This off-season has seen Mark Bergevin focus heavily on bolstering his defence in both the NHL, AHL, and in the prospect pool.
At the draft he selected four defenders, added last year’s top scoring AHL defenceman to the roster in Laval, and has now signed another low-risk deal that will add depth to the NHL roster.
Mark Streit is a very good signing in the right circumstances. Right now, as a depth defender, he can bring point production to a bottom pairing in Montreal that struggled to generate much of anything last year. Even if he isn’t the elite producer he once was, a defender capable of five to six goals and 25 points a year at $700,000 is a steal. It’s highly unlikely he’ll be tasked with facing harsh zone starts, or heavy defensive responsibilities, which should allow the Swiss defender freedom to move the puck around the offensive zone, especially during the powerplay.
Even at 39 years old, Mark Streit is very good at generating offence from his position on the blue line. Compared to his peers he’s more than above average, and even if he isn’t playing on the second pair he can bring an infusion of offence to a team that desperately needs secondary scoring.
A good chunk of that production will come from the power play, as outside of Shea Weber and Andrei Markov, the man advantage in Montreal struggled in terms of defensive scoring. Streit on either unit is going to see his production likely rise if he’s feeding Weber pucks.
It should be noted though, that Streit should not be viewed as a direct replacement for the unsigned Markov, and shouldn’t be used as such either. Markov played some of Montreal’s toughest minutes in the past few seasons and continued to be among the most productive defencemen in the NHL. Streit hasn’t come close to matching what Markov has done in recent years.
If this is a signing in addition to Bergevin adding Markov back into the lineup, then the Habs have done extremely well to bolster their depth with a solid mix of defensive players and puck movers on defence. If it’s a standalone move in an attempt to find a cheap solution to replace Markov, then the Habs might be in for a rough patch this year, as they adjust to the loss of their best playmaking defender.
For barely league minimum salary, it’s hard to get worked up over adding Streit to the roster. He still has plenty of use to a team that can deploy him in a way befitting his play style, and he can reward that with good amount of offensive production over the course of a season. A move like this creates a log jam on defence as well, so someone like Joe Morrow could see themselves in the same situation as Zach Redmond and Mark Barberio in previous years. Good enough for the NHL, but due to a lack of roster space they’ll log major minutes in the AHL instead. Streit is a decent add overall, assuming he’s part of a larger vision on defence, and not just a single solitary move to replace a more impactful option.
As it stands, the Canadiens currently have $8.5M in cap space remaining.