Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mark Your Calendars - 10 Hab Dates to Remember

As we're mired in a quiet time for Habs news, waiting on the announcement of a new Head Coach and then summer player movement, here are 10 dates of activity for you to add to your calendar.

1) May 28th - NHL Central Scouting Draft Combine Begins

From May 28th to June 2nd, 105 of the top prospects for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft will be in Toronto for a few days of intense testing (see this year's invitee list HERE).  The most publicized portion is generally the physical tests, of which a detailed overview can be found HERE.  But many teams are more interested in the interview time slots, where their scouting staff has the ability to schedule personal time with a number of the prospects in attendance, both to get to them and for a psychological evaluation.  It is often from this that you'll here a player say on draft day after being selected, "I knew they were interested in me because they wanted to spend a lot of time with me."  While reports about which teams spoke with which prospects are scarce and mostly secretive, generally a few stories will leak out.  Still, the physical testing isn't disregarded completely, as players that score very well are often prime candidates to move up a few slots, and those kind of results are more public.

One caveat this year is that top prospect Mikhail Grigorenko is unlikely to complete all of the physical evaluations as he continues to recover from mononucleosis.  There hasn't been an update on his condition recently, so it's possible he is doing better, but not partaking in the evaluation can't help his stock.

2) June 12th - Montreal Canadiens Combine

Following the Central Scouting Combine, many NHL clubs hold their own mini-combines, which may include on-ice portions, further testing, and certainly more one-on-one off-ice time with the team's staff.  Teams will invite players they are considering for all rounds, so the invite lists for these events are generally quite sensitive.  A few names will leak out, and we already know that Montreal has asked Shawinigan Cataractes goaltender Alexandre Dubeau and late-blooming overage Drumondville forward Andre Bouvet-Morrissette to attend their "camp."  Along with those players, given that the team is drafting third overall, expect names like Grigorenko, Alex Galchenyuk, and Filip Forsberg to be asked to be at the Bell Centre or in Brossard on this day.

Thanks to reader Marc-Philippe L'Abbe for pointing out THIS article confirming the presence of four other players at the combine, all from the Quebec Remparts: Grigorenko, goaltender Francois Brassard, defenseman Ryan Culkin, and forward Frederick Roy.

**UPDATE: June 13-16 - Habs Prospect Development Camp

Thanks to Twitter follower @darknngel for pointing out a date I had missed as confirmed, being the first Habs' development camp of the summer, June 13-16.  The dates were in an RDS article HERE, indicating it will take place at the Complexe Sportive Bell in Brossard, and that Gabriel Dumont will be one of the prospects in attendance.

3) June 15th - NHL Buyout Period Opens

June 13th is the final possible day for the Stanley Cup to be awarded if the series goes to 7 games based on the schedule announced today.  The buyout period opens two days after that.  I covered Friday why a buyout isn't the best option for Scott Gomez at this point (and the same applies to Tomas Kaberle), but we'll find out then a bit of how the Habs' brass feels about the issue.  It's also a time where other clubs may terminate some of their contracts, which could add a little depth to a very thin unrestricted free agent crop this summer.

The buyout period this year also has a bit of a footnote, as it is the last under the current CBA.  It is unknown how the new agreement governing the league will handle this procedure.  Will there be a one-time amnesty buyout period offered to allow clubs to get rid of players without taking a cap hit?  If managers believe so, they wouldn't want to buy out players now under the current CBA.  On the other hand, will the new agreement prevent teams from hiding unwanted salaries in Europe or the AHL?  If managers believe that to be the case, buying out a player in June might be their only hope of clearing some room.

4) June 20th - NHL Awards in Las Vegas

The 2012 Awards, featuring musical guest Nickelback, have only 1 Canadien attending as a nominee, but it could be a big night for him.  Certainly, Max Pacioretty should be considered a favourite for the Bill Masterton Trophy after his phenomenal comeback season following last year's brutal hit by Boston's Zdeno Chara.  Pacioretty, who was also a key performer for Team USA at the recent IIHF World Championship, doesn't need the award to be proud of his achievements over the past 365 days, but it would be a nice bit of recognition for a player who now also focuses on giving back through his foundation.  Tune in to the televised awards on the 20th to find out if he beats Daniel Alfredsson and Joffrey Lupul in the voting.  Check out all the award nominees HERE.

