After enduring their worst season since 2000-2001 the Montreal Canadiens are in line for some big changes. Those changes started by adding Dominic Ducharme and Joel Bouchard to the organization recently. The next task will be to address the obvious holes in the lineup. The centre position is always one that is talked about for the Habs but there is another need that’s just as big. The Canadiens defence, specifically the left side.
Canadiens Defence Targets for Next Season
On the right side, the Canadiens defence is set for years to come. Led by superstar defenceman Shea Weber, the Canadiens right side is rounded out by Jeff Petry and Noah Juulsen. Most of their top defence prospects including Brett Lernout, Josh Brook and Cale Fleury are also right-shot defenceman. The left side, however, needs some work. Victor Mete is the only left shot the Canadiens have who could potentially turn into a top pairing defenceman. Others including Karl Alzner, Jordie Benn, Mike Reilly and David Schlemko are better suited for the bottom pair. Prospects Jarrett Tyszka and Scott Walford have potential but are merely prospects at this point in time. If the Canadiens want to be competitive, they will have to find a top pairing defenceman to solidify the defence group.
The Carolina Hurricanes stated recently that everyone not named Aho was available. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since the 08-09 season and with a new GM Don Waddell in town, he will surely be looking to make some big moves to shake things up. This would be a great time for Marc Bergevin to call about the availability of rear guard Noah Hanifin.
Hanifin is definitely a player that fits the bill in terms of what the Habs are needing on the left side. The 6’3”, 206 lbs 21-year-old from Boston, Massachusets is an elusive skater and moves the puck effectively and efficiently. He has the ability to quarterback the powerplay and would be the perfect compliment to Shea Weber for years to come.
Although drafted in the same year as Hanifin, Jacob Larsson doesn’t have much NHL experience. He does, however, have all the makings for a top-four defenceman. Larsson is a very strong skater with excellent vision and makes a good first pass to move out of the zone. Defensively he’s very hard to beat on the rush as he is very agile and has great edgework. He plays a physical game and is very hard to knock off the puck.
With the depth the Anaheim Ducks have on the left side and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry not getting any younger, Anaheim’s window is soon going to close. They may look at moving the youngster for some scoring help up front to make a run at Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Rumours were swirling Klefbom leading up to the NHL trade deadline. With how the Edmonton Oilers season finished this year, we expect them to pick up where they left off at the draft. Klefbom struggled this season after a career year last year. He battled injuries and scored just 21 points in 66 games.
Klefbom has great size standing at 6’3” and weighing 220lbs. Even though he is bigger he still has excellent mobility. Klembom holds outstanding shutdown abilities as is capable of logging a ton of minutes. Though known for his defensive play, Klefbom holds a very strong two-way game and can be a factor on both special teams. A pairing of Klefbom and Weber would be a nightmare for the opposition.
Jonas Brodin is a player who has been linked to Montreal in rumours multiple times. Brodin’s biggest asset is his puck moving ability. Which happens to be exactly what the Habs are in the market for at the moment. While not the biggest guy, he is an exceptional skater and can log heavy minutes in any situation.
Earlier this month the Minnesota Wild signed Swedish defender Eric Martinssen to a one year deal. This is significant as he is another left shot defenceman so its possible they’re gearing up for something bigger. After firing GM Chuck Fletcher and announcing Paul Fenton as the new GM earlier today, more changes are certainly coming.
Johnson has fallen out of favour in Columbus and with his recent struggles in his personal life, a fresh start might be exactly what the veteran rearguard needs. Johnson has shown the ability to be able to produce points over his career and has always been known as an incredible skater. He moves the puck well while playing a very physical game.
Johnson has a couple of 30-40 point seasons under his belt but most recently scored just 11 points in 77 games. He would surely come at a discounted price, which would leave most of the cap space to address the centre position. Being a UFA at season end means the Habs wouldn’t have to give up anything to acquire his services as well, making it a little more of an attractive option.
Trades Coming on Draft Night?
The Habs haven’t wasted any time making changes this off-season. With the draft just a month away, they’ll be looking to make a big splash. The Habs are gearing up to make a significant play for John Tavares on July 1st. Having the other pieces of their roster solidified will certainly make Montreal more appealing to the superstar centre. If the Canadiens do in fact address their needs at centre and defence, they will be back in contention as early as next season.
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