The Montreal Canadiens continued adding to their forward depth on Monday, signing Corey Perry to a one-year, $750k contract. The team added Michael Frolik to an identical deal just last week.
The pair of signings add significant leadership to a bottom-six that was sorely lacking it last season. Montreal was forced to rely on inexperienced players when they ran into injuries and were clearly looking to address that this offseason.
While he used to be a perennial 30-goal threat, Perry’s scoring prowess has dipped significantly over the past several years. Consequently, the former Hart and Richard Trophy winner has seen his role as a primary offensive weapon diminish.
Still, Perry is known around the NHL as one of the biggest pests on two blades. Whether it’s “falling” on goalies, cross-checking opponents on their way to the bench, or helping players break in their gloves, Perry knows how to frustrate his adversaries.
“I’m more of an in-your-face type player who goes to the hard-nose areas and that’s what I’m going to continue to do,” Perry told reporters on Tuesday. He said that his body feels good and that he won’t change his style of play.
Although he may not score in bunches anymore, Perry still came up clutch in this year’s Finals. He scored the go-ahead goal in Game 5 (alas, Dallas ultimately lost in OT) and a massive OT-winning goal in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning to keep the Dallas Stars alive.
If the Canadiens can get a couple of goals like that out of him this year, they’ll be happy with that investment.
Frolik was never as prolific a scorer as Perry but he has scored 20 goals twice in his career and has surpassed 40 points five times.
Besides his short stint in Buffalo this past season, Frolik has always had very good possession numbers and can contribute at both ends of the ice.
In a conference call with reporters, Frolik said he is a swiss army knife and can play in all situations. He has played both wings over his career and is an effective penalty killer – an area in which he believes he can help the team improve.
Frolik is familiar with Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin from their time with the Chicago Blackhawks. He works out in Montreal with Jonathan Drouin and played with Ben Chiarot in Winnipeg. It shouldn’t be too difficult for him to fit in off the ice.
Depth Wins Playoff Games
The Canadiens’ depth has been one of the things preventing them from reaching Stanley Cup contender status for years. They’ve made playoff appearances here and there over the last decade only to be ousted with relative ease by teams with superior depth.
Given the compactness and density of the shortened 2020-21 season, having quality players to fall back on is an advantage that cannot be understated.
Additionally, the Canadiens don’t employ any workhorse superstars on which they can lean. This team is a win-by-committee group and can’t afford to risk the big guns they do have by overworking them.
Consider Montreal’s last playoff game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Canadiens were without just two regulars in Brendan Gallagher and Jordan Weal. Their supposed fourth line of Jake Evans, Charles Hudon and Alex Belzile still only played a combined total of 14:42.
Conversely, the Flyers’ fourth line of Nate Thompson, Tyler Pitlick and Michael Raffl saw a combined 37:58 of ice-time. Raffl played almost much individually as the Habs’ entire fourth line.
This is the difference between teams with depth and teams without, and the reason that Frolik and Perry were signed. No disrespect to Evans, Hudon and Belzile, but the latter two are AHL forwards at best. The former, meanwhile, is still finding his way as an NHL center. Thompson, Pitlick and Raffl, on the other hand, have almost 130 combined playoff games.
If the unfortunate scenario should arise where a Gallagher or a Tatar or a Suzuki should go down to injury, the players replacing them have been around the block and understand their role with the team. This takes pressure off the team’s top scorers and creates internal competition for the bottom group; something the Canadiens should welcome with open arms.
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