Expectations were high for Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu going into last season, but things definitely didn’t work out as planned.
He opened the regular season on Montreal’s top pairing with Shea Weber. But after just a handful of games, Michel Therrien decided he had seen enough.
Alexei Emelin was moved onto Weber’s pairing and Beaulieu was dropped further down the depth chart.
The 24-year-old finished the season with a career-high four goals and 28 points in 74 contests, but his situation didn’t improve under new head coach Claude Julien.
With the Canadiens facing elimination in Game 6 of their first-round series against the New York Rangers, Julien decided Beaulieu wasn’t deserving of a spot in the top six, so he made him a healthy scratch for the most important game of the season.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” Beaulieu told the Montreal Gazette in April. “A lot of positives coming out of this year, though. It’s s—– the way it ended, but try to find some positives going into the summer is the best way to look at the situation.”
With the expansion draft on the horizon, Montreal will surely protect Weber and Jeff Petry. Now, they’ll have to decide if they want to commit to Beaulieu, who is an RFA this summer, or a steady player with little upside like Jordie Benn.
Even though the 2011 first rounder’s stock is at an all-time low, you’d have to think that Vegas would pounce on him if he’s left unprotected by the Canadiens.
Over the last three seasons, there have been moments when Beaulieu has looked terrific on the ice, but like most young defensemen, consistency has been a problem.
If he can put it all together, there’s still enough time for him to develop into a regular top four rearguard. Whether that’s in Montreal or not remains to be seen.