Possible free agent targets: Canadiens


Justin Williams is a fancy stats darling and 2014 Conn Smythe winner. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

Montreal, QUEBEC — Montreal GM Marc Bergevin has been busy early this summer, re-signing players with expiring contracts and buying out Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau Monday.

But with $6.64 million in cap space to get forwards Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Bournival, Christian Thomas and defenceman Jarred Tinordi signed, it looks like the Canadiens could be mostly quiet on the free agent market.

But if the situation changes and Bergevin does dip his toe in the market, it’s doubtful it’d be to lure another defenceman to the Canadiens. Montreal already has $29 million committed to seven blueliners and since they finished 20th in goals this past season, the more desirable target would be offence.

Here are three candidates the Canadiens might look to add when free agency opens Wednesday at noon:

Michael Frolik
Frolik contributed three goals (one game-winner) and seven assists to Chicago’s Stanley Cup victory in 2013. He was then shipped to Winnipeg in the off-season, where he put up consecutive 42-point seasons.

A right winger with a wicked left-hand shot, Frolik can help bolster a Canadiens depth chart that currently has Brendan Gallagher, Dale Weise, Devante Smith-Pelley and Brian Flynn on the right side.

Frolik’s shown skill and versatility in his game, and his impressive showing in the advanced stats categories makes him an alluring option.

The 27-year-old is coming off a one-year deal worth $3.3 million, and is reportedly looking for $5 million per season on a long-term deal. Reports have indicated the Canadiens are his first option.

If the interest is mutual for Montreal, it’s hard to imagine Bergevin making this move without shedding a contract to make room under the cap for Frolik.

Justin Williams
They don’t call him ‘Mr. Game 7’ for nothing. The 2014 Conn Smythe winner has a knack for scoring big goals at big times.

Williams, 33, has scored 30 goals in 115 playoff games and 20 percent of them have been game-winners. His regular season production isn’t mind-blowing and at his age, a four- or five-year contract is almost sure to be a troublesome proposition towards the end of it.

That said, the Canadiens are poised to contend over the next couple of seasons and Williams falls neatly into the category of players who help you get through the playoffs.

Williams is coming off a four-year deal that counted for $3.65 million against the cap.

“I’m at a point in my career where it’s not all about money, it’s about winning for me,” Williams told the Hockey Central panel in May. Could that mean a discount for a cap-strapped Canadiens team that offers him a chance to do what he wants to do?

Joel Ward
To fit into coach Michel Therrien’s system, a forward has to play simple, tough, responsible hockey. And if that forward has a penchant for scoring clutch goals in the playoffs, that’s a bonus.

Ward, 34, checks all the boxes on that list, and coming off a four-year contract that carried a $3 million annual cap hit, Ward might be the most affordable option on this short list. He’s going to get a raise, but isn’t likely to garner a contract longer than three years.

In his last two seasons, Ward appeared in all 164 games, tallying 43 goals and adding 40 assists over that span. What he lacks in speed, he makes up for in grit.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound right winger recorded 53 hits and 38 blocked shots this past season. He also plays on both the power play and the penalty kill, reliably averaging 16:51 per game in 2014-15.

Ward’s 35 points in 53 career playoff games are notable. His 14.1 shooting percentage in the post-season speaks to his ability to bury chances in the clutch.

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