Canadiens off-season spending frenzy brings much needed depth and balance

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MONTREAL – There it is, shining in all its glory on the Montreal Canadiens’ record: a big zero.Zero, as in zero ceiling space. Not a number closer to 10, which is the amount the Canadiens have won in three consecutive failed seasons, but zero.

That would be a problem for most other teams – especially now, with the global pandemic stifling NHL revenue for the foreseeable future – but not for this one. For this one, it is the result of a monumental transformation since mid-March.

It’s also a sign that Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is betting on this group with everything he has.

With replacement Jake Allen and his $ 4.35 million salary on the books, the Canadiens have secured the league’s most expensive goaltending tandem. Damned if not the best.

Joel Edmundson and Alexander Romanov have beefed up their defense to nearly $ 5 million. And nearly $ 10 million goes to newly signed first six forwards Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli.

Here’s the kicker: There isn’t a lot of maneuvering for Bergevin by the start of next season, when it does. He’s signed a full NHL roster, a full AHL roster signed, and both groups are much improved on paper. And he can make some minor adjustments to free up the $ 1.5-2 million he said he’d like to have as a cushion for trade deadline additions, which should be easier to do with a total of 14. in the next draft – six in the top three. rounds – and with one of the deepest prospect pools in the league.

So you could say that the Canadiens are about as well positioned today as they had a chance to be before the offseason began.

Zero has never looked so good in this context.

“They look like a legitimate playoff team to me,” texted a Western Conference executive moments after the Canadiens announced Toffoli’s four-year, $ 17 million contract on Monday. .

He liked the deal, and we think it’s promising as well. Especially at $ 4.25 million per season.

We’re talking about a 28-year-old pure shooter. A reliable right-hander who can help numbers five-on-five as much as he can on the power play.

Toffoli is a quadruple 20-goal scorer who finished with 31 goals in 2016. He has scored 145 goals at this level, with just over 22 percent of them on the power play. And with 155 assists, it’s fair to say he’s an underrated playmaker.

“He’s very, very good at finding free space,” wrote former Canadian Nate Thompson, who played for Toffoli with the Los Angeles Kings from 2017-19.

“He’s also a lot more serious than people think,” Thompson added.

We got a glimpse of Toffoli’s advantage with the Vancouver Canucks last summer, when he was instrumental in their impressive run short of a Western Conference Final win. He was a threat almost every time he hit the ice.

And if you’re wondering what Toffoli is getting out of it, Thompson in saying, “He’s a great teammate and the guys are going to love him,” sounds reassuring.

Max Domi, who was traded from the Canadiens to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Anderson last week, said something similar about his former OHL London Knights teammate.

“I’m so excited for Montreal to have a guy like him,” Domi said of the six-foot-three, 222-pound Anderson. “It’s definitely something they haven’t had in a long time, and Josh is a guy that there are very few guys that can do what he does. He can come out and be a force in all aspects of the game. He’s obviously a power forward on the wing. He knows how to skate very well for his size, a big body. He’s the kind of player who’s going to grow big for you in games where you need some physical presence, and also a guy who can put the puck in the back of the net.

Anderson had an injury-ridden 2019-20 season, scoring just one goal and four points in 26 games. But he’s only got a year left after scoring 27 goals, and he says he feels healthy and ready to deliver.

At 26, Anderson still has the advantage to score 30, and the Canadiens are hoping he will be at least close to number on several occasions during his new seven-year contract with the team.

When you look at what he and Toffoli could bring, it’s easy to recognize how the initial dynamic changes. It’s fair to say that neither of them are bona fide at the top of the list, but their additions help give the Canadiens three second rows and push some players from what was a decent third to the fourth.

Edmundson and Romanov joining the core defense will have a similar effect.

Edmundson is a no. 5 defender capable of changing the formation, and Romanov is a future no. 2 who had time to develop on the third pair thanks to the depth the Canadiens now have in the lineup. The former is a six-foot-four veteran with 337 games of NHL experience under his belt, and the latter is a five-foot-11 rookie who plays big.

They round out a group that has Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, and Ben Chiarot at the top end – three oversized players who play with bite.

“This whole defensive group won’t be fun to play against,” the Western Conference executive wrote.

And then you have Carey Price and Allen behind them.

It’s a complete team. A deeper, stronger and better team, with every penny invested. Bergevin should have no regrets about this.



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