Hickey on hockey: Mitch Marner is worth offer-sheet risk for Canadiens

Habs GM hates giving up picks, but two firsts, a second- and a third-rounder is a fair price to pay for a 22-year-old who is already a star.

In an ideal world, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin would hit a home run in the NHL free-agent derby this summer and add some scoring punch by signing Matt Duchene.

Or Artemi Panarin.

Or maybe he could shore up the defence by adding two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.

It’s more likely his focus will be to build on the success the Canadiens enjoyed during the past season by looking at players who can fill a top-six forward role or a top-four defence spot without breaking the bank or saddling the team with a long-term contract for a declining talent.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner scores a goal against the Sharks on Nov. 15, 2018, in San Jose, Calif. Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Success might seem like a strange word to describe a season in which the Canadiens failed to make the playoffs but, when you consider the expectations going into the season, the campaign has to be considered a success and there’s every reason to believe that next season will be better even if Bergevin doesn’t hit that home run.

Panarin or Duchene would be a nice addition, but it’s almost certain Panarin is headed to the Florida Panthers, probably in a package deal that includes Columbus teammate and fellow Russian Sergei Bobrovsky.

As for Duchene, the rumour mill says the Canadians are pursuing him and, at first glance, Montreal has the cap space to overpay him at US$8-9 million a season. According to the folks at CapFriendly.com, Bergevin is US$10 million under the cap, which is expected to go up by another US$4 million next season. But before you start throwing money at Duchene on a long-term deal, you have to consider the Canadiens have to deal with Max Domi next summer, while Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar become unrestricted free agents in 2021.

There is one long-term, big-money deal that is worth pursuing and that involves an offer sheet for Mitch Marner, who is the Toronto’s Maple Leafs’ best player. Offer sheets are rare and GMs who offer them run the risk of upsetting their peers. But Bergevin noted in his season-ending address to the media that they represent an available tool and Marner is worth the shot.

Columbus Blue Jackets centre Matt Duchene shoots the game-winning goal past Bruins’ Tuukka Rask during double overtime of Game 2 on April 28, 2019, in Boston. Charles Krupa / AP

One impediment to offer sheets is the compensation due if they are successful. If the Canadiens offered Marner a salary between US$8.54 million and US$10.56 million and they are successful, the Canadiens would have to give the Leafs two first-round draft choices, as well as a second-rounder and a third-rounder. Bergevin hates giving up draft picks, but that is a fair price to pay for a 22-year-old who is already an established star in the NHL.

The Leafs would have the opportunity to match the Canadiens’ offer — nine of the 10 previous offer sheets have been matched — but that would represent a win of another kind for Montreal. The Leafs have serious salary-cap issues after giving big-money deals to John Tavares, Auston Matthews and, inexplicably, William Nylander. Even without an offer sheet, the Leafs are going to have problems satisfying Marner, who has to get more than the US$7 million the team gave Nylander.

There is an argument to be made the Canadiens can move forward with nothing more than a minor tuneup. The urgency to find help up the middle is gone, but it would be nice to add a top-six forward, preferably someone who can help the power play. A left-handed defenceman is another priority and, until Charlie Lindgren shows he can do the job, an experienced backup goaltender is a must.

There’s a variety of affordable mid-range forwards who might be available, players like Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, Micheal Ferland and Brett Connolly. And, if Bergevin is looking for a low-rent, offer-sheet candidate, he could consider the Leafs’ Kasperi Kapanen, who would feel right at home with Montreal’s growing Finnish population.

There are some lessons the Canadiens can learn from this year’s playoffs.

For starters, the value of high-priced snipers can be overrated.

Remember last summer when John Tavares was the big catch for the Toronto Maple Leafs? The oddsmakers installed the Leafs as a Stanley Cup favourite and, while Tavares had a good season, the Leafs were bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

This playoffs show there is no correlation between high-scoring stars and playoff success, and the final four lineup illustrates the truth that, once a team makes the playoffs, anything can happen.

If you look at the top 25 scorers in the NHL, you’ll see that only two of them — Boston’s Brad Marchand and San Jose defenceman Brent Burns — are still playing. The four division leaders were all bounced in the first round and they combined to win a total of six games.

Those results are a rebuke of the misguided Montreal fans who were rooting for last year’s team to go in the tank so they would have a better chance in the draft lottery. The inherent danger in that strategy is it breeds a losing culture. The Canadiens might have missed the playoffs, but they provided the fans with exciting hockey and reasons to hope for the future.

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Источник: Montrealgazette.com

Источник: Corruptioner.life


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