We all have an idea of the Free Agents out there, and who they will likely go to, but this will give a new perspective of the Free Agents (UFA) that are available. This all NHL Free Agent team will have 4 forward lines, 3 defense pairings, two goalies along with 3 depth players. The Habs component of this will be an analysis of the player on each line or pairing that is most likely to sign with the Canadiens and why I came to that conclusion. So... Let us begin!
First Line: LW- Matt Moulson C- Paul Statsny RW: Marion Gaborik
Line Analysis: A high scoring, talented line. Gaborik has the speed, Moulson has the shot and Statsny is a Two way forward who does not lack scoring ability.
Most likely player for the Canadiens to sign: Matt Moulson
Why: Canadiens targeted Vanek over Moulson at the trade deadline. This does not at all mean that the Habs will not try targeting Moulson in Free Agency. While the Habs can use the speedy scorer that is Gaborik, it appears he is going to Re-sign with LA. The Habs will look to replace Vanek with Moulson, who is one of the more consistent goal scorers in the NHL, and someone who will hopefully be an upgrade over what Vanek was.
Second Line: LW- Thomas Vanek C- Mikhail Grabovski RW- Jerome Iginla
Line Analysis: Maybe not the most defensive minded line, but one that can certainly rack up some goals. Many people have Vanek as the top FA in this year's class. While our biased minds might disagree, Vanek registered the most points out of any free agent this year. While some might not have Grabovski as their no. 2 Center in this year's free agent class, he did register a +6 rating last year while playing on one of the worst defensive teams in the league. While David Legwand might be the consensus no. 2 center among free agents, his -17 rating was a major turnoff especially if he is going to be playing alongside Vanek who doesn't understand the concept of defense.
Most likely player for the Canadiens to Target: Jerome Iginla
Why: Jerome Iginla scored the second most points among free agents, and his defensive abilities aren't horrible. While he didn't have the best series against the Habs (something we are not complaining about), he is a veteran who can score and make plays. Iginla is a guy that I prefer over some of the other scorers that are available, however, his age and high asking price might deter Bergivin.
Third Line: LW- Jussi Jokenen C- David Legwand RW- Ryan Callahan
Line Analysis: When you think of the top point getters that are available in this year's free agency class, you don't think of these three guys. However Jokenen and Legwand rank in the top 2 in points for each of their respective positions. Jokinen is really an elite Third Scoring Line player. His mix of scoring ability, playmaking, and defensive skill makes him a targeted player in this year's free agency. Acquired by Pittsburgh, playing with lines alongside guys like Crosby or Neal make anyone a better player, but Jokinen has really stood out. I talked about Legwand in the previous line analysis, but the fact that he played in Nashville most of his career means that last season's defensive woes are likely to be turned around in 2014-2015. Callahan is a player who is going to get a lot of money (most likely from Tampa Bay) and is one of the better defensive forwards in the league, along with his leadership skills.
Most Likely Player for the Canadiens to get: Jussi Jokinen
Why: Jokinen provides defense for a team that lacked it last season. The two-way forward's offensive skill is certainly not be overlooked and can also provide to a Canadiens offense that lacked scoring at points. Jokinen would be good playing alongside Plekanec and whoever the recently extended coach Therrien decided to put with the two.
Line Analysis: A 4th line that lacks defense, but not offense. Derek Roy, a above average center who is flanked by two snipers in Cammalleri and Vrbata. Cammalleri was a guy who drew a lot of interest from teams at the trade deadline. We will see this again in free agency as he will again draw a lot of interest from teams looking for scoring. Vrbata is another scorer who is under-the-radar type of player due to the fact that he has been playing in Phoenix.
Most likely player for the Canadiens to get: Radim Vrbata
Why: Canadiens are looking for that guy to replace Vanek as a scorer on the wing. Depending on what Bergevin wants to spend, Vrbata would be a bit of a cheaper option than other scorers like Iginla or Moulson. Vrbata would be able to provide needed offense to the Habs and would be a Good Pickup.
Defensive Pairing 1: Dan Boyle-Andrei Markov
Pairing Analysis: Two Defenseman who don't have a lot of defense left in them. Offensively, these two have some left in the tank and are probably both top 10 offensive Defenseman when they are healthy. While both are past their prime, they should be productive offensively.
Most likely player for the Canadiens to sign: Andrei Markov
Why: Not much to explain here as we all are familiar with Markov. The Canadiens lifer has been stellar for years and as his defensive abilities are degrading, he still is a great player on the Powerplay alongside Subban.
Defensive Pairing 2: Matt Niskanen- Andrej Meszaros
Pairing Analysis: Niskanen is the best Two-Way defenseman in free agency. Meszaros might not be the fourth best defenseman in free agency, however, he should pair nicely with Niskanen. Meszaros is an offensive defenseman who is not inept defensively.
Most likely player for the Canadiens to sign: Matt Niskanen
Why: Niskanen will be a flaming hot commodity come July 1st. Niskanen i the type of defenseman the Canadiens could use due to his ability to score while playing great defense. We will see how Bergivin plays this one due to the Canadiens dire need for a really good Two-way defenseman.
Defensive Pairing 3: Brooks Orpik- Sami Salo
Pairing Analysis: Probably the best defensive defensive pairing. Orpik is a solid defensive player who can also hit. HIs defensive physicality should pair nicely with aging Two- way defenseman Sami Salo.
Most likely player for the Canadiens to sign: Sami Salo
Why: If the Canadiens cannot add Niskanen, Salo could be their next option due to his offensive and defensive skill. A one year deal from Bergevin would be the most likely contract he would sign with the Habs.
Goalies: Starter- Ryan Miller, Backup: Jonas Hiller
Goalie Analysis: These two as a starter backup tandem would be one of the best, if not the best in the league. These two are going to sign big contracts, no matter who it is with. Both goalies have been All-Stars, and have been regarded as elite goaltenders a some points. Miller is still a top 6 or 7 goalie in my eyes while Hiller hasn't been as strong recently.
Most likely player for the Canadiens to sign: Jonas Hiller
Why: I know it won't happen. In some weird scenario where they trade Budaj and Tokarski and then sign Hiller for 2 or 3 years until Fucale is ready. Don't count on it.
Depth Analysis: These three guys could step in at any point and be impact players and do a solid job. Gilbert is a top 6 two-way defenseman while Michalek can play on most second lines. Bolland when healthy can play anywhere from the first line to the third line.
Most likely player for the Canadiens to sign: Tom Gilbert
Why: If they can't get Niskanen and aren't interested in Salo, than Gilbert is an intriguing player. He was a pretty productive player on the Panthers and should carry that over to the Canadiens if they sign him.