I hope everyone had a good Canada Day on Sunday. Montreal, who finished in last place in the Eastern Conference last year, wasn’t expecting to play a large role in free agency as it began July 1, but did make a couple depth signings that should help them as they begin to rebuild their playoff hopes. The biggest among those signings was to sign former New York Ranger Brandon Prust to a 4 year $10M contract.
Prust is an intriguing sign for Montreal. For me, I grew up knowing his sister in London and followed his Junior career closely with the Knights. He won a Memorial Cup, figuring large in that team’s makeup and character. He’s a guy who goes to battle for his teammates and will slot very comfortably on a line with Ryan White and whomever the Habs decide will play with them – be it Travis Moen or Michael Blunden or other.
Prust brings obvious toughness with over 80 NHL fights in just over 4 full NHL seasons. The 28 year old can certainly throw down with the best of them – which ignoring 19 games of Brad Staubitz, is something the Habs haven’t had in their lineup since they signed the ghost of Georges Laraque. The difference however, between Prust and the two aforementioned sluggers is that Prust played a large role in the Rangers penalty kill, averaging the third most PK time among the team’s forwards. Prust will bolster an already strong Habs PK unit and will free up some of the other more offensive players like Tomas Plekanec to be able to focus on offense and the powerplay. I think this was a very good upgrade over Brad Staubitz for the Canadiens, and dramatically increases the team toughness – which is something that Habs fans have been pining for for ages.
Montreal also added toughness to their defense corps on Sunday by bringing back a familiar face in Francis Bouillon. Bouillon has spent the last three seasons in Nashville after 10 or so years in the Canadiens organization. Bouillon has played an average of 55 games in the past two seasons and brings a veteran, physical presence to Montreal that should bridge the gap between now and the crew of talented defenders that are coming up through the system.
Montreal also brought back Michael Blunden, who they had originally let test Free Agency, as well as Cedrick Desjardins who had been in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization last season.
It will be interesting to see if Bergevin makes any more moves in free agency. There is certainly still room to add a top 6 forward to the mix, although much of the remaining $15M in cap space will be eaten up by the signings of restricted free agents Carey Price and PK Subban.
UPDATE: Carey Price has signed a 6 year contract which will see him in the net in Montreal until he’s 30 years old. Financials haven’t been disclosed officially as of yet, but word is that the cap hit is for $6.5M per season. Price’s contract was always going to be difficult to predict – simply for the fact that there is no real equivalent in the league of a goaltender with so much experience at such a young age. Price is bordering on elite and now will be paid as such.
Next up is PK Subban.