Your Montreal Canadiens - On June 30, 2011

It is the eve of unrestricted free agency in the NHL, and things are about to change rapidly for every team in the league, including your Montreal Canadiens. The most recent news revolves around Montreal's defense: Yannick Weber re-signed to a two year contract worth $1.7m total, pending UFA James Wisniewski's rights were dealt to Columbus for a 7th round pick (upgraded to 5th rounder if he signs with the Blue Jackets), and pending UFA D Roman Hamrlik rejected a one year contract from the Canadiens. There is also an outstanding offer that has been made to UFA RW Jaromir Jagr. It appears that the team's other UFA's, including D Brent Sopel, D Paul Mara, G Alex Auld, and C Jeff Halpern have not been given offers and will be available to all teams as of noon tomorrow. Here's a quick recap of where the team stands:

Depth Chart - Forwards
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Mike Cammalleri (29, $6,000,000) Tomas Plekanec (28, $5,000,000) Brian Gionta (32, $5,000,000)
Max Pacioretty (22, $1,625,000) Scott Gomez (31, $7,357,143) Andrei Kostitsyn (26, $3,250,000)
Mathieu Darche (34, $700,000) Lars Eller (22, $1,270,833*) Travis Moen (29, $1,500,000)
Brock Trotter (23, RFA) David Desharnais (24, $850,000) Ryan White (23, RFA)
Andrew Conboy (23, $550,000*) Andreas Engqvist (23, $900,000*) Aaron Palushaj (21, $833,333*)
Dany Masse (23, $531,667*) Louis Leblanc (20, $1,170,000*) Gabriel Dumont (20, $571,667*)
Hunter Bishop (23, $900,000*) Ryan Russell (24, RFA) Alexander Avtsin (20, $870,000*)
Alain Berger (20, $666,000*) Olivier Fortier (22, $875,000*) Ian Schultz (21, $845,833*)
Phillippe Lefebvre (20, $533,889*) Joonas Nattinen (20, $631,667*)
$8,325,000 $14,477,976 $9,750,000

UFA's at forward include LW Benoit Pouliot (not qualified), C Jeff Halpern (Group III UFA), LW Tom Pyatt (not qualified), C Dustin Boyd (not qualified), LW Nigel Dawes (not qualified), RW J.T. Wyman (Group VI UFA), RW Alexander Perezghogin (Group III UFA).

Brock Trotter's status is currently up in the air, since Dinamo Riga's own website reported he had signed a new contract with the Canadiens after a year in the Latvian capital playing in the KHL.  It is assumed he has signed a one-way contract, and the deal could be announced soon after noon tomorrow.  With the non-qualifications of Benoit Pouliot and Tom Pyatt, and the long term injury to Lars Eller (4-6 months recovery from shoulder surgery), I wouldn't be shocked if Trotter was penciled in for a roster spot to start the year.  Combine his salary with Ryan White, and you can probably add about $1.2m total to the forward group, and still potentially be a little high.

That means there is likely one or two spots available at forward to start the season, and each position could be viewed as in need of improvement.  Ryan White could play centre, as he did in the AHL, if Eller is out only short term to start the season.  Players like Engqvist and Palushaj could fill in for a short period of time to start the year at centre or RW, but the team will likely seek some help, whether in the form of Jaromir Jagr or someone else.  Jeff Halpern's health concerns likely mean he's out of the picture, while Pouliot and Pyatt could return as the team may have only not qualified the pair due to arbitration concerns.

Top UFA targets: RW Jaromir Jagr, RW Radim Vrbata, RW Scottie Upshall, RW Joel Ward, RW Michael Rupp, LW Antti Miettinen, LW Erik Cole, LW Simon Gagne, LW Sean Bergenheim, LW Chris Higgins, C Maxime Talbot, C Marcel Goc, C Vernon Fiddler, C Michal Handzus, C/RW Jason Arnott, C Tim Connolly (wildcard).

Depth Chart - Defensemen
Left Defense Right Defense
Andrei Markov (32, $5,750,000) P.K. Subban (22, $875,000*)
Hal Gill (36, $2,250,000) Josh Gorges (26, RFA)
Alexei Yemelin (25, $984,200*) Jaroslav Spacek (37, $3,833,333)
Yannick Weber (22, $850,000)
Brendon Nash (24, $900,000*) Raphael Diaz (25, $900,000*)
Alex Henry (31, $512,500*) Mathieu Carle (23, RFA)
Frederic St. Denis (25, RFA) Joe Stejskal (23, $580,000*)
$8,984,200 $5,558,333

UFA's at defense include LD Roman Hamrlik (Group III UFA), RD Brent Sopel, (Group III UFA), LD Paul Mara (Group III UFA), and LD Alexander Picard (not qualified).  RD Kyle Klubertanz was qualified, but has signed a two year contract with Djurgarden Stockholm of the Elitserien.  Spacek is listed here as a RD, but can play on the left side as well.

There isn't a lot of money invested in the D currently, but Gorges will eat up likely $3m or so once his new contract is negotiated.  We do know that the team has tried to offer Hamrlik a new contract, so it is not unreasonable that the team will seek another LD via free agency.  Certainly, the call-up options at LD are less desirable than the ones at RD, where Diaz and Carle offer interesting possibilities (assuming Carle re-signs).  Brendon Nash looked out of place in his brief call-up last year, but remains the best option on the left side currently.  With the uncertain health of Andrei Markov, adding another LD could be a priority, especially with Spacek and Gill aging, and Yemelin being a NHL rookie.  Given the youth and depth of options on RD, one can understand why GM Pierre Gauthier felt he could let James Wisniewski go, even though he was definitely a quality option for the long term.

Top UFA Targets: Roman Hamrlik, Jan Hejda, Scott Hannan, Andy Greene, Tomas Kaberle, Jonathan Ericsson (all LD).

Depth Chart - Goaltenders
Carey Price (23, $2,750,000)
Robert Mayer (21, $530,000*)

The Habs will be active in the goaltender market tomorrow, likely focusing on adding a different backup goalie than pending UFA Alex Auld before turning their attention to the #3 and #5 spots on the depth chart. Mayer had a poor rookie AHL season and cannot be assumed to inherit the starting job in Hamilton. The team added Drew MacIntyre for the playoff run and he was very strong, and Curtis Sanford was one of the top AHL goalies last year until a season ending injury. One of those two goalies should be viewed as strong candidates to come back as the organization's #3 goalie, but the team will probably try and sign a new #2 goalie first. With extra cap space, they could make a competitive offer for a more established goalie in the role, even with such an entrenched #1 in Price ahead of them on the depth chart. The #5 spot will likely go to Peter Delmas, a 21 year old goalie who was Hamilton's #3 goalie and had a strong ECHL rookie campaign with Wheeling.

Top UFA Targets: Mike Smith, Peter Budaj, Mathieu Garon, Jose Theodore, Josh Harding, Alex Auld, Drew MacIntyre, Curtis Sanford.

Total Cap Commitments:  $49,845,509

RFA Budget:  $4,200,000 (3 players)

Total Contracts (max 50):  35, plus 6 RFA's (41)

UFA Budget:  approximately $10,250,000

Roster Needs:  Top 6-9 winger, bottom 3 forward (optional), 2nd/3rd pairing LD, backup and third string goaltender.

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