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Jiri Hudler remains a free agent, should the Canadiens sign him?

Jiri Hudler put together a solid campaign with two teams last year, but remains without a home for 2016-17.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this month, Travis Yost published an interesting article about why NHL teams should be looking to sign Jiri Hudler. Still to date, he has yet to be locked down. He could likely help a number of NHL teams, but what about the Montreal Canadiens?

In the last two days, I've explored two players that they definitely shouldn't sign. With Hudler, I think that there is an argument for it under the right circumstances. Taking a look at his HERO chart, there are some highly encouraging signs.

Hudler started out last year with the Calgary Flames, and was ultimately moved to the Panthers at the deadline to help with their playoff run. Naturally, the relative stats in the chart look really good because he spent most of his times with a Calgary squad that had a 47.99% team corsi for at even strength.

Taking a look at his individual stats from last year, we get a bit of a better picture of what he brought to the table.

Season G A P CF% GF% SF SA SF%
2015-16 12 20 32 48.68 49.45 399 436 47.78

The real value of Hudler is that he brings the points. He can find teammates for quality scoring chances, and when he gets chances of his own, he buries them more often than not. He's not a juggernaut in terms of possession or defensive acumen, but he can cause all kinds of problems for opponents in the offensive zone

One thing that Yost noted in his piece is that the mere presence of Hudler causes a spike in team shooting percentage when he is on the ice. He is among elite shooters and playmakers like Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, and Patrick Kane in that regard since 2010. His personal shooting percentage was a whopping 16.44% at even strength last year.

But there's a big caveat to that. His percentages in terms of shots and goals for, as well as his possession numbers, leave much to be desired. It seems that if his shooting percentage falls, which is possible if not likely, he could become a liability.

What would it take?

The Canadiens have just under $1.5 million in cap space remaining. Hudler's last deal saw him getting paid $4 million AAV. If he's looking for a similar deal, there is no way they can afford him without shedding salary. That being said, I don't see any way he can ask for that again, so if you can bring him in at a reasonable price, he could bring good value.

But since he has yet to be signed, and time is quickly running out, it might be even easier than that. Ideally, the Canadiens could bring him on for a professional tryout, which carries no risk, creates more competition at camp, and gives them the opportunity to sign him to a bargain deal like the one they had with Tomas Fleischmann last year. The question remains whether or not Hudler would be willing to take the PTO route.

Is he a fit?

Hudler would make the Canadiens bottom-six more dangerous, so it is something they should at least consider. I am, however, somewhat concerned about him pushing a young player out of the lineup. He's also a centre, so they might have to move a pivot to make space for him.

But, as mentioned, competition in camp is what he'd create, and the Canadiens could use that. Marc Bergevin has built a team he feels can contend, so they need to ice the best possible lineup. Based on the offence that Hudler is capable of providing, adding him to the mix at camp creates an interesting dynamic.

If that happens to mean pushing a young player out of the lineup because Hudler is better, then that's just what they have to do. In any case, I don't personally see Hudler bringing a game-changing element to the top six, and young guns like Artturi Lehkonen will be aiming for that spot anyhow.

If they can bring him in on a PTO, or on a contract that brings good value, I think the Canadiens should take a shot at Jiri Hudler.