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2021 Montreal Canadiens: Taxi Squad & The Roulette Table Theory

Marc Bergevin refuses to rest this off season as he continues to fine tune his roster as we near the start of the NHL season. The Habs recent signings of Michael Frolik and Corey Perry do not push the needle in any significant way, but the team did get better. To me this is another classic zero risk signing that Bergevin loves to get in every year just before the season starts, however, this one has the potential to pay dividends.

In the past, Bergevin and the Habs brass have made small, last minute signings like Alexander Semin for $1M. Back then the team was not against the cap, so why not? This is the NHL equivalent to tossing a last ditch effort chip on your favourite number on roulette as you walk out off the Casino. Up until now and much like at the roulette table, Bergevin has been losing his money every time. However, the recent signings are more like tossing this chip on Red, and if I’ve learned anything from Entourage, a $5 hit on Red to start the weekend (or season) is good luck.

For this analogy to make sense, you must first understand the Taxi Squad amendment to this upcoming season. Quick summary, this year to offset potential/inevitable COVID issues, each team is allowed to carry an additional group of 4-6 players for emergency purposes. This group is in a sort of purgatory between the NHL and AHL, but they are allowed to take part in all NHL team activities. Travel with the team is not required but one important note is that these players cannot partake in any AHL related activities.

Players will receive full compensation based on their contract type (1-way vs 2-way) as well as benefits. This also means guys on 1-way contracts have to clear waivers. Their Cap hit would be based on their contracts in the minors, therefore only the Buried Cap Hit (BCH) would count. This is calculated using the following equation:

B.C.H. = NHL Salary – (League minimum contract for that respective season (2020-21) + $375K) (Capfriendly.com)
B.C.H. = NHL Salary – $1 075 000

Now, back to the roulette table, the reason why I see these signings differently is, much like Outside vs Inside, there are more paths to success. Semin was a complete shot in the dark, hoping to squeeze out the last bit of production out of a guy who was on his way out anyways. Perry and Frolik carry much more value to the Habs than this.

For a moment let’s be completely pessimistic about this, both these guys fail to play a game this season. They still bring value to this team! This is not to say that I think either are coming here, voluntarily accepting a Taxi squad role, but let’s consider the worst case scenario. Say these two sit in a hotel room for the Habs the entire season, this is two less prospects wasting a year of development in the same hotel room. But like I said this is the worst case scenario.

A more likely scenario is that Perry is a full time roster player that gives this roster much more roster flexibility. He will play a bottom 6 role, providing much needed leadership upfront, and a bit of a safety net for the youngsters. I have mentioned this before, and it applies here again, Bergevin continues to protect his young guns. The Habs are heavily invested in Suzuki and KK right now, for better or worse. The Habs roster, as currently constructed right now, can fully protect these two both figuratively, and after this off-season, literally as well.

I also see Perry assuming Weal’s role on the PP with Shea Weber. I know that Habs fans love to complain about Weal on the PP, so your saviour is here. The Habs have struggled to find a player brave enough to step in front of a Weber bomb since Brent Sopel. This is ignoring the fact that you also don’t want Weber to injure a valuable player standing in front like he accidentally did with Gallaher.

Not to mention that Perry is an absolute pest in every sense of the word. I really want to see him line up next to KK this year and just gradually turn him into a savage. He has the frame to build up, now he just needs to lose the smile and piss people off.

As for Frolik, I think that he will be a bit more of a bubble guy / insurance piece that will be a part of the taxi squad. He will directly push a prospect back down to Laval where Perry may do so by association. Frolik provides NHL caliber skill and appears to be very cognisant of where he is in his career. I also think that part of this signing has to do with something that Mitch Gallo mentioned on his Post-Game Pints Podcast; Frolik trains in Montreal.

I completely agree but for a different reason. Gallo went with the human approach, speaking about Frolik’s love for the city. I would like to add that this signing could have to do with the fact that Frolik would not have to clear COVID protocols. He can continue to train without missing a beat to get ready for the season while playing on a team with cup aspirations. That latter may be wishful thinking but it’s hard not to be excited about this roster.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the taxi squad rounds itself out. One spot must be reserved for a goalie which is clearly Charlie Lindgren. Give Primeau command of the net and more importantly give McNiven some much deserved AHL games. For the sake of argument let’s just put Frolik and Perry in there as stand ins for now. One final lock for this roster in my opinion is Alex Belzile. He joined the team in the bubble and got a game in before getting injured. His journey to the NHL is a great story, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s earned a spot on this taxi squad.

Based on contracts it would be safe to assume that Juulsen will be a part of the taxi squad, but two additional names to consider would be Lukas Vedejmo and Otto Leskinen. These two final positions are optional but I expect the Habs to run a full taxi squad since money isn’t the issue. Vedejmo and Leskinen both received call ups to the big club last season and held their own. Neither secured a full time spot, but when looking at the Habs organization as a whole, these two make the most sense. Both are a bit older in terms of prospect age at 24 and 23 respectively, and both are at the make or break point of their careers when you consider the number of prospects the Habs have waiting in the wings who need contracts.

Vedejmo or Leskinen would get valuable experience with the big club, this would keep the priority, and younger prospects in Laval. They will be given an opportunity to possibly prove themselves if they get on the ice. More importantly the loss of a development season is minimised on a Macro level when assessing the Habs organisation.

No matter who ends up on the taxi squad, at this point if should be fair to assume that Bergevin and the Habs are not done. What that next move would be, couldn’t tell you. At the end of the day, the best part is that after losing out on Simmonds, we got Perry for half the price!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Hot Sauce content with Peeze, Terry and Alex discussing the NFL, the NBA and they are joined by Danny Gallagher, author of several Montreal Expos inspired novels including Blue Monday and the recently published Always Remembered: New Revelations and Old Tales About Those Faboulous Expos.

Alex the Intern and Terry take a look back at the season that was in Fantasy Football with the Fantasy Football Hustler. A fitting interview for Week 16, but for those of you looking to get a head start on next season look no further. I personally got a nice beat down from Peeze in the finals of our company league, so congrats to him as I go cry in the shower.

Don’t forget to take advantage of our Promo Codes by visiting MikesBBQrubMTL.com with Promo Code HotSauce10 to get 10% orders on all individual bottles.

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