Once you whittle down CapFriendly.com’s list of pending unrestricted free agent defencemen to the ones who averaged at least 17 minutes of ice-time per game last season, you’re left with just 14 names.
From there, only two of them fit the proper criteria for a job with the Montreal Canadiens, who are in desperate need of a bona fide top-four, power play-boosting, left-side defenceman to round out their group heading into next season. And whether or not either player would in fact be available is a 50-50 proposition at best.
Then you have to wonder if Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin will be willing to overpay for either player’s services, because that’s what it’s going to require.
Player No. 1 on the list, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Jake Gardiner, is as appealing of an option as Bergevin could find to fill this hole. But if the 28-year-old does in fact make it to July 1 without a contract renewal in Toronto, he is likely to garner an average salary north of $6 million over a six or seven-year term. Not even a bad back would mitigate his status as the top left-shooting defenceman available on the market, but it would represent an added element of risk that Bergevin might not want to assume at that price.