergachev is almost certainly at least a year or two away from regular duty in the NHL but it’s apparent the Habs are intrigued with his skill set.
- In addition to Sergachev, Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette lists three other prospects the Canadiens will be keeping close tabs on during the camp. Michael McCarron, who we recently profiled here, is a big forward who could add needed size and skill to the team’s bottom six. Artturi Lehkonen is a highly skilled winger who tallied 33 points in 49 games playing in Sweden. According to Hickey, Lehkonen might be best served starting in the AHL as he acclimates to North America. Nikita Scherbak is yet another skilled forward prospect that also has some grit to his game. Hickey reports his progress has been stunted by injuries, though he did get his first taste of pro experience, appearing in 48 games with St. John’s in the AHL and scoring 23 points. Quite likely he will also begin the year in the AHL but could be considered for an early call-up if injuries or ineffectiveness strikes the Canadiens forward corps.