Since the Canadiens were eliminated from play, the leitmotif of Canadiens fans and observers has been that the team needs to get bigger and tougher to play against. Various names are floated about as options to pursue to meet this challenge, some more reasonable than others.
I've already covered this in other posts, but to recap, the Canadiens need to pick up some size to transform their roster. This won't necessarily make the team a contender next year, but it will give opponents pause when they're about to crosscheck Tomas Plekanec in the mouth after a whistle.
The best approach to achieve this would be to 'buy low', not chase after sexy free agents, the David Clarksons and Brian Bickells, as attractive solutions as they may be to our plight. These gentlemen would serve very well as the big, talented players we pray for, but they won't necessarily be cost-effective. We'll get more bang for the buck and retain flexibility by buying free agents or trading for players who aren't necessarily stars or even very good players, but rather players who have the skills and size necessary to contribute. From there, we can hope that with coaching and an opportunity to contribute on the ice, with no one higher on the depth chart stealing icetime and situations, these under-regarded players seize the moment and shine. They'll improve the 'mix' on the team, and make it better by the simple fact that they bring to the table something that was very deficient last season.
So without further ado, here's my wish list.
On defence, we give a bunch of nothing to the Caps to take Jeff Schultz off their hands. They'll want to be rid of his $2.75M cap hit, and won't be too greedy. He'll not have John Erskine, Karl Azner and John Carlson ahead of him on the depth chart, already filling the role of the big, tough, defensive d-man, he'll be the man in Montréal at least until Alexei Emelin returns. He'll allow Jarred Tinordi to continue his apprenticeship in Hamilton, or at least not be the only one carrying the load with the Grand Club.
Now I know that Jeff Schultz isn't an All-Star, he's no Shea Weber, that he's been a healthy scratch the last couple of seasons, but that's part of the buried-on-the-depth-chart angle, and the buy-low scenario. We're not bringing him in as a first-pairing defenceman, but rather as a #6 who we can depend on. He's under contract for only one more season, so if it doesn't work out, we're not stuck with a huge contract, we can even flip him at the deadline.
At 6'6" and 230 lbs, he'd be a significant addition to the size profile on the blue line. Davis Drewiske's modest contribution in that department wasn't enough to tilt the balance in our favour. While Mr. Schultz isn't fleet of foot, we can hope that with the right partner (Raphaël Diaz?), his skillset complements what we already have on our team. He's a more useful piece to us than Mr. Drewiske or Yannick Weber, the redundant one.
At forward, we get to plunder Washington again and steal away Matt Hendricks as a UFA. We'll have to give him too many years, there'll be other teams vying for his services. Still, we make the Brandon Prust pitch to him, that he's being brought in to be an integral part of a team on the rise, that he's not going to be asked to goon it up but to add character and hard work. He slots in to the fourth-line centre role, taking the Jeff Halpern/Petteri Nokelainen role. While he doesn't quite have the skill these two have, he's effective in other areas. That's the way the NHL is going, we can't afford to refuse to accept the situation.
As a left winger, to help out on the fourth line and spot duty at centre, we trade for Mike Rupp, again for spare parts. The Minnesota Wild aren't a rich team, they'll want to shed salary, and they already have Zenon Konopka and Stéphane Veilleux on their roster for goonery. They'll be happy to kiss his $1.5M cap hit goodbye, whereas we'll easily be able to afford it. He's also got one year left on his contract, so we're not hampering our flexibility, we can reassess as the season progresses. If the season doesn't go well, he's also eminently tradeable at the deadline. If the Sabres got a first-rounder from the Preds for Paul Gaustad, we can possibly get a second for Mr. Rupp.
Now, he may be molasses-slow, but he brings character and experience. He's not a skilled player, but he's also smart and relatively disciplined for a tough guy. He'd be reunited with Brandon Prust, with who he had great success in New York providing the Rangers with a physical edge. He takes Colby Armstrong's spot on the roster, and doesn't quite have the same effectiveness, he can't kill penalties, but that's the direction we're steering the ship in. Colby tried hard, but ultimately didn't bring anything special to the table. Mike Rupp would.
The last forward we need to bring in will be tricky, but that's where Marc Bergevin and Rick Dudley can bring their Chicago experience and knowledge to bear on the situation. I'm speaking of Kyle Beach, who is often batted around as a trade target by Canadiens fans, and that we only really know for his high draft position (11th overall in 2008) and meager results so far. He's been bypassed on the depth chart by recent second-rounder Brandon Saad, among others, and has toiled for three seasons in the AHL exclusively. Depending on the judgment of the management team, he may be the kind of player who needs a change of scenery.
On the Canadiens, he'd be a godsend, as a big forward who can play a physical role. He's a left winger, a position at which we're not just worried about depth, but actual bodies to fill the spots on the four lines. He's the player we all say we need, the big winger with skill, although it hasn't been displayed in the pro ranks yet. The kid is still young though, he may yet put the indiscipline behind him, and put his game together.
For a player like this, we'd have to give up a lot, a pick(s) and/or prospect(s), but if Mr. Bergevin thinks it's worth it I'd be in support of the move, as much as it might sting. Our GM has stated that he wants a talented team that is tough to play against, and adding a piece like Kyle Beach, to potentially take the place of Michael Ryder in the Top 6, might be a step in that direction.
So we get:
That was easy enough, we've improved our team, and it didn't cost us all that much either. Who says being a GM is hard?