The Montreal Canadiens have a pretty good contingent of NHL-ready defensemen to roll with when things get underway in October. But Kris Russell, the last higher-profile free agent blueliner remaining on the market is still floating around unsigned. Would it possibly be smart for the Tricolore to pick him up and add to their depth on the blue line?
Well, absolutely not my friends.
Russell was with the Flames last season until he was moved to the Stars at the trade deadline. For the regular season he put up four goals and 15 assists between the two clubs, and added four helpers for the Stars in the playoffs. So if he was someone that the Stars took on just for their playoff run, why wouldn't he be worth a look?
First, let's take a look at his overall numbers for the regular season last year.
All stats 5-on-5 from Corsica.Hockey. GP= Games Played CF%=Corsi For percentage, SF%=Shots for percentage, GF%=Goals for percentage, DZS%=percentage of defensive zone starts, OZS=percentage of offensive zone starts
Much Like Antoine Vermette, who I took a look at yesterday, things do not look so hot for Russell. When he was on the ice, his team was getting out-possessed, outshot, and outscored most of the time. Considering that he doesn't boast lofty individual point totals either, these are big red flags for defencemen.
I included his zone starts here because I think they're very relevant. He started slightly more shifts in the defensive zone, but it's pretty even overall. As a result, it is impossible to chalk his poor results in the aforementioned categories to deployment. He simply does not drive the play for his team.
I think there is a reason why no NHL team has taken a stab at Russell yet. I do think he could help several NHL teams in a bottom-pair role, but maybe he's been asking for top-pair money. He's not worth that. If he is willing to sign a team-friendly deal, I bet he finds somewhere to play next season rather easily.
But it certainly will not - or at least shouldn't be - the Montreal Canadiens
In the unlikely scenario that the Canadiens did go after Russell, they would basically be signing him to play in the lone defensive spot that seems to still be up for grabs. I will therefor compare him with those already on the roster who are fighting for that spot. First, Mark Barberio.
No contest here. Russell generates assists at a bit of a higher rate, but Barberio is far superior, particularly on the defensive side of things. He also has a major bargain contract, so there is absolutely no need to bring someone in off the market when he is ready and waiting.
Next up, Greg Pateryn
While Russell does generate shots and goals at a better rate, he falls woefully short of Pateryn in every other category. Defensively speaking, it is Pateryn by a landslide, and you really need a bottom-pair guy that can mitigate the opportunities against. There is no scenario where I'd take Russell over Pateryn.
Finally, the new guy, Zach Redmond.
I will take the guy on the right, please. Every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Redmond is Russell's superior in every possible way. As depth defensemen go, Redmond is a real gem. Honestly, there is no comparing the two, and when you look at Redmond's numbers, you have to think he's got a good chance of winning the last spot himself.
I would be remiss if I didn't toss one more chart out for discussion.
So, Alexei Emelin wasn't sparkling himself last year. I suppose Russell could be a replacement for him, but if they were going to replace Emelin at all, I just provided three options already signed to contracts with the organization, so that wouldn't make sense anyways.
I should mention before ending this that I don't actually think that the Canadiens would go after Russell. These are just the dog days of summer, and us writers need to find things to write about so we can stay frosty for you. That being said, definitely don't sign Kris Russell, Mr. Bergevin. You do not need him. Not at all.
I would even caution other teams around the league to look internally or elsewhere if they want more depth on the blueline. Montreal has three guys who are all better than him that will battle for one spot. They are all also cheaper than Russell would probably be. As such, reliable depth can probably be found elsewhere, and for less money.
Kris Russell is definitely does not fit on the Montreal Canadiens, and you might have to do some digging to find out where he would.