The Montreal Canadiens resembling the 2014 Toronto Maple Leafs
The Montreal Canadiens are in a bit of a mess right now. They have not one but two players locked into big-time contracts – Carey Price is signed up with a $10.5 salary cap hit until 2016 and Shea Weber is locked up with a cap hit of $7.8mn.
Whether intentional or not, the rest of the roster is beginning to look very similar to that of the 2014 Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re not in a position to rebuild from scratch, as they’re locked into the goalie and #1D. They can’t take the tanking approach, either, as it would cost them $20mn a season. They need a quick makeover, and they’re going about it in a systematic, if peculiar, fashion: by trading for or signing castoffs from the Maple Leafs.
Pair of uninspiring signings
One such example is Kerby Rychel, who recently made his debut for the Canadiens. Rychel never played for the Leafs at all, continually being looked over for other forwards from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. The same could be said for Rinat Valiev before the Canadiens sent him to the AHL. Both players were brought to the team in a trade for Tomas Plekanec, right at the deadline. The Leafs called Valiev up but he failed to play a single game, except for in 2015-16, when the Leafs were in tanking mode.
Not the flashiest of teams
Outside observers are unlikely to recognize any of these fringe players. That’s even truer the further out you get. Hockey has always been the most popular sport in Canada but it’s still finding its feet in most other markets. When it does, however, these moves certainly won’t help the Canadiens’ global presence. It takes a Wayne Gretzky or a Mario Lemieux to inspire other markets to a sport like hockey. With video games such as NHL Slapshot and Break Away, the latter being a slot game given the thumbs up from a reputable site that reviews casinos in Canada, and movies like Youngblood and Mighty Ducks, the sport has had its moments. It needs more from its top teams, however, to truly make an impact. We may have to wait a while yet before we see any such spark from Montreal.
Remember this guy?
A player who is unlikely to become the face of the NHL, the Leafs 2015 7th-round pick Nikita Korostelev became a free agent in the off-season after Toronto decided against signing him. After an average season in Peterborough, the Laval Rocket (Montreal’s farm team), signed a player who wasn’t considered good enough for a Marlies two-way deal and would go on to play with the Orlando Solar Bears.
Or this guy?
Byron Froese said goodbye to the ECHL Cincinnati Cyclones in 2015 before signing with the Marlies. The following two seasons saw him split his time between the Marlies and the Maple Leafs, only playing for the Leafs when they were going for the tank. He signed with the Habs in 2017, starting the year as the captain of the Laval Rocket. He is now playing for Montreal.
NHL fans can expect to have fun watching the Canadiens for the next few seasons, at least. Unfortunately, those fans are unlikely to include those rooting for the Canadiens. Leafs fans may get a kick out of watching their old prospects, though.