Montreal Canadiens AHL Affiliate | Laval Rocket News: Riley Barber, William Pelletier Signings, Brett Lernoutt, Daniel Audette, Hunter Shinkaruk Become Free Agents, Connor LaCouvee New Contract

Connor LaCouvee (via YouTube screen grab)

ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — Monday at noon Eastern Time was the start of the free agency in the NHL. Marc Bergevin made one signing that will more than likely impact the Laval Rocket, by signing forward Riley Barber to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will pay Barber $700,000 at the NHL level and $300,000 in the AHL, with $400,000 in guaranteed salary.

Barber was the Capitals’ sixth round draft pick, 167th overall, in 2012 and has played in the AHL for the Hershey Bears for the last four seasons. In 64 games played last season, he led his team with 31 goals and finished second on his team with 60 points. He added six points in nine games in the post season.

“I’m a player that obviously knows how to get to the scoring areas, I think I see well enough to make plays with my teammates, but also play a gritty 200-foot game,” Barber told RDS. “I think that I can be used on the power-play and make good decisions defensively.”

I think that this move was made to address with the scoring issues that the Rocket had last season. Barber has scored at least 20 goals in three of the four seasons with the Bears. In 2016-17, he scored 13 goals in 39 games.

The Rocket signed forward William Pelletier on Monday to a one-way (AHL) contract. Pelletier played the last two seasons with Rockford IceHogs, Blackhawks AHL affiliate, where he collected 17 points in 41 games.

Restricted Free Agents

The deadline to tend qualifying offers to restricted free agents was on June 25th at 5 pm. Eastern Time. From the players that had a regular spot with the Laval Rocket last season, Michael McCarron was the only one that was qualified by the organization. Xavier Ouellet was re-signed to a new one year deal on May 27th.

Brett LernoutDaniel Audette, and Hunter Shinkaruk were given the opportunity to become unrestricted free agents as of July 1st. I was anticipating that McCarron would be given one more opportunity with the organization, and it seemed obvious to me that Shinkaruk wouldn’t return, but I was surprised about the news of the other two players.

Lernout victim of depth?

Lernout signed with the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday. He was drafted by the Canadiens in the third round of the 2014 Entry Draft. He played 21 games in the NHL, with 18 of those games being during the 2017-18 season. In the AHL, Lernout has played 283 games, including four in the playoffs.

Last season, Lernout scored four times and added five assists in the 74 games. He was primarily used on the third defensive pairing in a shutdown role and on the first penalty-kill unit. Lernout was at his best when he played with Karl Alzner on defence.

“I think I could have done a lot better, but I think overall, I think I did pretty good,” was Lernout’s assessment at the end of the season. “I think the biggest part is just
consistency for me. I mean, when I’m on I’m on and when I’m off I’m off. I think that’s the biggest part is just keeping it consistent.”

Lernout did a good job in the role that he was given by Joel Bouchard. A shutdown defenceman is who Brett Lernout is. Even though he has a hard slap shot, you shouldn’t expect to see him put points on the board. Lernout is an asset in his team’s own zone.

It’s been well documented that the Canadiens biggest organizational need at this moment is left-shooting defencemen. The cupboards on right defence are full. At the NHL-level, the Canadiens have Shea WeberJeff PetryChristian Folin, and Noah Juulsen. In the upcoming season, we should expect Cale Fleury, and Josh Brook get most of the ice time on the right side of the defence.

Lernout was one of the veterans on the roster last season. He was the only player in the organization to have played in Hamilton, St. John’s, and Laval for the Canadiens AHL affiliate. I suspect that the organization is expecting Ouellet and Alzner to be back in Laval for the upcoming season and act as mentors to their younger partners on defence.

Audette Becomes Free Agent

Audette was the Canadiens’ fifth round pick in the 2014 Entry Draft. In three complete seasons in the AHL, he has a total of 98 points in 206 regular season games and one point in four playoff games.

This season, Audette finished third on the team with 39 points, 15 points behind Alex Belzile, and six points behind Jake Evans. Audette’s 14 goals was second on the team, five less than Belzile. He was used all over the lineup last season and was consistently part of the power play unit. I thought that his offensive numbers would have been enough for the organization to tender a qualifying offer to him.

Audette had an up and down season. He got his first point of the season in his 10th game of the season. He then put up 30 points in his next 38 games, and followed that up with a sequence where he got points in one of his next 10 games.

“Ups and downs like every season. It started slow, there was an adaptation period at the start of the season, but all in all, a season that I’m proud of,” said Audette on his season at the end of the season.

LaCouvee signs new contract

The Rocket signed Connor LaCouvee to a one-year two-way (AHL/ECHL) contract. LaCouvee started last season with the Maine Mariners in the ECHL and signed a professional tryout contract with Laval on December 27th after Michael McNiven was recalled by Montreal and Charlie Lindgren wasn’t playing due to injury.

LaCouvee had a record of 4-1-1 record with Laval in his first six starts before being returned to the ECHL. He allowed a total of 12 goals in that stretch, and the Rocket rewarded him with a contract on February 7th for the remainder of the season.

He returned with Laval on March 11th after Lindgren was recalled by Montreal to allow Carey Price to get some rest on non game days. LaCouvee wasn’t able to replicate the same statistics as his first call up. He had 3-4-1 record and allowed 22 goals in the eight appearances during his second call up.

LaCouvee’s teammates and coaching staff appreciated the energy that he brought to the dressing room. “He’s a hockey player. He loves to play in goal. If you paid him to play in a beer league over the summer, he would go. He would go play ball hockey the same night. You call him, he puts his hockey bag in the car and goes to play,” said Bouchard following the March 20th game against the Bruins.

By Chris G., Senior Writer.
All Habs Hockey Magazine
Copyright © 2019 Rocket Sports

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