Describing their offseason any other way would be woefully understating things, because trading defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Shea Weber represents a titanic shift in the look and feel of the Canadiens. General manager Marc Bergevin is banking that shift will be an upward one, but no matter the direction the Canadiens go this season, they will definitely play a drastically different brand of hockey as a direct result of that trade.
Subban and Weber are each accustomed to spending slightly more than 40 percent of every game on the ice, but they use that playing time in very different ways.
Subban is an elite puck-mover who is sometimes prone to making poor decisions, but who also ensured Montreal played in the opposing end more often than not. The Canadiens have had better puck-possession numbers with Subban on the ice than when he was off in every season of his career.
Video: Is Shea Weber an average NHL player?
By giving Weber the minutes previously given to Subban, the Canadiens get a defenseman who makes life extremely difficult on opponents with his physical play, one who has scored more goals per game than any defenseman in the NHL to have played at least 200 games over the past eight seasons thanks largely to the most powerful slap shot in the League.
But Weber's ability to move the puck out of his end toward the offensive zone, something Subban excels at, has not been one of his strengths in recent years.
To a lesser extent, trading center Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals and acquiring right wing Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks to replace him aligns well with the Subban-Weber trade in that the Canadiens traded away a strong transition player, albeit one who did not produce much offense, and replaced him with a player who is not fun to play against.
Weber, a two-time Olympic gold medalist with Canada, and Shaw, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with Chicago, were brought in to bolster the Canadiens' leadership group. But the biggest addition on that front will be the return of goaltender Carey Price, who is fully recovered from the right knee injury that ended his season on Nov. 25.
Video: Andrew Shaw on becoming a Montreal Canadien
The Canadiens were playing excellent hockey when Price was injured, sitting first in the NHL standings before plummeting and missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Weber and Shaw were brought in to prevent that from happening to Montreal this season, but if Price remains healthy, that shouldn't be necessary.
Here is what the Canadiens look like today:
KEY ARRIVALS: Shea Weber, D: The threat of Weber's shot from the point should improve a power play that has finished 25th in the NHL in each of the past two seasons. Weber is 12th in the League with 67 power-play goals over the past eight seasons; the closest defenseman on the list is Mike Green of the Detroit Red Wings in 41st with 49. At 6-foot-4, 236 pounds with a mean streak, Weber will make opposing forwards think twice before crashing Price's crease. The question is, how will Weber look playing without Roman Josi on his left side? Over the past two seasons, Weber has spent roughly 93 percent of his even-strength ice time with Josi, who is among the top skating defensemen in the League. The Canadiens have a capable, left-shooting puck mover, Andrei Markov, but he will be 38 in December and at this stage of his career might not be the ideal partner for Weber. … Alexander Radulov, RW: Bergevin has been searching for a top-six right wing for the past three seasons and might have found him in this unrestricted free agent who signed for one season. Radulov, 30, had 136 points over the past two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, more than any player over that span. If Radulov is able to focus on hockey and prove the behavioral issues that marred his previous stint in the NHL with the Predators are behind him, he could become the best free agent signing of the offseason. … Andrew Shaw, RW: The Blackhawks did not want to lose Shaw, with coach Joel Quenneville going so far as calling him irreplaceable. Shaw, 24, can play all three forward positions, play up and down the lineup, and serve as a net-front presence on the power play. With Shaw and Brendan Gallagher, the Canadiens have two of the most agitating forwards in the League. … Al Montoya, G: With Price missing all but 12 games last season, Bergevin wanted a veteran backup in place after rookie Mike Condon struggled in the starter's role. Montoya, however, has never started more than 26 games in a season, so his presence doesn't change the fact that if Price gets injured again the Canadiens are in big trouble.
Video: Reaction to the Subban/Weber trade
KEY DEPARTURES: P.K. Subban, D: The Canadiens got their first glimpse of life without Subban when he was injured March 10, forcing him to miss the final 14 games of the season, the first games in his NHL career he had missed with an injury. The Canadiens scored six goals in their first five games without Subban. That is just one indicator of how much Subban meant to Montreal's ability to carry the play offensively. When he was on the ice, the Canadiens were simply a different team. … Lars Eller, C: In six seasons with the Canadiens, Eller never scored more than 16 goals or 30 points, but he became an important two-way player who could match up against opposing top lines and take care of defensive-zone faceoff responsibilities. Bergevin said Phillip Danault, a player he scouted when he worked for the Blackhawks and then acquired from Chicago before the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline, can fill that role.
ON THE CUSP: Michael McCarron, C: At 6-foot-6, 231 pounds, McCarron could one day provide the Canadiens with something they have lacked for years: a big, physical presence in the middle of the ice. McCarron, 21, had one goal and one assist in 20 games with the Canadiens last season, but the only reason he got that opportunity was because of how impressive he was as a rookie in the American Hockey League, scoring 17 goals and 38 points in 58 games for St. John's. … Charles Hudon, LW: With 110 points in 142 AHL games the past two seasons, Hudon, 22, appears ready to take the next step. What he lacks in size at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, he makes up for with speed and smarts. There is a logjam of fourth-line players in Montreal, but if injuries hit the way they did last season, Hudon should earn a look.
WHAT THEY STILL NEED: The Canadiens' need has remained the same for years, and that's proven goal-scorers, even with the addition of Radulov. Assuming no additions are made, Montreal will enter the season with an unproven player lining up among their top six, and that's assuming Radulov is able to make a smooth adjustment to the NHL, which remains unknown. Alex Galchenyuk scored 30 goals for the first time in his NHL career, and at age 22 that number could increase this season. Same goes for Gallagher, who scored 19 goals in 53 games. But there is very little depth of scoring talent up front, and a significant injury to one of Montreal's top scoring forwards could be a disaster.
Video: TBL@MTL: Galchenyuk nets his second goal of the game
PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY FOCUS: Prior to Gallagher's injury Nov. 22 and his absence that followed, he was a top 30 overall fantasy asset with 19 points in 22 games for the best team in the League (at the time). Now, given the fallout from the Canadiens' collapse, there are no guarantees with Gallagher, especially with Radulov pushing to steal top-line and power-play minutes. Gallagher's multicategory coverage is a solid foundation, but his health and usage stand in the way of him finally putting together a season of at least 50 points, 50 penalty minutes and 250 shots on goal, something five players did last season.
Max Pacioretty - Alex Galchenyuk - Brendan Gallagher
Daniel Carr - Tomas Plekanec - Alexander Radulov
Andrew Shaw - David Desharnais - Sven Andrighetto
Paul Byron - Phillip Danault - Torrey Mitchell
Nathan Beaulieu - Shea Weber
Andrei Markov - Jeff Petry
Alexei Emelin - Greg Pateryn