With September now upon us, it’s a great time of year for hockey fans.
Training camps open, and every team can dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup in June until their team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs (or for Leaf fans, November).
But there’s still a slew of half-decent free agents still waiting to be signed. And a few them could be useful during a long season.
The Habs still need a little bit of help. According to NHL Numbers, the Canadiens still have just under $2 million in cap space. Not a lot of space, but enough to possibly sign someone that could have a small impact on this team. It all depends on what you think they need.
I figure with Carey Price and Alex Auld, they don’t need to worry about signing a goalie. Plus, they have seven defencemen already ready to go, so they don’t need to sign a defenceman. That leaves only a forward.
Here are my top five options (it was originally six, but Mike Comrie signed today in Pittsburgh: Way to screw up my list, Mike!):
Darcy Tucker: Tucker was originally drafted by the Canadiens, so this could be like a homecoming for him. Sure, almost ever Hab fan may hate him, but that’s because he played for the hated Toronto Maple Leafs. Habs fans would have hated John Ferguson if he wasn’t a Canadien.
Tucker could help replace that third line grit lost by Glenn Metropolit signing overseas. He’s a banger, likes to shake things up, isn’t scared to back down and can score the odd goal. He won’t be getting 25+ goals like he used to, but 10-15 is definitely doable.
There’d be something nice about seeing a Hab playing with such intensity on the ice, with the glare in his eyes that says to the other team “I’m willing my team to victory, whether you stand in my way or not.”
He can play the powerplay if need be, be shorthanded, go out when toughness is required (a role that Georges Laraque couldn’t fill) and play quality minutes.
Evgeny Artyukhin: When he played for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and they had games against the Habs, I hated this guy. He just seemed to be a big bully. And with his size, there’s a good reason. He’s 6’5, and weighs 255 pounds.
He can get under the skin of fans, and is another guy not scared to mix it up. He may be slower than what the Habs are used to, but it’d be great to have a big body to put on the ice, someone that knock around other players.
As an added bonus, Sens fans probably don’t like him. According to Wikipedia:
“On March 7, 2006, Artyukhin was suspended two games by the NHL for an incident that occurred while he was in an altercation with the Ottawa Senators’ forward Antoine Vermette. After hitting Vermette into the boards, he got into a shoving match with him. During the altercation, he ripped the helmet of Vermette off his head and hit him with it. He received a match penalty on the play.”
Personally, I think that’s pretty funny, and wouldn’t mind seeing Artyukhin do it again.
Bill Guerin: Guerin is one of those players that everyone loves. He’s a great leader, sure-fire hall of famer and has tons of playoff experience.
The trick for Habs fans would be to not count on Guerin to score 20 goals. Yes, he’s done it the last few years, but that he’s because he got top-line minutes with the New York Islanders, and played with Sidney Crosby with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’d probably be a third line player on the Habs, but could slide into the top two lines if someone got injured. He could also go to the front of the net on the powerplay, something Habs fans haven’t seen since Maurice Richard last played.
Personally, I’d like to see him play with Gomez and Gionta (thereby creating the 3Gs line). They could wreck a little bit of havoc, but it would also come in handy come playoff time. You know, when experience and grit counts.
Robert Lang: Yes, we’ve tried this before. Quite recently, actually. But Lang played superbly for Montreal two seasons ago. He had 39 points in 50 games, and was leading the team in points before he suffered a freak injury that put him out for the rest of the season.
Last season, he had only 29 points for the Phoenix Coyotes, but that was his lowest point total since the 1997-98 season. Since then, he’s averaged 58 points a year.
Could he be looking to sign on with a team where he has a bit of history? Maybe. The fans loved Lang, and if he can play on the third line and put up 40 points, that would be great.
Marek Svatos: Since having a great rookie season (32 goals — including 9 game-winners — in 61 games in 05-06), Svatos has seen his production, ice time and confidence all decrease.
Sure, he never had a great season last year. Eleven points in 54 games is pretty sucky, no doubt about it (who does he think he is: Max Pacioretty?). But except for that season, he’s always had at least 30 points, including two seasons where he’s potted at least 25 goals.
He can be a consistent 15-goal, 40-point player in the NHL, but needs a chance. He’s still fairly young, (only 28 years old), and can make an impact.
And that’s what you’re looking for from a cheap free agent.