Montreal Canadiens Day 1 Free Agency
After advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, the Montreal Canadiens expected to lose a few pieces to their team. It was a magical run that saw them defeat Toronto, Winnipeg, and even the Vegas Golden Knights. One of the biggest losses was expected to be Phillip Danault. Danault wanted a long-term deal well north of $5 million AAV.
Montreal felt they needed a forward or two and at least another defenseman. Remember, they lost Shea Weber to a multitude of injuries. So, Marc Bergevin was looking for a blueliner.
This is who the Canadiens signed on Wednesday during the NHL Free Agent Frenzy
Montreal Canadiens Welcome David Savard
Marc Bergevin felt David Savard was a solid investment. He signed the former Tampa Bay and Columbus defender to a four-year deal worth $3.5 million AAV.
It, by no means, was a bad deal. The expectation was for a puck-moving defenseman. While Savard will not pile up points, he was a serviceable defenseman who is tall, blocks lots of shots, and plays physically. He is one of those blueliners who easily pile up 100+ hits and 100+ blocked shots.
"This was a family decision. We had other teams that approached us, but the Canadiens offer was the right one for my family." – David Savard, when asked if he left money on the table.
"No matter the salary, when they offered the contract we said yes right away."
— Mike in the Valley (@mikeinthevalley) July 28, 2021
Did David Savard leave money on the table? Yes. For Savard, it did not matter. Again, is he a top-pairing defenseman? No. Is he a top-four defender? That is up for some considerable debate. The concern is he just signed a four-year deal and is only playing around 20 minutes a night. At this point, Savard already is only marginally effective as a defender.
Bergevin needs a top-four defender still. Let’s be honest. Savard is a nice number five defender at this stage of his career. Montreal better hope that they find someone else in free agency or hope that one of their existing bottom defenders can step up. The money was not horrible here. It was more the need for another kind of defender.
Montreal then signs Chris Wideman
The Canadiens’ general manager took a shot on Chris Wideman who played in the KHL last year. They signed the defenseman to a one-year deal worth just $750,000. At best, Wideman can play some bottom-pairing minutes and is mostly a six or seven when it comes to defense.
Wideman’s problem is that he has never played more than 14 minutes a night in his NHL career. Add in the fact that he is 31 as well. There may not be a lot of mileage on the legs but this is truly a gamble. Can he move the puck a little? Sure. Can he play enough to make a tangible impact? That is a huge question mark.
Marc Bergevin says Chris Wideman will have a spot to earn on the blueline at training camp. Says he looked at the list of offensive defencemen and it was short and overly expensive. Said he'll keep trying to look on the trade market.
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) July 28, 2021
Wideman expects to face an uphill battle going into training camp as Montreal will likely bring in more blueliners to challenge for spots. It is hard to replace Shea Weber but was going to be necessary sooner rather than later.
The defenseman may not be the answer but Chris Wideman can be a stopgap until someone is found at least. Plus, he comes at the NHL minimum.
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Cedric Paquette joins the mix in Montreal
Another cheap signing by Marc Bergevin was Cedric Paquette. The forward is an energy guy who plays fourth-line minutes. He was brought in at just $950,000 for one year by Montreal to push other forwards and bang bodies around. Paquette can win a few faceoffs here and there as needed.
When healthy he can average three to four hits a game and make a difference physically. Again, this is little more than a depth signing. It is about filling in some missing pieces.
Do not expect the world of Paquette but if he can play 12-13 minutes a night and keep the top-six fresh, then he has done his job.
Lastly, there is Mike Hoffman
This was the biggest risk by Marc Bergevin on Day 1. Bergevin signed Hoffman to a three-year deal worth $4.5 million AAV. The winger has a quick, fast shot and can be lethal on the man advantage. Montreal spent pretty much the entire season in the bottom half of the power-play rankings. They needed help.
The left-winger had 36 points with 17 coming on the power play last year for St. Louis. That was a bit of a down year for him. Everything was a bit off in 2021 for Hoffman. He barely averaged two shots a game and just never really got going. The forward was constantly mentioned in trade rumors as the Blues floundered.
Defensively is not what Hoffman was brought in for. He was signed for sparking the offense.
The Montreal Canadiens have signed Mike Hoffman to three-year deal with $4.5M per year. But why? Hoffman is very good shooter and that's all in the end. pic.twitter.com/HPABQ6vspP
— Andy & Rono 📊 (@HockeyStatsCZ) July 29, 2021
Again, it is going to be how they cover up the holes in his game at even strength. If Montreal can do that, the signing is worth it. If not, his stay in Montreal will not come close to lasting three years. He has to score and at a clip much closer to two seasons ago.
This is a true roll of the dice.
Anyway, it is just day one. Let’s see what day two may bring and beyond.