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  • I have stated in this space multiple times (over multiple seasons) that I am fully in favor of Montreal bringing over Alexei Yemelin from the KHL to bolster its defense corps. Until now it has been a difficult proposition, but a story yesterday by Marc De Foy has re-energized my own hopes. Mike Boone over at HI/O linked the story today, and while there is work to be done to get him signed for next season – there are reasons to believe that this will be a major priority of Pierre Gauthier over the next few weeks. Yemelin is represented by Don Meehan, who also happens to represent Andrei Markov – and if Gauthier plays his cards right over the next few weeks he may have two Russian defenders in the lineup come October.

    There are a few reasons why I am very high on the idea of bringing over Yemelin. First is the fact that Yemelin would need to sign an entry level deal for the first year of his NHL career. In a cap world – this is a coup. Yemelin turned 25 years old last month and has already had a great career in Russia. He will take an initial salary cut to play in North America, although with performance bonuses he would most likely earn more than a rookie deal.

    Secondarily, Yemelin brings experience. He has represented his country at almost every international event since he was a teenager and will be FAR more experienced than any other prospect that the Canadiens could turn to on defense. Yemelin is a full grown man (though many sites still list his draft weight of 190 pounds). In truth he is closer to 220 these days. Though not a huge body like Ryan O’Byrne, Yemelin is hardly a lightweight – which brings me to point three.

    Yemelin’s skill set is desperately needed by the Canadiens. They already have two premier offensive defensemen in Markov and Subban. Wisniewski could also be a part of the mix next season. What the Habs need now are dependable defenders who can be physical on opposition forwards. Yemelin is the guy. He’s a physical defenseman who can perfectly compliment a skilled player playing physical, makes a great first pass, and has decent speed, and will make opponents think twice about going to the corners or front of the net. If anything this off-season, the Habs need to get tougher to play against. If we’re going to have a small, speedy offense – the only way to mitigate the bigger teams taking liberties, is to back up the team with some physical defensemen.

10 Comments
  1. #1 Senet1 says:
    May 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I Agree Mats but did I miss something, you mentioned a second defenceman? Who might that be?

  2. #2 Senet1 says:
    May 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Sorry I completely missed the point about Markov.

  3. #3 Senet1 says:
    May 11, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    I think Markov and Yemelin could make a good pairing. Speed and offense and puck control with a good skater who plays more physical yet could can support Markov. Maybe Markov will need someone to protect him a little back there so the forward do no take runs at him.

  4. #4 Senet1 says:
    May 11, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Gil if he is resigned could remain as PK’s partner if not Gil then ???

    Gorges with Wiznieski Again not as much physical but defensively Gorges holds the fort.

  5. #5 Senet1 says:
    May 11, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I know a number of people think Weber should be a regular defenceman next year, but I disagree. He is not big enough or strong enough to play against the big teams.

  6. #6 Senet1 says:
    May 11, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I do like him as a swing forward/defenseman on the PP and defence fill in for injuries.

  7. #7 Mats Naslund says:
    May 13, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I think the Habs would do well to trade Weber in a package to try to get a scoring forward or a bigger shut down defender. Our defense lacks grit – especially if Spacek is going to be any part of it.

    Yemelin probably won’t play with Markov to start. He’s got a lot of promise – but there is a big learning curve awaiting him in North America. I suspect that we’ll see a d corps resembling:

    Markov-Gorges
    Gill-Subban
    Spacek (Weber)-Yemelin

    Ideally I would love to dump Spacek for cap and toughness reasons. I would love to see the Habs pick up a guy like Shane O’Brien (NAS) or Jan Hejda (CLB). We need a guy who can be depended on to play a simple, physical game to compliment what we have.

  8. #8 Senet1 says:
    May 15, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Well I do not see Weber playing defence. As our third pairing I would rather see Mara and Sopel/ Wiznewski. I am wondering about Gil. He seemed to become weary in the playoffs, not sure if it was age or caused from his illness or injury but he did not seem the same guy we depending on all year and last year in the playoffs. To me he would make a good defenseman coach. Subban needs a senior presence for another year as well as a defenceman who stays at home and does his job. He has shown that is is about ready to breakout. Gil may be the guy for one more year.

    I agree it would be nice to add an OBrien or Hejda. It is time to readjust this defence again. Unfortunately, I think you are right about Spacek, JM likes him that was obvious from how he got played in the PO over Mara. I still think it would be a good idea to send him to Hamilton as a playing defensive coach. He know the habs system and can help any coach with the development of young players in preparation for moving up.

  9. #9 Senet1 says:
    May 15, 2011 at 11:10 am

    So Matts, what do you think of Diaz. To me he is a little small but from the videos I watched he is a good skater, has a lot of good offensive moves and can shoot the puck both wrist and slap shots. He has definite upside as an offensive defensiveman as well as point man on the power play. However, my concern is his size 5’11″ 194 lbs.

  10. #10 Mats Naslund says:
    May 17, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    To me he’s an Ahl guy until proven otherwise. Still, good pick up for the bulldogs who’ve had a few guys called up to replace. Good news for Weber I’d say.

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