On the first day of free agency, Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin signed former Colorado Avalanche defenceman Zach Redmond to a two-deal worth $1,225,000; a $612,500 annual cap hit.
A lot of people initially assumed that this was a depth move by Bergevin, as the Canadiens appeared fairly set on defence after auditioning a whole bevy of defenders during an injury-riddled season. However, Bergevin must not have been pleased with what he saw, and reached out to Redmond.
We, in turn, reached out to Ryan Murphy of our SB Nation sister site Mile High Hockey to answer some questions about Redmond, and to get a better idea of what makes him a potential surprise at training camp.
1. What was Redmond's role on the Avalanche/Rampage? Where is he best suited in the line-up?
Zach Redmond in his time with the Avalanche was used exclusively as a sixth or seventh defenceman among a pretty marginal group. But that's not to say he was poor at his role. During Redmond's tenure, he was consistently among Colorado's best possession defenders, even though quite a bit of that could be chalked up to favourable deployments. For this reason, he was somewhat liked among a certain subset of Avalanche fans who value these statistics (especially during a coaching regime that did not).
For reasons I'll get to in a bit, I believe this is still his best role: an NHL bottom-pairing, right-handed, puck-moving defenceman. Anything more and he'll be destined to become the object of ire, but in a sheltered role he can drive enough possession to make up for some of the mental lapses he's occasionally guilty of perpetrating.
2. What are his strengths/weaknesses? What can we expect in terms of production?
Zach Redmond, first and foremost, is a solid skater and puck handler with surprising size. At 6'2" and 200-plus pounds, he's big for a puck-mover, even though he's far from being a physical player. Secondly, he's also aggressive getting out of the defensive zone, which is both his biggest strength and weakness.
Unlike the other bottom-pairing defensemen the Avs employed in recent years, he could actually get the puck out of the zone and on someone's tape with some momentum. The bad news is that these passes too often landed on opponents' sticks and forced Redmond into Patrick Roy's doghouse more than he probably deserved.
Production? He's not a goal scorer. The shots he will take are more along the line of the get-the-puck-down-low variety, though that very well could have been what was asked of him. Personally, I can't imagine a big jump in his counting statistics, even with a bump due to being in a better system.
3. Where is he in terms of his development? Has he reached his full potential?
I mean, he's 28 years old, so we're not going to see increased production due to physical maturity. I also think, mentally, he's the player he's going to be. The bigger question concerning Zach Redmond, for me, is whether he can get enough consistent playing time to gain some confidence and iron out the gaffes and whether he was being held back by a completely nonsensical collapsing defensive system. That last part is question we're asking about all Avalanche defensemen the past two years, even Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie.
Still, let's say he was being held back: what's his ceiling going forward? I think he's a 6D who might be able to deliver neutral possession numbers with favorable deployments and a competent playing partner. In today's NHL, a bottom-pairing defenseman who isn't a drag is valuable. I predicted in our season recap series that Zach Redmond would be a nice free agent pickup for somebody. I'm glad it was in the Eastern Conference!
Thanks again to Ryan Murphy at Mile High Hockey for taking the time to answer these questions.