The Montreal Canadiens, last year's winners of the Northeast division, have a whole new set of expectations this season. The Bergevin rebuild, initially expected to take years, needed only one off-season. A new cast has emerged as the team's core. Names like Galchenyuk, Eller, Gallagher, and Prust now line the back of jerseys and t-shirts throughout the city. Here are a few player storylines for the 2013-2014 season.
5. Brian Gionta/Andrei Markov
Gionta and Markov find themselves in similar situations heading into the 2013-2014 season. Both will be playing in the final year of their hefty contracts and may not be part of the team next fall. The shedding of Markov’s $ 5.75 million and Gionta’s $ 5 million will help the team re-sign players in line for raises, namely, Subban and Eller. Expect good seasons for Gionta and Markov as they try to earn contracts for next year.
4. David Desharnais
In hindsight, Bergevin should have waited until the end of the season to give Desharnais his contract extension. After rewarding Desharnais with a $ 3.5 million annual 4-year contract on March 15, the small center only recorded 13 points in the final 26 games and was virtually invisible in the playoff series against the Senators. If we’ve already seen the best Desharnais has to offer, his contract extension may hurt the team for years to come.
3. Lars Eller
Before going down in the first game of the series against Ottawa, Eller was playing like the team’s best center. Last year, Eller emerged as a responsible and efficient defensive center, while also increasing his offensive production. His 30 points in 46 games was a career high and is rather impressive when you consider how little he played on the power play. Eller’s role should continue to increase this year.
2. P.K. Subban
What more can be said about P.K. Subban? Despite missing the team’s first 6 games due to a contract holdout, he ended up having a Norris winning season. 2013-2014 will bring new challenges for the 24-year-old as he now has to live up to huge expectations from a demanding Montreal fanbase. Subban is in the final year of his 2-year contract and is expected to get a huge raise at season’s end. Subban should also be an important part of Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics in February.
1. Carey Price
Carey Price’s time is now. At the age of 26 and entering his 7th NHL season, Price should be beginning his prime years. While some fans have been more patient than others, Price seems to have regressed from his tremendous 2010-2011 season. Entering this season, Price appears to be the key to the Habs having any success. Although Price often keeps his team in the game, he will need to single-handedly win games for the team if he wants to be considered one of the league’s best goaltenders. If he gets off to a hot start, Price could end up being the starting goalie for Team Canada at the Olympics.