All Habs Mailbag: Markov, Jagr, Ryan, Depth, Subban, Beaulieu


by Robert Rice, Senior Writer, 

TORONTO, ON — The All Habs Mailbag is back and as popular as ever! This is the place to send in your questions about all things Montreal Canadiens.

Then check every Wednesday to read the answers to the most popular or poignant questions about the Habs. Keep in mind that we will discuss the entire Canadiens organization so questions about prospects and roster players are equally welcome!

Submissions can be mailed directly to [email protected]

Three Guidelines for Submissions:

  • This is not for hate mail or complaints. If you have an issue with what you read on these pages, this is not the place to bring it up. The mailbag is for questions about the Canadiens.
  •  As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.  Therefore I will not engage in discussion of the validity of rumours — frankly I consider them a waste of time anyway.  For every rumour that was close to accurate, there have been about a thousand duds.
  •  Nothing of essay-length please. There will be other people who will have questions and it is a bit unfair if I have to dedicate the Mailbag to answering one very large question or someone who’s asking five questions at once.
Let’s open the All Habs mailbag!


If the Habs can get a good return for Markov do they trade him?


Presently I think they’d be hard pressed to find a bidder. Markov has only played 20 games in the last two years and would represent a major hazard to any team expecting to pick up a healthy defencemen, especially at the $5.75 million per year he currently earns. One also has to consider the modified no-trade clause that Markov has attached to his contract. I would think if the team can find a strong enough return they look to move Markov for potential futures, but I severely doubt anyone would offer that to the team given Markov’s spotty health in the last several years.



What do you make of Jagr saying he would of liked to sign with Habs. In my opinion you sign a future Hall of Famer no matter what!


I personally think for a year, a signing of Jagr was without any real risk and made sense, as it gave the team space to develop their offensive prospects in Hamilton without tying up a roster spot long-term. Whether this deal was possible is also under debate, Montreal has been used before as a bargaining chip by a free agent to drive up their open-market price before signing for the best possible deal. One shouldn’t forget the litany of French Canadian players who have said “I’d love to play in Montreal” only to sign a very rich contract elsewhere right after. I would have done the deal but I’m not 100 per cent confident Montreal was truly Jagr’s first choice.



Think Bobby Ryan is that top six that Habs will be going for?


On paper, Ryan makes perfect sense to fill the gap in Montreal’s lineup. The issue is as in all trade talks, cost. Ryan is still young, has three years left on a reasonable cap hit of 5.1 million for a 30G, 30A player so that leaves him a very expensive commodity. Talk is Anaheim wants a roster player, a top prospect and a pick to start with, and that’s before a bidding war engages. In my view, unless a pure robbery is managed the Canadiens can’t come out ahead. The team isn’t in a position to sacrifice key future assets to acquire Ryan, as he isn’t the answer to the team’s problems. I would say if Montreal was one offensive piece from winning the Cup, dealing for him would make sense, but they are farther away than that so a very tough trade like this isn’t in their best interest.



Which defenseman will be traded, as Weber is No. 8 in depth and Diaz is No. 7, it is a bit crowded.
One of these Swiss guys going ASAP, Kaberle, or package deal with a top d-prospect tossed in for a top six forward (Beaulieu)?


I think Weber is most likely on the trading block amongst the lower-level defensemen, Diaz is more favourable to the team at present in my opinion and he’s edged out Weber on the depth chart. The only way I imagine both Weber and Diaz staying is if Montreal can find a team that very much needs to hit the salary cap floor and would take on Tomas Kaberle’s two remaining years. I don’t think we’ll see any of the top defensive prospects moved right now due to uncertainties. Montreal theoretically has very solid future on defence right now with their youth but it’s still unproven for the NHL level so the team will have to hedge their bets on who among Ellis, Beaulieu and Tinordi will become good NHL defencemen.



What are some positives that we can look forward to for the Habs this upcoming season.


Expect a better P.K. Subban. He’ll be entering his 3rd NHL season, well-tempered by the experience of being a No. 1 defencemen in 2011-12 and will be much better deployed than last season when he was often played on his off-side on the power play. I would say we’ll see his first 40+ point season with at least 10 goals. Lars Eller I think can take a step forward, provided the team gives him opportunities. I wouldn’t say we are getting the old Andrei Markov back, but if he’s at 85 per cent of his old level it gives the team a steady gain in defensive depth. Expect more useful power in the bottom-six checking lines, while they’re a bit soft on scoring ability, they’ll be much more capable of keeping up with opposition players and providing pushback.

The biggest positives is for call-ups when injuries inevitably strike. With Brendon Nash back, plus the infusion of Jarred Tinordi, Morgan Ellis and Nathan Beaulieu the team has some good fill-in options for defensive spots. For offence, the team will be able to call on the talents of Louis Leblanc, Brendan Gallagher, Gabriel Dumont, Michael Bournival and Joonas Nattinen as potential choices.  The season may be a bit harder than some hope, but I think the call-up options and the growth of certain players will take them far above what occurred last season.



Why haven’t the Habs signed P.K. Subban and the others that received offers yet?


With Restricted Free Agents, the negotiation process often takes longer as there’s no immediate rush. The threat of the Offer Sheet almost never materializes and the season is months from starting. Both sides are often apart on dollars and length of the contract term as the team usually wants to lock up a player like Subban for long-term at a low cost, while Subban and/or his agent will look for short term so he can boost his profile and collect more later. There has been speculation that the Canadiens are after a six-year term, much like they have committed to Gorges and Price, but it’s likely Subban’s agent is targeting closer to a two-year term so that much like Price just did in his latest contract, Subban can secure a much richer contract later. There’s no panic, sometimes these contracts take until August, or later but they’re always done in time for the start of the hockey season.

As for Raphael Diaz, he’s filed for salary arbitration over his next contract with Montreal, although the team can still sign him to a deal before the arbitration period sets in. That move I found curious, given his single year of NHL experience that hit the notable wall that almost all players do when having never played the North American pro schedule.  It’s probably nothing to get worked up over, as Diaz may have just been looking for a speedier resolution in case he’s concerned he may have to go looking for a contract back home or elsewhere in the NHL. I wouldn’t stay up all night worrying about the RFA business, Price was without a contract until August of 2010 following the Halak trade and than went on to be the team MVP in 2010-11.





Do you have any misgivings about Beaulieu’s maturity level?


If Beaulieu was say, 23, I’d be more concerned but given that he doesn’t turn 20 until this December it is not even one of my top three concerns about him as a player. Anyone who’s followed @n8THEggr8 on Twitter has noted a certain immaturity to his tweeting and I can understand the concerns about it. However we should all remember what we were like at 19 and ask if we were really that far away from where he is. Yes he’s now a signed professional with the team but maturity takes longer with some players. With the Canadiens prospect depth that protects them against rushing a prospect like Beaulieu isn’t necessary either. If I had to list three issues Beaulieu had to fix first, it would be his defensive zone positioning, his backwards skating and his general awareness on the ice. His maturity still has some work to do but his hockey development presently has a lot more to do with how he’ll turn out as a professional hockey player.