Edit: looks like, as I was writing this, Montador agreed to terms with the Blackhawks on a four year, $11M contract, meaning this post broke speed records for its rate of obsolescence. Still, it has some merit. Read below for why Chicago had to make such a hefty commitment to keep him from going to Vancouver market.
Yesterday’s big story was the ongoing saga of Christian Ehrhoff, whose rights have become such a hot topic of conversation that Sean Avery recently appeared in a PSA for their support. That said, Ehrhoff isn’t the only coveted UFA blueliner on the market. While Ehrhoff negotiations (with Vancouver, then New York, then Buffalo) dominated yesterday’s hockey news, the Chicago Blackhawks quietly acquired the last days of rugged defender Steve Montador’s contract with the Sabres for the paltry price of a 7th round pick.
Early today, Greg Wyshynski looked at the reasons the Blackhawks made the move, noting both his physicality (he’s mean) and his right-handedness (he’s not left-handed), both qualities Chicago’s back end lacks. But, truthfully, there’s another reason why it makes sense for the Chicago to go after Montador today, rather than try their luck tomorrow: he’d be a fabulous fit on the Canucks and, if he makes it to the open market, there’s a pretty good chance that’s where he’s headed.
Montador is a native of Vancouver who, according to a source (we have sources now!), wants to play here and it seems reasonable that the feeling is mutual. As a Canuck, he’d be an effective and cheap replacement for the departed Christian Ehrhoff for three reasons:
1st, he’s a right-handed defenseman, meaning that, in a pairing with Alex Edler, both would be playing their preferred sides. In fact, this would give the Canucks four right-handers (Tanev, Bieksa, Salo). Considering they began last season with one and guys playing the wrong side was a problem all year, a litany of righties would be a windfall.
2nd, while you might scoff at the notion that a guy whose career-high in points is 26 could replace a guy whose career-high is twice that, Montador is actually very underrated offensively. Though he’s seen very little powerplay time in the NHL, his even-strength scoring rate is rather eye-popping. From Jonathan Willis:
Montador’s 5-on-5 numbers compare favourably to some of the game’s best-known offensive defenceman. Since 2007-08, just three defencemen have managed to record one point or more for every 60 minutes of even-strength ice-time they play in every single season: Montador, Green, and Andrei Markov. That’s rarefied air.
So there’s that. And, while one might argue that, Montador likely still won’t produce at the same level as Ehrhoff, the Canucks don’t need him to. They need Alex Edler to, and he’d have a better opportunity to do so with Montador than he did with Ehrhoff. Which brings us to my 3rd point: Montador is a better partner for Edler than Ehrhoff was, and not just because of the right-handedness.
Christian Ehrhoff was something of a roamer. His high-risk, one-dimensional game forced Edler into a stay-at-home role that limited his multifaceted skillset and for which he wasn’t particularly suited. Truthfully, Edler’s ideal running mate is a steady, tough, stay-at-home guy that moves the puck forward and can log large minutes alongside him. That’s Montador, who finished 2011 as the shutdown guy on Buffalo’s top pairing, and led all blueliners on his team in Corsi for the third year in a row.
So. He may not be a offensive dynamo, but he’s a steady, quiet guy who moves the puck in the right direction and will happily take a reasonable contract to play in his home province. Sound like anyone we know?
Montador is tomorrow’s ideal Canuck signing. He wants to be here and there’s a role tailor-made for him that could make the Canucks a better team. Furthermore, he’ll leave the Canucks wiggle room to improve their forward depth.
No wonder Chicago wants a head start.
Tags: Blackhawks, Canucks, Edler, Ehrhoff, Free Agency, montador