Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blueline outlook: all about the PK

And we're not talking penalty kill. PK Subban's playoff performance was a revelation, mostly in the good sense. Sure he had some Bergeron-esque adventures in the defensive zone. But these are the sorts of mistakes you expect from a 20 year old rookie.

And for that reason, we may have seen the end of Marc Andre Bergeron's tenure with the Habs. After all, at the end of the season, the Habs were carrying nine defenseman on their roster. Most teams only carry seven.

With the blueline depth the Habs currently have in the minors (Yannick Weber, Mathieu Carle, Shawn Belle, etc), they ought to be safe with carrying only 7 defensemen. Paul Mara will almost certainly be one of the nine to go.

But I think MAB's value on the PP and relatively light cap hit will keep him around. Instead look for Gauthier to move one of the more highly paid defensemen, especially since additional, more pricey help up front will be needed and UFA's and RFA's need to be re-signed.

Hamrlik and Markov are the most highly paid and trading either could help clear some cap space. But don't expect Markov to be traded. He proved his value to the club -- when he was out, the Habs struggled. Hamrlik is much more expendable, but it might be difficult to get someone to take on his salary.

Still, he is a veteran presence, and is often given credit for tutoring Dion Phaneuf during his stint in Calgary. He could fit in well on a team that is a little young on their blueline, which probably also means they have the cap space to fit him too.

One team that comes to mind are the Anaheim Ducks. They lost Pronger and Beauchemin last season, and this season may lose Niedermayer to retirement and Ward to free agency. That leaves them with Visnovsky as their sole veteran presence along the blue line.

The Ducks are also interesting because they have a plethora of young, big, right-handed forwards, exactly what the Habs lack. It's unlikely that they would part with Perry, Getzlaf or Ryan, and definitely not straight up for Hamrlik. But maybe a Lupul, Bodie or Brown? Lupul brings some cap issues in return, so other players would have to be involved. But he also brings more proven scoring prowess than the other two.

Gauthier might also consider trading Gill or Spacek, the next two most highly paid dmen. But both bring a lot of value relative to their cap hits, as evidenced during the playoffs. Gorges and O'Byrne are young, cheap and may be the new shut down pair for years to come. They're untouchable.

So next year, the defensive pairings may very well look like the following:

Next up: analyzing the forward line needs.

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