Top 15 2011 Free Agents That Should Interest the Habs

Some hockey fans consider this the most exciting time of the year.  Now you might think that’s crazy as there is no hockey being played.  The Stanley Cup playoffs are over and it is the off season.  But this is actually the time of year when teams are created for the upcoming season(s).

Today (June 24) is not only St. Jean Baptist in Quebec it is also the day of the NHL draft.  And shortly afterwards on July 1st (the NHL truly is a Canadian league as it is Canada Day) it is the beginning of free agency.  While the players being selected in the draft today might take a while to have an impact on their teams those signed via free agency can change the makeup of their new teams immediately.

Montreal with the drafting of Nathan Beaulieu (from the QMJHL President Cup and Memorial Cup winning Saint John Sea Dogs – a large young man who is an excellent skater), Jaroslav Spacek and PK Subban already under contract, their signings of Andrei Markov, Hal Gill, Alexei Yemelin (Russia), and Raphael Diaz (Switzerland) and the indication that they will offer Josh Georges and Roman Hamrlik contracts are pretty set on defense (for this year), so what they will be looking for are forwards and maybe a back up goaltender.

Here are 15 unrestricted free agents who the Montreal Canadiens should take a look at depending how much money they have under the salary cap and what these players are asking for moneywise.

1) Tomas Kopecky: Former Team: Chicago Black Hawks
Position: Right Wing
Age: 29
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 203
This Slovakian player suffered an injury (upper body) in the 1st round of this year’s playoffs versus the Vancouver Canucks.  Is not a big scorer (scored 10 and 15 goals the last two seasons), but will add some size to the team on the wing on the 3rd line. Was a member of the Stanley Cup winning team of 2009-10.

2) Tomas Fleischmann: Former Team: Colorado Avalanche
Position: Left Wing
Age: 27
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 192
A skilled Czech, he was traded from the Capitals last season and he then went on to score 8 goals and 21 points in 22 games for the Avalanche.  He missed half of the season due to pulmonary emboli.  If this injury is healed then Tomas might be the solution to Montreal’s need for at least one more top 6, offensively skilled forward.

3) Scottie Upshall: Former Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
Position: Right Wing
Age: 27
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 200
A native of Alberta, Upshall plays a gritty game. He was traded last season from the Coyotes to the Blue Jackets.  He scored a career high 22 goals last year and was drafted 6th overall in the 2002 draft.  Another player who would be a perfect on the 3rd line. Is an excellent depth player who can chip in some goals.

4) Jamie Langenbrunner: Former Team: Dallas Stars
Position: Right Wing
Age: 35
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 205
Offering this American native a short term contract would be a good move for the Habs. He has played 16 seasons in the NHL and previously served as the team captain of the New Jersey Devils.  A consistent 15-25 goal scorer throughout his career and an intelligent player.  Would add to the veteran leadership of the Habs.  Another potential 3rd line player.

5) Brad Richards: Former Team: Dallas Stars
Position: Center
Age: 31
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 195
Probably the jewel of the free agent crop this off season.  Many a team will want this sniper.  Would only make sense if the Canadiens were able to dump some salary as he is going to command a lot of money. This Canadian born player has been a consistent over 20 goal scorer throughout his career. Would allow the Canadiens to move struggling veteran centreman Scott Gomez to the 3rd line.  Also a good leader who can play on the power play.

6) Michal Handzus: Former Team: Los Angeles Kings
Position: Centre
Age: 34
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 219
This veteran Slovakian centreman would become one of the largest forwards on the Canadiens. Size is what Montreal has been looking for. Because of age he is a short term solution. A skilled player who has played for 5 teams over his career because he never really lived up to his potential. Would be a decent 3rd line centre with the potential of scoring 15-20 goals.

7) Andrew Brunette: Former Team: Minnesota Wild
Position: Left Wing
Age: 37
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 210
NHL veteran would be a short term player for the Habs due to age. Consistent 15-25 goal scorer over his 15 years in the league. A good player on the power play with decent size. Not the best player defensively.

8) Kevin Bieksa: Former Team: Vancouver Canucks
Position: Defense
Age: 30
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 198
Bieksa will probably be the most sought after free agent amongst defensemen this off season. A tough player that has only played for the Canucks over the course of his 6 year career. Really showed what he could do during this season’s long playoff run. Can play against the opposing team’s top offensive lines. Will dole out crushing hits but does not record many points. Would be a great player to pair up with Markov or Subban.

9) Tim Connolly: Former Team: Buffalo Sabres
Position: Centre
Age: 30
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 190
A talented American-born player who has seen his career derailed by a series of injuries. Might be an interesting choice for the Habs as a 2nd or 3rd line centre if he can stay healthy and does not want a ton of money.  A short term contract would be best due to injury history. A consistent 15-20 goal scorer despite injuries. Can play 20 minutes a game and on the power play when healthy.  Was knocked out of 2010-11 playoffs against Flyers by a Mike Richards hit.

10) Maxime Talbot: Former Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Position: Centre
Age: 27
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 190
Scored the Stanley Cup clinching goal for the Penguins a couple of seasons back. Can be an important 3rd or 4th line centreman. We all know how Habs fans like their French Canadian boys and he would fit that bill. Gritty player who can play a shut down role, kill penalties and score 10-15 goals a season.

11) Sean Bergenheim: Former Team: Tampa Bay Lightning
Position: Left Wing
Age: 27
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 200
Swedish player demonstrated scoring touch during Tampa’s playoff run. Potted 9 goals in 15 games in playoffs after scoring only 14 all season long. Showed willingness to go to dirty areas (in front of net) to score goals. Still fairly young. Finn would be good addition to 3rd or 4th line. Kills penalties.

12) Simon Gagne: Former Team: Tampa Bay Lightning
Position: Left Wing
Age: 31
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 193
Another player that has had trouble with injuries over his career. Has not played a full season since 2003-04. Offensively talented. Can play on 1st or 2nd line. Has scored over 40 goals twice in his career. Good fit on team as French speaking top 6 forward if he doesn’t ask for too much money.

13) Jean-Sebastien Giguere: Former Team: Toronto Maple Leafs
Position: Goaltender
Age: 34
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 202
A large goaltender whose best days are behind him, but would be a good backup for Carey Price. Veteran who has won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim. Another francophone and a Montreal boy. Has had a few groin injuries over last few years.

14) Brooks Laich: Former Team: Washington Capitals
Position: Centre
Age: 28
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 200
Exactly the type of 3rd line centre the team needs. Big, gritty player that can also score (16 goals, 48 points last season). In the prime of his career. Versatile player who can also be counted on as a leader. Will probably be sought after player come July 1st.

15) Johan Hedberg: Former Team: New Jersey Devils
Position: Goaltender
Age: 38
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 190
A veteran who spent last season as Marty Brodeur’s backup. Swede was able to step in and play reliably when Brodeur went down with an injury. Won 15 games with a .912 save percentage. Acknowledged as one of the league’s top backups.  Good pick up for right price.

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