The Boston Bruins have informed unrestricted free agent-to-be Carl Soderberg that they can not afford to offer him a contract this summer. This means that the 29-year-old Swedish center is on the market, and he's a player the Canadiens should be very interested in.
Soderberg has been the Bruins' third line center for the last two seasons, coming over after leading the Swedish Hockey League in scoring with Linköping. Over those two years with the Bruins, he was fifth on the team in even strength scoring with 1.79 points per 60 minutes played, behind Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Milan Lucic.
Soderberg accomplished that feat even with his second most common linemate being Chris Kelly, and though his other linemate was the talented Loui Eriksson, he outscored Eriksson over that time as well.
Soderberg isn't a great play driver on his own, though he seems to be a solid complimentary one. With Eriksson, he had a very respectable 53.4% Corsi, while without him, he dropped to 49.4%. Soderberg was also able to maintain a positive shot attempt differential in front of all of Boston's defensemen over the last two years, aside from Kevan Miller and Zach Trotman, which is an encouraging sign.
In a weak free agent market, you would expect that the 6'3", 216 pound Soderberg might be able to demand a big salary, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of buzz around him, even after putting up 92 total points the last two seasons, and staying relatively healthy to boot.
A contract in the range of David Desharnais or Lars Eller may be enough to snatch Soderberg up, which could solve some problems for the Canadiens.
The Canadiens don't need another center, necessarily, and in fact probably want to shed one in order to get Alex Galchenyuk there this season, no matter what Marc Bergevin said in his year-end press conference. However if you're able to convince Soderberg to play wing, you have a replacement on the left side for the hole that Galchenyuk going to center leaves, and a player who can take draws and play center if there's an injury.
It may seem like a stretch to get Soderberg to commit to playing wing, but one thing the Canadiens could offer him is guaranteed powerplay time, an area where he was very successful for Boston. Only Zdeno Chara scored more goals per minute than Soderberg on Boston's powerplay, a desperate need for Montreal.
Soderberg was relatively sheltered in Boston, starting 53.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone, but he wouldn't be asked to be a top line player in Montreal, so I don't think that's too concerning. What may be slightly concerning is that Soderberg doesn't shoot very much, just 6.37 shots per 60 minutes played at even strength, but part of that may be due to Boston's balanced attack, because he still ranks fourth on the team in that category, and only Bergeron on the Bruins would rank in the top-four Habs shooters over the same time period.
At 29-years-old, Soderberg is unlikely to grow much as a player, but if you can get him on a short term deal, even a year or two years, it could be a mutually beneficial situation. Soderberg gets one year as a hired gun to fire back at his old team and possibly increase his scoring in a bigger role, which may lead to a bigger deal elsewhere at 30, while the Canadiens get solid offense from an underrated player.
That the Canadiens could benefit from the Bruins' horrendous cap mismanagement makes it all the sweeter, but Soderberg may just be the best free agent fit for Montreal.