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Canadiens Watch: Higgins Habs future up in the air

As far as job interviews go, Chris Higgins is having a tough one.

It’s not that the 25-year-old is in any danger of being out of work, but he was probably eying a promotion in this, the final year of his contract.

Higgins is one of many Montreal Canadiens eligible for free agency this summer, though his status is that of a restricted free agent and the team does have the right to match any offer the winger gets.

Not that they’ll be pouring in after the season he’s had. There’s been no shortage of disappointments this year in Montreal and you can throw Higgins’ name squarely on that list - in bold, black ink. He’s missed 25 games with hand and groin injuries, scoring just 10 goals and 20 points in the 50 contests he has dressed for.

Banged up or not, those are unacceptable totals for a three-time 20-goal scorer who tallied a career-high 27 goals last season.

Given the Canadiens’ season appears destined to end in disaster, this summer is shaping up to be one of massive turnover. Could Higgins, with his paltry totals this year, be one of the guys GM Bob Gainey decides to move out the door rather than sign to a new deal?

Anybody who’s ever read a newspaper or turned on a TV in the province of Quebec knows Higgins and trade rumors go together like struggles and finger pointing.

Personally, I don’t think it’s time to give up on this guy. And while I don’t think he’s by any means a deal-breaker when it comes to acquiring a front-line talent via trade, cutting ties with Higgins based on this year’s performance would be a mistake.

Higgins isn’t an elite talent, but he’s capable of being a contributing member on a team’s top two lines. Moreover, he’s the kind of player who, when he’s not scoring, still contributes in other fashions. He works hard, kills penalties and doesn’t shy away from physical play.

He’s starting to look a bit more confident of late and Gainey even rewarded him with some power play time in Saturday’s shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

A strong finish to the season would go a long way towards Higgins convincing Gainey he is worth having around.

This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.

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