It's tempting to think about the Montreal Canadiens' acquisition of smallish, offence-shy defenceman Mike Weaver is as this year's version of Davis Drewiske: a low-risk, slightly underwhelming insurance policy for the blueline.
Like Drewiske, obtained a couple of days before last year's trade deadline from the L.A. Kings, Weaver was obtained from the Florida Panthers for a fifth-round draft pick (it doesn't seem like a high price, and it isn't, but it should be pointed out the Habs have had good luck with fifth-rounders in recent years).
A better comparison would be with Francis Bouillon, another undersized defender who, before becoming the forgotten man this season, provided some steel to a blueline that needed it.
Whereas Drewiske has never been more than a spare part since arriving in Montreal - after missing the first four months of the season through injury he was waived earlier this week and sent to the minors - Weaver should offer some short-term utility.
Since they flogged Raphael Diaz to the Vancouver Canucks for fourth-liner Dale Weise a few weeks ago, the Habs have had precisely one right-handed defenceman in the lineup: P.K. Subban.
That has required moving players like Alexei Emelin and rookie Jarred Tinordi to their off side, with mixed success - Emelin, in particular, has been middling with gusts to horror show in his own end.
It's not clear that Weaver will immediately slot into the lineup, but if he does it will likely come at the expense of Tinordi, even if the stats suggest Douglas Murray should be relegated to press box duty - expect to see him used as a more mobile complement to Murray on the bottom pair, although it would be intriguing to see how he fares with Andrei Markov on the second pair.
If it seems counter-intuitive (or borderline insane) to put a 35-year-old journeyman who's generously listed at 5-foot-10 and has only six points in 53 games alongside Markov, the numbers suggest it's crazy enough to work.
True, the Panthers are no defensive powerhouse, but Weaver has nevertheless been one of their most-used defencemen in key defensive situations.
He leads Florida in penalty-killing minutes (yes, they own the worst penalty kill percentage in the league, but that's not down to one player), and according to extraskater.com, the Bramalea, Ont., product has been on the ice for more defensive zone faceoffs than any other Panthers blueliner.
He has also faced the toughest competition; unlike the ponderous Murray, he doesn't need to be sheltered with plenty of offensive-zone faceoffs.
Weaver is a decent skater and a no-nonsense defender, so having him alongside Markov is a palatable option; so is moving Markov back with Subban and slotting Weaver in with Josh Gorges, although that's a pairing that would have a tougher time with bigger opponents down low.
It would also make sense to try Weaver with Tinordi, who could revert to his natural side; that seems the least likely option given Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin's seeming attachment to Murray, a veteran big body in a lineup not exactly rife with them.
In any case, the price is right for Weaver, an impending UFA who is making $1.1-million this season (the Habs will pay the pro-rated portion of his salary).
So think of him as Drewiske-like if you must, he could also end up being a pleasant surprise.Report Typo/Error