It’s been an eventful offseason for the Montreal Canadiens.
There’s been a big trade, a big free agent signing, a big contract extension for a core player, and, of course, a Taylor Hall watch. It was fun while it lasted.
Since most of Marc Bergevin’s heavy lifting for this offseason seems to be done, it’s time to evaluate the job he did. Today we’re going to give Bergevin his report card, going through each move he made and then giving him an overall grade for his ninth offseason in charge of the Canadiens.
Trading Domi for Anderson
With Max Domi in need of a new contract and having been relegated to fourth-line duty for most of the playoffs, it wasn’t that shocking to see him traded.
What did surprise a lot of Habs fans was who he was traded for.
The Habs sent Domi, along with a third-round pick, to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Josh Anderson, who had just four points in 26 games last season. Not only that, but Bergevin then signed Anderson to a whopping seven-year, $38.5-million contract ($5.5M AAV).
Anderson’s best season came in 2018-19 when he scored 27 goals and 47 points in 82 games. That same year Domi scored 28 goals and 72 points in 82 games. Domi is a year younger than Anderson and to this point has a more impressive NHL resume. Anderson’s also coming off a shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of last season, though he says he’s fully recovered and clearly the Habs feel good about his shoulder too if they gave him that kind of contract.
Still, there’s a reason there were several teams interested in trading for Anderson and that it cost the Habs quite a bit to acquire him. Anderson is big, strong and fast, with the potential to be the kind of goal-scoring power forward Montreal has been in need of for a long time.
Maybe Anderson rewards Bergevin’s faith in him and becomes an impact player for the Canadiens. For now, though, this seems like a very significant investment in a 26-year-old who has just once scored more than 30 points in a season.
While Habs fans were still trying to process the news that Taylor Hall had chosen to sign with the Buffalo Sabres, Bergevin managed to land a scoring winger after all, signing Tyler Toffoli to a four-year, $17-million contract ($4.25M AAV).
There is some risk here. If Toffoli plays like the guy who scored just 13 goals and 34 points while playing all 82 games for the Los Angeles Kings in the 2018-19 season, this won’t be a great signing.
However, this is a former 30-goal scorer who is still just 28 years old and looked rejuvenated towards the end of last season, scoring 10 goals and 14 points in his final 12 games of the regular season, then adding two goals and a pair of assists in seven playoff games for the Vancouver Canucks. Overall he scored 24 goals and 44 points in 68 regular season games with the Kings and Canucks last season.
Toffoli isn’t a great skater, but he does have a good shot and knows how to finish. The contract is very reasonable and he seems to be a good fit for a team that may lack star-power but is trying to make up for it by having at least three lines that can score.
Locking up Gallagher
Brendan Gallagher has been the heart and soul of the Habs as well as one of their top offensive players for a long time. After scoring more than 30 goals in back-to-back seasons he potted 22 and 43 points in just 59 regular season games last year.
Still, it’s fair to have some concern about the six-year, $39-million contract extension that will pay Gallagher a $6.5M AAV through his age-34 season. He’s not a big guy but he plays a rugged style that is probably going to take its toll on his body eventually.
The Canadiens are betting on Gallagher staying healthy and aging well. They need to hope his offence doesn’t dry up the way it has for someone like Wayne Simmonds, another winger who used to score 30 goals while playing a tough style of hockey, but has seen his offensive production decline significantly in recent years despite still being just 32 years old.
Acquiring Allen to lighten Price’s load
It was no secret that acquiring a reliable backup goalie to Carey Price was high on the priority list for the Habs this offseason.
The NHL is trending more and more to teams relying on two goaltenders instead of riding one guy all the way. It’s even becoming common to see teams use both of their goalies in playoff series.
With little confidence in any goaltender they’ve employed over the last few years other than Price, the Canadiens haven’t had that luxury. Because of that, Price had a heavier workload than any other goalie last year, starting a league-high 58 games in the regular season and minding the net for every minute of Montreal’s 10 playoff games.
The Habs aren’t paying Price $10.5 million per year to platoon him, but they do need to take some of the load off him moving forward. In acquiring Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues for third and seventh round draft picks, they seem to have finally found a goalie who can do that.
Though he lost his starting job in St. Louis to Jordan Binnington during the 2018-19 season, Allen’s settled in nicely as a backup. He posted a .927 save percentage and a 2.15 goals against average in 24 regular season games for the Blues last season. If he can replicate those kind of numbers and take on a similar workload in Montreal, the Habs will be thrilled.
The Canadiens also signed Allen to a two-year, $5.75-million contract extension ($2.875 M AAV), though that could make him a candidate to be taken by the Seattle Kraken in next year’s expansion draft if he has a good season.
Acquiring and signing Edmundson
After acquiring the negotiating rights to pending unrestricted free agent defenceman Joel Edmundson from the Carolina Hurricanes for a fifth-round pick, the Canadiens were able to get him signed to a four-year, $14-million contract ($3.5 M AAV).
In Edmundson the Habs acquired another defenceman who plays a somewhat similar game to Ben Chiarot, who was a welcome addition to Montreal’s blue line last season.
Edmundson is big and physical and can also chip in a bit offensively, having scored 20 points (7-13-20) in 68 regular season games last season. He’s also still just 27 years old and the contract seems fair. Edmundson looks like a solid fourth or fifth defenceman and should be an upgrade over guys like Brett Kulak and Xavier Ouellet on the left side.