If the Montreal Canadiens want to take the next step and pave the way for future success, bold moves need to happen in the 2020 off-season. Signing Taylor Hall, the cream of the 2020 free-agency class, would be one such bold move to propel the team in the right direction.
After missing the postseason in 2019, the Montreal Canadiens made the playoffs this year, albeit only squeaking into the 2020 playoff-frame because of the league’s Return to Play Plan – the pandemic-mandated expansion to the NHL schedule and format that was necessary in order to salvage the 2019-20 NHL season. However, despite being beneficiaries of this one-off instance, Montreal’s sojourn in the NHL playoffs was ever so brief, lasting merely one round after the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the Habs in their first-round series 4-2.
Although Montreal’s short-lived stint was to be expected—according to oddsmakers who are closely following the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Habs entered the postseason as one of the betting longshots—it nevertheless further underscored the fact that the current status quo wasn’t adequate enough if the team hoped to compete for the ultimate prize.
Already the Habs have made some trades in recent weeks, picking up goalie Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues and defender Joel Edmundson from the Carolina Hurricanes. The pair will fill important roles, namely, Jake Allen who is a great addition between the posts can both act in insurance for long-time goalie Carey Price, as well in relief of Price—thereby, giving Price the opportunity during the season to put his feet up for a stretch.
QMJHL, AHL, Team Canada, NHL… Everywhere he’s gone, Jake Allen has proven that he’s a winner. #GoHabsGo https://t.co/wRBCsdXefC
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) September 2, 2020
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) September 16, 2020
However, neither signing comes across as truly gauntlet-throwing in the broad spectrum of what the team’s campaign goals should be: to build a championship-winning team.
For Montreal to really pass muster on that score in the upcoming 2020-21 NHL season, bold additions need to be made to the roster in the 2020 offseason. There’s the no bigger name on the free agency catwalk this season than Taylor Hall to satisfy that mandate.
The Habs are sorely lacking an elite right-winger that can electrify the offense. Hall would fit the bill; that is if GM Marc Bergevin and the organization decide to court him.
Of course, getting Hall presupposes two important facts: that a) he’s destined to leave the Arizona Coyotes this offseason and b) the Habs can get him. On the first score, faint rumblings of such a move have been noted. But, as afar as the second score is gone, there are likely to be several interested suitors in the former Hart Trophy winner, making Montreal’s chances slim at best.
There’s no doubt that a player like Hall would be a stellar addition to the Habs. He’s, exciting, fast, skillful, and intuitive, the kind of player that can elevate those around him. He would inject an intensity to the offense that is glaringly absent in its current form. That was absent against the Flyers in the playoffs.
The big question for Montreal is whether they can be so bold to go after Hall. Bergevin’s grasp on the cap space is tighter than an accountant’s purse – at times, to the detriment of the team.
Habs fans may well remember a Russian right-winger by the name of Alexander Radulov – who was flying high with the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup final with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Radulov spent a year with the Habs but departed for the Dallas Stars in 2017, signing a five-year contract worth $6.2 million per year. Why Bergevin didn’t fight to keep Radulov in Montreal – who by all accounts loved the city and would have been interested to stay – is a mystery. Montreal’s loss was Dallas’ gain, evidently.
Indeed, the 2017 offseason was one of the worst in Bergevin’s career with Montreal as a series of quality prospects were pointed in the direction of the exit door. One of which also happens to be filling our TV screens in the Stanley Cup playoffs: defenceman Mikhail Sergachev, who played a massive role for the Bolts in their bid to become champions and now has a Stanley Cup.
Whether Bergevin goes after Taylor Hall in free agency remains to be seen, but if he does it could be the kind of move that pays dividends for the team’s future success.