5) June 22nd - NHL Draft, First Round

If the awards aren't your cup of tea, then get excited for two days later; an evening likely to be the most important of the Habs' summer.  Beginning at 7 PM ET, and live on TSN, teams will be making their selections for the draft's first round, with Montreal currently holding pick #3.  I'll have a five piece weekly series on the upcoming draft beginning tomorrow, with the first installment looking at the players Montreal could realistically take with their first rounder.  What is certain is that the franchise will be adding an impact player for the future, and this acquisition will likely be of greater significance than any other roster move the team makes over the course of the summer.

If you want to take in the opening round surrounded by fellow Hab diehards, check out the AllHabs Tweet-Up scheduled for that evening, with more info HERE.  The Canadiens also Tweeted something alluding to an official Draft Party, but no details for it have been made available as of yet.

6) June 23rd - NHL Draft, Rounds 2 to 7

Only the first round is a primetime event on Friday night, but the Canadiens won't stop adding important pieces there.  The Habs have two picks in the second round (#33 and 51 overall), plus selections number 64, 94, and 154.  Each of these picks could potentially move up 1 slot if New Jersey opts to forego their first round selection this season as penalty for their illegal offer to Ilya Kovalchuk a couple of summers back - a scenario rendered likely by the team's deep run in these playoffs.  A later edition of my draft series closer to the actual draft day will look at a number of players to consider for each of these five other picks, but there will be plenty of interesting names on the board at 33, 51, and even 64.

7) June 25th - Deadline for Qualifying RFAs

Teams have until this day to submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents so as to retain exclusive negotiating rights with them (and/or the ability to match any outside offers).  Montreal must tender the following players by this day to prevent them from becoming unrestricted free agents: Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Lars Eller, Alexei Emelin, Raphael Diaz, Ryan White, Blake Geoffrion, Aaron Palushaj, Mike Blunden, Petteri Nokelainen, Frederic St. Denis, Brendon Nash, Andreas Engqvist, Olivier Fortier, Mark Mitera, Hunter Bishop, Andrew Conboy, Danny Masse, and Robert Slaney.  Some of the Bulldogs are likely to be let go to make room for fresh blood, while with the possible exception of Nokelainen, all of the NHL'ers are probable to be at least qualified for the time being.  You'll remember one year ago, the Habs opted not to qualify Benoit Pouliot or Tom Pyatt, who then went on to sign with the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning respectively as UFAs.  Like with the buyout period, this day will also add a little depth to the UFA market, illustrated in THIS piece from a year ago where I talked about 10 interesting names that went unqualified (of course both D'Agostini and Kennedy did end up returning to their previous clubs).

8) July 1st - UFA Market Opens

The Habs have 9 players whose rights will be lost as unrestricted free agents if not re-signed prior to July 1st: Travis Moen, Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Brad Staubitz, Alex Henry (who has already signed in Germany), Brian Willsie, Garrett Stafford, Joe Callahan, and Nathan Lawson.  Since the club traded both Andrei Kostitsyn and Hal Gill prior to the deadline, there are no particularly big names on that list, though I do hope that Moen's services are retained.  Any of the other names could just as easily be replaced if allowed to leave.  As Canada Day approaches, we'll talk about some of Marc Bergevin's likely main targets from other clubs when the market opens, but the UFA crop is far from impressive this summer. It is headlined (for now, barring re-signings) by Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but there is a steep drop-off after those two.

9) Rookie Camp / Tournament (TBD)

Montreal's main summer rookie camp is generally held in early July, where fans get a good first close-look at the most recent crop of draftees, usually combined with some invitees and a smattering of older prospects.  However, there is a new regime in charge, which could mean changes to how Montreal handles this annual process.  The Pierre Gauthier era chose to pull the team out of any rookie tournaments, held annually by many clubs in August and September where squads of young prospects compete against those of other organizations.  These events are fun for fans in addition to being reasonable measuring sticks, but do come at a risk of injuries, so we will learn Bergevin's views on them at some point this summer.

10) September 15th - CBA D-Day

Lastly, just prior to what would be the opening of NHL training camps, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the National Hockey League and its Players' Association is set to expire.  We can only hope that both sides are in a more open and cooperative mood than they were the last time around, as there remain a number of contentious issues to be worked out with struggling smaller market teams around the league.  Certainly, over the course of the summer, we will hear many reports of updates, debates, disagreements, and hopefully progress in advance of the Fall deadline.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Excellent, thorough and well written article. Above all, informative.

Really well done.

I think you should consider writing on hockey professionally at some point.

The only challenge is , there are very few media groups that pay for this depth.

In the meanwhile, keep up the good work. It will be noticed.


Jeff Hong Kong