With the news that Jarred Tinordi signed a one-year deal with the club, the Canadiens have nine NHL-calibre defensemen on the roster. If you accept that Jeff Petry, P.K. Subban, Nathan Beaulieu, and Andrei Markov will compose the top two pairings, that leaves Tom Gilbert, Alexei Emelin, Mark Barberio, Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi fighting for the two remaining spots.
Ideally, the Canadiens would trade Alexei Emelin and his $4.1M cap hit, but considering many teams in the league are struggling to clear salary cap space, that's probably not a realistic scenario. There's also the issue that Emelin was given a no-trade clause, which extends into next summer, and becomes a modified trade clause for the final two years of the deal.
Jarred Tinordi could probably fetch a decent return, due to his age and size, however it's always depressing to ship out a former first-round pick. He's only 23, and although his development has somewhat stalled as he's attempted to graduate to the NHL, he still has the potential to blossom into a solid NHL defender.
Moving Tom Gilbert wouldn't create a huge return, but with a $2.8M cap hit, teams would probably be willing to accept a trade, especially since he only has one year left on the contract. He's a very serviceable player that should generate some interest.
Option three involves bringing all nine defenders to camp, which is possible since the Habs currently have enough cap space to afford the extra personnel. But if Marc Bergevin hopes to improve his roster, he can't afford to sit on over $3M of cap space to start the season. Having nine defenders on the roster would entail eventually waiving one of Barberio, Pateryn, or Tinordi, and crossing your fingers that they wouldn't get claimed. Tinordi would without a doubt get claimed. Barberio probably would as well, seeing as how Steve Yzerman avoided sending him to the AHL last year with that very fear. Pateryn might clear, yet his $562,500 price tag makes him a low-risk target. All of the above scenarios involve keeping a minimum of eight defenders on the roster to start the season.
Don't be surprised if Bergevin pursues the trade route. If he can find a decent return for Tom Gilbert, or even Alexei Emelin should he pull the trigger. On the other hand Tinordi is the easiest player to move, since he actually holds positive trade value. He's probably not going to earn a spot among the top six, and he won't progress by sitting in the press box. It's an unfortunate situation for the hulking defender, but unless Bergevin can find a home for one of his aging defencemen, Tinordi may find his way to a new club this summer, or spend a lot of time in the press box.
Truth be told, the defensive logjam is a good problem to have. Most NHL teams struggle to find quality defensive depth, whereas Bergevin has done a respectable job accumulating a notably deep blue line.