Marc Bergevin has made it known that he’s in the market for help on the defensive side of the puck. While he’s looking for someone to play alongside Shea Weber, his acquisition of David Schlemko is one to be commended. He’s on a very affordable deal at 2.1 million dollars per year, and with three years left can provide some stability for the Habs on the back end. Also given the likely role he’ll be playing his lower cap hit makes him a far better option than the departed Alexei Emelin, and that’s not taking into account his actual on ice play.
On ice he’s not flashy, but he gets the job done consistently in a bottom pairing role, or occasionally on the second pairing. As a left shooting defender, it’s not out of the question that the thirty-year-old could slide in next to Jeff Petry on the Canadiens second pairing. It’d be a huge boon for Petry, who had to carry an anchor in Alexei Emelin for most of the year once he was separated from Markov.
Even if Schlemko is dropped to the bottom pairing, he’s a marked improvement over some of the players who held that spot in previous seasons. The beauty of all this is that he’s an immediate improvement on Emelin, while being two million dollars cheaper per year. He can handle minutes on the second power play unit, like he did in San Jose.
In terms of his stats, he’s an underrated player by a lot of people in the NHL. As stated above he isn’t going to wow you with offensive numbers, or dazzling end to end rushes. He does a good job of limiting shots against his goaltenders (52.96% CF), especially in high danger areas (55.49 HDCF%). This was a problem that plagued last season’s Habs, as they gave up too many chances from the dangerous areas on the ice. In the system Claude Julien employs, Schlemko should shine in a secondary role, eating up defensive minutes, and allowing Shea Weber and Andrei Markov more offensive zone starts.
Acquiring Schlemko also gives the Canadiens flexibility in their line up. With Markov, Jordie Benn, Schlemko and Brandon Davidson, they have four left shooting defenders, with Benn able to play on his off side regularly. This will allow Claude Julien to tweak and shift pairings at his leisure.
It’s highly likely that this deal isn’t the only change to the Habs defence that Bergevin will make in the coming days. Nor should it be. Regardless of his status as an underrated defenceman, Schlemko is not a top pairing NHL defender, and he isn’t a long term solution to that issue in Montreal.
Overall, Marc Bergevin traded a late pick for a tangible NHL asset who immediately improves his roster. After losing a bloated contract the night before, and keeping some young talent under contract, it seems like the general manager is on a roll.