The Montreal Canadiens have gotten off to what most would consider a surprising start. The Habs are currently sitting tied for the second wild-card position with a record of 11-9-5. Team scoring is up as they currently sit tied for 13th with 77 goals. A far cry from last season where they finished third last in the entire league. This was one of the biggest issues facing the team last season. While one issue seems to be fixed, the other is still haunting the Habs. The defence.
The Canadiens have been without their top rearguard Shea Weber for the entire season. Although he made his return to the lineup on November 27th, he alone will not fix the issues the team is having. The left side, in particular, is rather weak, as the Canadiens are in need of a top left shot defenceman to pair with Weber. While players like Victor Mete and Mike Reilly have shown glimmers of potential, they’re still not bonafide number one defenders. Not at this point anyway. If the Habs want to contend this season, it’s an area they will need to address. Here are some of the players that could improve the Montreal Canadiens defence.
Montreal Canadiens Defence Targets
Over the weekend, Sportsnet Nick Kypreos mentioned that the Habs were currently looking for an experienced left-hand defenceman and mentioned teams like the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues. From the Kings standpoint, Jake Muzzin is the prime target here. Muzzin has two years remaining on his current contract with an average annual value of $4 million per season. He has also been linked to the Habs in rumours ever since the Kings were mentioned in the Max Pacioretty sweepstakes.
The 29-year-old defender has been steady for the Kings over his career hitting the 40 point plateau on three occasions while playing a solid defensive game.
The Canadiens need a puck mover who is capable of playing big minutes. That’s exactly what Muzzin brings to the table. Muzzin has averaged over 21 minutes of ice time per game over his career and is able to move the puck out of the defensive zone effectively and efficiently. Muzzin also has great possession stats as his career Corsi-For is an outstanding 57 percent. Although he moves the puck well, he also has a great point shot making him a threat on the powerplay. Add all that to his large 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame, Muzzin is the exact player the Canadiens need.
Another option the Canadiens could look at is New York Islanders defenceman Nick Leddy. Leddy isn’t overly big standing at 6-foot and weighing 205 pounds, but what he lacks in size he makes up for with his skating ability. Leddy is a tremendous skater with great mobility and acceleration. He has the ability to lead the rush and has excellent vision. Leddy is not much of a shooter, however, that’s not something the Habs would be to concerned with. Especially if he were to be paired with Shea Weber. In terms of puck movement, Leddy would be one of the best options for the Canadiens.
The Edmonton Oilers have struggled since the 2016-17 season and are just playing .500 hockey at the moment. They recently relieved former head coach Todd McLellan of his duties and replaced him with Ken Hitchcock. They also traded centre Ryan Strome to the New York Rangers for forward Ryan Spooner. If the Oilers can’t get back on track, more changes are sure to come.
Klefbom would certainly be a target for the Habs if the Oilers were to start unloading players. Klefbom has great size standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 220 pounds. Even though he is bigger he still has excellent mobility. Klefbom holds outstanding shutdown abilities and 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.
Recently, Elliott Friedman appeared on Sportsnet 960 and had spoken about the possibility of the Florida Panthers being interested in Habs goaltender Charlie Lindgren. Florida’s season has not gone according to plan so far and starting netminder Roberto Luongo has been battling injuries all season. Backup goaltender James Reimer hasn’t been able to get the job done thus far and the Panthers are currently sitting tied for last in the Eastern Conference. Lindgren, however, won’t come cheap as the Canadiens are very high on the young netminder. He also just signed a very affordable three-year extension with an average annual value of $750,000. Could the Habs and Panthers work out a deal involving Matheson and Lindgren?
Matheson is an incredibly gifted skater who has strong offensive instincts and makes a good first pass. He plays an aggressive style of game and is capable of running the powerplay. Matheson also possesses decent size at 6-foot-2, and 193 pounds. At just 24 years of age and a new eight-year $39 million contract in tow, he’s a prime candidate for the Habs left side. Lindgren alone won’t get the deal done but could be the start of a package.
To keep the youth movement going, the Habs could look at Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Jake Bean. Bean was drafted in the first round, 13th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Although Bean has yet to become an everyday NHL player, he has all the tools to become a top pairing NHL defender.
Bean is an exceptional skater and is able to use his mobility well at both ends of the ice. His hockey IQ is through the roof and seems to be a couple of steps ahead of his opponents. Bean’s vision and playmaking ability to go along with a silky set of mitts makes him the perfect player to quarterback the powerplay. It also makes him a player who would be a very hot commodity if he were ever put on the trade market.
However, the Hurricanes do have a solid defence group. Even without Bean in the picture. Where they need help, is scoring goals. The Hurricanes currently sit 27th in the entire league in that category. If they want to become a true contender, they will need to upgrade their forward group. The Habs currently have some young talented prospects which could be intriguing to the Hurricanes. Most notably Nikita Scherbak, who is extremely talented and could use a change of scenery to hit the next level. While Scherbak alone wouldn’t get the trade done, Bergevin could come up with a package to acquire the young defender.
Trade Coming in the Near Future?
If we have learned anything from Marc Bergevin‘s tenure with the Canadiens, it’s that he’s not afraid to make big moves. He after going through a disastrous 2017-18 season, Bergevin decided to do just that shipping out disgruntled forward Alex Galchenyuk and former captain Max Pacioretty. Both trades have turned out to be huge wins for the Habs so far. If the saying “all good things come in threes” holds true, we could be seeing Marc Bergevin’s best trade coming in the not so distant future.
Embed from Getty Images