Deadline Decisions: Canadiens look to add depth


(Rick Scuteri/AP)

Jacob de la Rose is making Marc Bergevin’s life more complicated these days.

How could Bergevin have really known, after all, that the 19-year-old Swede could apparently be so ready for the NHL?

It’s only been seven games, but the 6-foot-2 Leksands centre is already pushing upwards on the Montreal depth chart, forcing head coach Michel Therrien to give him more and more responsibility. What started out as a fourth line role is now becoming a third line job, and with the Habs protecting a 1-0 margin in Detroit on Monday night, there was de la Rose out on the ice with less than 90 seconds remaining as part of the bleu, blanc et rouge defensive effort.

Hard to believe the Canadiens could pick a player in the second round two years ago and already have him in the lineup contributing.

But de la Rose is doing just that after less than half-a-season working on his North American game in Hamilton. Hats off to the Montreal scouting staff on this one.

The youngster’s impressive play so far certainly impacts the narrative that the Canadiens are desperate for help in their bottom six forwards, a group that doesn’t score much, and so puts more pressure on the top six to produce offence. Over the past two weeks, Bergevin and Therrien have effectively held open auditions, giving players like de la Rose, Christian Thomas and others opportunities to show they can fill the team’s needs.

Other than a messy home ice loss to Edmonton last week, it would be hard to say there’s been any kind of confusion or fall off as those auditions go on. The Habs have beaten Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto and the Red Wings, giving up a total of three goals in those games.

Still, particularly with P.A. Parenteau still ailing and Manny Malhotra reduced to a peripheral role, there remains speculation Montreal will try to add a forward.

Antoine Vermette of the Arizona Coyotes, who would be a rental, is a name that won’t go away. Daniel Winnik of the Maple Leafs would provide size and grit, and the Leafs wouldn’t be bothered if they wanted to trade within the division at this point. Mark Letestu, Jiri Tlusty and Sean Bergenheim are others who might fill the bill.

Last spring, the Habs surprised the market by grabbing Thomas Vanek, which worked reasonably well until the heat of the post-season really got turned up. This year, there’s been lots of talk Montreal could have an interest in Jaromir Jagr.

On the back end, the Bryan Allen experiment didn’t work and Sergei Gonchar is now out with a concussion, so Bergevin’s two attempts so far to shore up his blueline corps have run into problems. Mike Weaver also isn’t being used as much, and P.K. Subban’s minutes have crept upwards from 24-25 minutes a game to 29-30 minutes, and there’s still two months to go in the season.

So there’s a need there, too. But youngster Nathan Beaulieu, like de la Rose, has responded well, leaving Bergevin again to wonder if going with what he has, particularly with Carey Price seemingly having the same kind of magical season Patrick Roy had in ’93, might be the best way to go.

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