If you want to know the best team in the NHL, ask the NHL players. If you wanted to know the most improved team over the most recent offseason and you asked the players, we know what one anonymous player poll would tell you – it would be the Montreal Canadiens.
And, that’s exactly what The Athletic did. They asked players anonymously in a recent poll; and, although it was far from unanimous, most of the votes went to the Canadiens for the work the organization has done so far during this offseason. (from “NHL player poll: Bubbles, schedules and more thoughts on the 2020-21 season, The Athletic NHL Staff, The Athletic, 10/11/20).
Six NHL players voted for the Canadiens as the most improved club; then tied for second were the Buffalo Sabres and the Colorado Avalanche with four votes each.
Key Montreal Canadiens Offseason Moves
Move One: The Canadiens Added Jake Allen to Back Up Carey Price.
The Canadiens traded for Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues. Allen will become Carey Price’s backup. Allen noted that he was aware of the situation in Montreal and has accepted his new role. Allen even noted that, although he doesn’t know Price personally, he understands they both love country music and hunting and fishing. Could you get a better start than that?
In fact, Allen said he was both looking forward to working with Price but also to “the new challenge, new opportunities. I’ve been with the Blues for a long time, so it’s exciting. That’s the easiest word to put it as because it’s sort unknown territory that I’m walking into, but it’s a good thing.” (from “Stu on Sports: New Habs goalie Jake Allen comfortable in a backup role,” Stu Cowan, Montreal Gazette, 03/09/20).
During the 2019-20 season, Allen registered a 12-6-3 record, a goals-against-average of 2.15, and a save percentage of .927 in 24 games.
Move Two: The Canadiens Added Joel Edmundson to Their Top-Four.
The Canadiens traded for Joel Edmundson’s negotiating rights from the Carolina Hurricanes and signed him almost immediately to a four-year contract. Edmundson is looking forward to taking on a leadership role with the Canadiens. It was a job he feels called to.
As Edmundson noted, “I felt I was one of the younger guys in St. Louis, where we had an older team, but my year down in Carolina, I was instantly one of the older guys. It was a new leadership role and I want to take that into Montreal. I want them to lean on me. I want to be a leader in the dressing room and on the ice.” (from ‘I want to be a leader,’ Canadiens’ new blue-liner Joel Edmundson says,” Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette, 17/09/20).
The 27-year-old is happy with his other partners on the Canadien’s defense. He noted that “With the addition of me on the back end, Shea (Weber), (Ben) Chiarot and (Jeff) Petry, you have size and we can all skate.”
Obviously, the Canadiens agreed and signed Edmundson to the second-longest contract among the Canadiens defensemen behind Shea Weber.
Move Three: The Canadiens Added Josh Anderson Through a Trade.
Josh Anderson was making contract demands the Columbus Blue Jackets simply couldn’t agree to. Specifically, he wanted either a max contract of eight years or a one-year contract that would have made him a UFA at the end of the 2020-21 season. When Columbus blinked, the Canadiens swooped in and plucked Anderson from them for Max Domi and a 2020 third-round pick.
Anderson almost immediately signed the longest contract the Canadiens could give him at seven years (that contract pays him $5.5 million AAV). In fact, given these pandemic times with all the unknowns, it was a solid long-term contract.
Anderson’s looking for a bounceback season. He scored only a single goal with three assists in 26 games before shoulder surgery put him out for the rest of the season but he did score 27 goals in 2018-19 and that’s what the Canadiens are expecting.
Move Four: The Canadiens Signed Free-Agent Tyler Toffoli
The Canadiens signed Tyler Toffoli to a four-year contract at $4.25 million AAV. Toffoli scored 24 goals and 44 points in 68 games last season splitting time between the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks. Canadiens fans have to hope he can continue the production he showed with the Canucks (six goals and 10 points in 10 regular-season games).
Word is that Toffoli will likely be a left-winger with the Canadiens next season. He’s mostly played as a right-winger in his NHL career, but the Canadiens already have Brendan Gallagher, Josh Anderson, and Joel Armia playing the right side.
Toffoli has said that Marc Bergevin has already spoken to him about moving to the left side and the 28-year-old is OK to do that.
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