Friday, September 30, 2011

Habs Cut Gallagher, Bournival, Nattinen

The Montreal Canadiens announced this afternoon three more roster cuts, with Brendan Gallagher being assigned to the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, Michael Bournival to the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL, and Joonas Nattinen to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.

In Gallagher's case, it was undoubtedly a tough decision. He was amongst the Habs' best forwards for much of training camp, but was unable to bury his chances offensively. In his final game yesterday against a near-complete Tampa Bay Lightning roster, he looked small and weak at times, easily shoved off the puck with his 5'8" frame. He will benefit from another year in junior and at the World Junior Championships where he will represent Canada. The fact that his teammates were slumping through the preseason was simply not sufficient enough of a reason to keep him around.

As for Bournival, he showed some nice things, but his time in camp was limited by injury. He should also have a good junior season and join Gallagher on the Canadian team.

For those uncertain, because of their young age and inexperience, neither Bournival nor Gallagher was eligible to be assigned to the Bulldogs. Both can join Hamilton at year's end if their junior team's season ends before the 'Dogs are eliminated, and are locks to play in the NHL or AHL next year. Both Gallagher and Bournival need to be signed by next June 1st (and will be) to remain in the organization and avoid re-entering the NHL entry draft.

Lastly, Nattinen missed the entirety of his debut camp in North America because of an injury of his own. His being assigned to the Bulldogs should mean his injury is almost fully healed, and many will be watching his development with intrigue.

What does this mean for camp and the team's final roster? Well if you look HERE you can see which players are left in camp. Excluding injuries, we're basically down to a final roster of 23 players. Healthy in camp are 2 goaltenders, 9 defensemen (incl. swingman Yannick Weber), and 12 forwards, with the injured roster players being Andrei Markov, Lars Eller, Travis Moen, and Ryan White. 23 is the maximum roster size, so no further cuts at all are required until one of those four is ready to return.

This means for opening night, we should expect to see the following:

Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Erik Cole
Max Pacioretty - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Mathieu Darche - David Desharnais - Andrei Kostitsyn
Mike Blunden - Andreas Engqvist - Yannick Weber/Aaron Palushaj

Hal Gill - P.K. Subban
Josh Gorges - Chris Campoli
Jaroslav Spacek - Raphael Diaz

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

Leaving Alexei Yemelin, Jeff Woywitka, and one of Yannick Weber or Aaron Palushaj in the press box. Given that the first game is against the Toronto Maple Leafs, one would imagine the team will opt to dress tough guy Mike Blunden, but he hasn't particularly shone during preseason. That fourth line is messy and will likely remain so until it can be bolstered by White and Moen, barring a trade or waiver claim.

Aside from a battle for the #6 d-man spot between Yemelin and Diaz, the other question simply regards line combination, with Erik Cole being tested on David Desharnais's wing while Andrei Kostitsyn finds old linemates in Tomas Pleakanec and Mike Cammalleri for this morning's practice and likely the start of tomorrow night's final exhibition game.

But that's your team as it stands. The group of d-men looks a little weak without its #1 in Markov, and while there are three good scoring lines, a checking or grind line is clearly lacking. Still, the roster is a lot more solid than the team's 1-6-0 preseason record would indicate, and I'm certain general manager Pierre Gauthier won't hesitate to bring in reinforcements if things are going wrong.

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