All Habs Mailbag: Robinson, Salak, Kane, Budaj, Jagr, NHL Entry Draft


by Robert Rice, Senior Writer, 

TORONTO, ON — As part of a new continuing feature, I have decided to re-open the All Habs Mailbag to take in and answer questions about all things Montreal Canadiens. While I have in the past taken questions and answers on my Twitter feed about Habs prospects, sometimes 140 characters is not really enough for a good answer.  This way I thought I could expand the scope of my discussions into complete coverage about the Montreal Canadiens.

This feature will run on Wednesdays, answering the most popular or poignant questions about the Canadiens. If you have any questions about the Canadiens or the farm system, feel free to submit whatever is on your mind. I’d like to kick this feature off with a strong showing so please don’t be shy!

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  •  As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.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!


Hi. I was wondering if you heard anything about Habs contacting L. Robinson? Do you think this ship has sailed?


Robinson is still with the New Jersey Devils according to all information and has not been contacted by the Canadiens. I think the Canadiens, especially Geoff Molson would love to bring a legend like Robinson back to Montreal to raise the prestige of the team. I think it may be pursued behind closed doors, but I wouldn’t raise expectations too much. Likely event is, Robinson is behind the New Jersey bench next season. Robinson is the home run in my view for a defensive coach, but not a very likely scenario with his long history in New Jersey as a coach.


Chicago waived Salak, is he with a look for a spot in Hamilton next year, we lack depth at the goaltending position.


Given the depth issues in the goaltending depth chart, any help is really welcome since any injury to Budaj would badly hurt the team to have an able backup, let alone the nightmare scenario of losing Price for an extended period of time. I understand he went unclaimed as there’s been a known desire for Salak to return to the Swedish League after being buried in the Chicago organization for some time.



E. Kane or our pick?


I would keep the pick. I really like Evander Kane, but in my view a team trades for need and while Kane is a solid power winger, Montreal’s most pressing concern is at the centre position. If the team is to put together a large trade package for a young talent, it should be for the centre position. Another thing to note is Kane’s entry-level deal is just ending and that means he’ll start collecting market value and consume a fair amount of salary. In my opinion, better to select the blue-chip talent in this draft and own the whole of their restricted free agent status in this particular scenario.


Are we rebuilding or just re-tooling?


I would say re-tooling. The Canadiens have two bonafide franchise pieces in Price and Subban, plus a 23-year old 1st-line power forward in Pacioretty. The core veterans  Plekanec, Cole, Gionta and Gorges all have good miles left on them. Growing talents like Eller, Emelin, Desharnais will likely all have their parts to play as well. With the addition of a potential franchise talent with 3rd overall, the team will have just one more tool to make them competitive. The team’s burgeoning pipeline in prospects of Leblanc, Gallagher, Beaulieu, Tinordi and Ellis also makes me believe a rebuild is unnecessary. It may take longer than some expect, but Montreal could be two years away from being a highly competitive team.



If you were Habs GM, which is priority at draft table: “BPA”, package of size+skill, centerman?


A team should never pass on “best player available,” regardless of position. A prospect that can be a 1st-line forward is always preferable over one who can be a 2nd-pairing defender, even if you have much better forwards than you do defencemen. You can always trade a forward later for defensive help since you can afford to deal from a position of strength in that area. However BPA is a loaded term depending upon how you perceive it. “Best talent level,” or best projects into an NHL position? The argument could be made in the coming draft that Mikhail Grigorenko is the best talent after Nail Yakupov, but Alex Galchenyuk or Filip Forsberg project better as NHL players. Trying to project 18-year olds can be pretty problematic as well though and the first yardstick to use in evaluation should always be talent. Size is relative as well, lines of “big” are misleading as a 5’11” wide-bodied, naturally strong player can make a 6’3” beanpole look pretty bad when competing along the boards.

Is Budaj a good backup?


Budaj isn’t someone who can take over the starter’s role, but he’s a good backup to a No. 1 like Price. He isn’t after a No. 1 job and accepts his role and he’s shown good improvement under goalie coach Pierre Groulx. Ideally he starts 15 games or more next season to spot Price a bit more rest so he can be better prepared for a post-season run. You tend to always want a guy who can ‘step in and shoulder the load’ but in absence of that, a no-ego backup who can come in and play at random intervals is the next best thing.



What do you think the chances of Jagr signing in MTL are? Think Pleks will have a say in it?


I wouldn’t consider the chances very high at all. I know Jagr has spoken favourably of Montreal and he has a good history with Tomas Plekanec as friends and teammates in the World Championships but one must consider Jagr’s position. He has just proven he’s still able to play in the NHL effectively and he’s nearing the end of his career. A player in his position may want another shot at the Cup, he hasn’t tasted the Finals since 1992 after all and Contenders will likely bid for his services. Jagr may want to just try the experience of playing in Montreal, but I wouldn’t put any serious weight to it.



You feel Habs will be active at draft or just make selections and wait until July 1st?


I expect at minimum, one trade made on Draft Weekend. Montreal has an abundance of puck-moving defencemen at present but I don’t believe the team can do well if they’re all in the mix. I expect one of Raphael Diaz or Yannick Weber to be moved, potentially for a pick, or packaged up with a pick to move up in the draft. I wouldn’t expect many moves personally, as I think Bergevin and Therrien will want to personally evaluate the Canadiens roster in action in the 2012-13 season. After a team finishes in the lottery, trade value becomes soft for many players as the perception is “how good can he be, you finished last in the East” and values get dampened. If Bergevin is prudent, he’ll try and raise the profiles and values of any players he may want to move for better value later.

Comments are closed.