McKenzie: Alzner can still be effective for Canadiens

The Karl Alzner signing has been a lightning rod of criticism for the Montreal Canadiens over the last year, but where does the team go from here with the defenseman and his contract?

The Canadiens, 4-1-1, have started the season well, but Alzner has been on the sidelines for all but one game to date.

During a Friday morning radio hit on Montreal’s TSN 690, Bob McKenzie was asked if he thought Alzner “can find a way to sort of see this contract out and be effective in Montreal.”

“Yes. That’s the short answer,” began McKenzie. “The short answer is yes, but everybody also needs to adjust the mindset because when you’re signed as a free agent on July 1 and you get a significant deal - significant term, significant dollars - there’s a perception that, ‘Well, this guy has got to be one of our best defensemen. This guy has got to be a Top 2 guy. He’s got to be a Top 3 guy. He’s got to be a Top 4 guy.’

“It may be that the Canadiens did make a mistake in terms of term and dollars for a player who’s not going to play in your top pair, who maybe isn’t as suited to today’s game as you would like him to be; but that doesn’t mean he can’t play, it doesn’t mean he can’t be a regular in your Top 6.

“The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup last year, and who was an effective third-pairing guy for them at times, and a crucial guy at many times, but Brooks Orpik. Now, is Brooks Orpik a modern day NHL defenseman? No, he’s not.

“When the Boston Bruins had McQuaid - if you go through the National Hockey League, a lot of really good teams have guys that play lower in the batting order on the defense who aren’t ‘new age defensemen’ necessarily, but they can be effective. But the thing that Alzner carries with him is an expectation that he should be a lot more than just a Top 6 guy - his money would warrant being a Top 3 or a Top 4 guy, and maybe that’s not going to be the case.

“So there’s an adjustment period there where everybody kind of says, ‘Oh, that was a terrible signing. It was a bust.’ And then it’s up to Karl Alzner to make himself useful enough that he can be a trusted guy that’s one of the Top 6 guys for the Montreal Canadiens.”

Alzner is in the second season of the five-year, $23.125 million contract he signed during 2017 free agency.

The defenseman has a modified no-trade clause in that pact, through which he can submit a seven-team no-trade list.

Contract-related info via CapFriendly