Like Marc Bergevin assures us he's doing, I want to concentrate on the playoffs, but it's hard to not look ahead occasionally at the moves required this summer to build the Canadiens' and the Bulldogs' roster.
One of the questions debated on social media is whether the Canadiens should re-sign Mike Weaver for next season. A virtual unknown before the trade with Florida, he had an uneven start to his tenure in Montréal, but found his stride after a couple of games and has progressed ever since, to the point where he's now surprisingly effective.
I have stated earlier this season that we should consider re-signing Douglas Murray, as his play was effective, once you considered the healthy injection of size and toughness he brings to our otherwise smallish lineup. At the time, I thought his $1.5M wage, even with a modest raise, was easy to support for the Canadiens.
But that was before the acquisition of Thomas Vanek, and the great positive effect he's had on the team, which means that we now have to try to sign P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, our 'rental' top-liner, and possibly Brian Gionta over the summer.
Which means we’ll be tight to the cap next season, so we need to be cost-effective on our third and fourth lines, and the bottom pairing. So I think it’s unlikely that we re-sign Mike Weaver, as reliable as he’s been. Or Douglas Murray for that matter.
Instead, we have to give Magnus Nygren an honest try, like happened with Alexei Emelin and Raphaël Diaz when they both came over from Europe. They were more mature than the usual rookie, and skipped the Bulldogs stage, and it looks like that’s the way we’ll have to go with Magnus.
He fits in better to our puzzle, in that he’s more of an offensive-minded player, so he can carry the puck and help out on the powerplay. And he shoots right.
I understand he won't be acclimated to the NHL, he'll make some mistakes, we might compare him unfavourably to Mr. Weaver at times. But that's the business of pro hockey, sometimes you have to let trusty veterans go to promote a youngster, even if it means a momentary step back at that position.
Plus, our surplus of young defencemen is starting to strain the system in Hamilton, we need to open up opportunities for them. While I often preach patience, and letting the kids learn the ropes in the AHL, in Magnus’ case our hand is forced, since the guy is mature and has options, and has shown he’ll use them.
Scotty Bowman was on Sportsnet today and told the story of Bill Nyrop retiring at the young age of 28. He was a little distraught to be losing a player who he considered his #4 defenceman, but then spoke with Frank Selke, who told him that "number 17" hadn't played much the previous season, but had looked pretty good when he had. Number 17 was, of course, Rod Langway, and Mr. Bowman tied up this anecdote by explaining that sometimes you have to improve your club by removing someone, the old 'addition by subtraction' concept.
So next season we should have P.K. and Josh, Andrei and Alexei, and then Magnus with a leftie, whether that be Jarred or Nathan or Davis or Douglas or whoever. As long as he’s cheap.