What the Habs should do this summer

This NHL postseason taught us a lot of things, and the Montreal Canadiens were the teachers for most it. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=montreal+canadiens&iid=8869931″ src=”d/2/3/9/Philadelphia_Flyers_v_3cf3.jpg?adImageId=12977551&imageId=8869931″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]

They showed you don’t need to build a team for the regular season, but for the playoffs. They showed that a really good goalie can steal a playoff series. And they showed that an average team has a shot against powerhouses if they have players who willing to sacrifice their bodies to block shots.

Unfortunately, they also showed that they are an average team, and don’t look to get much better in the future.

While they’re strong in nets and on defence, their offence doesn’t show a lot of signs of getting better. The young forwards look to be career third- and fourth-liners. Their two best young offensive players (a set of brothers) look to have played their last games with Montreal.

So while the playoffs gave us hope, there is still a lot of work to be done. If Mike Cammalleri didn’t score, then odds were the Habs weren’t going to win. They have no scoring depth, and need a couple more proven playoff performers to be able to make a serious run in the postseason.

They also need a different system. They can’t expect to get outshot, outchanced and outhit and still win four series. It just doesn’t work like that. It tires out a team, its defence and its goaltender.

Now, because of Montreal’s play this postseason, they get the 27th pick in the 2010 entry draft, so if they want to remain competitive, they need to make some moves. Remember, they had a brutal regular season, and lost its last three regular season games to non-playoff teams, even though they needed to win to make the playoffs.

So here are some things I think Montreal needs to do this summer. Now, it may sound like I’m blowing up the team, but I’m not. I’m keeping most of the core players. But there are some drastic changes that need to happen.

So here’s what I would do:

Trade Andrei Markov [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=andrei+markov&iid=8266403″ src=”f/5/c/9/Montreal_Canadiens_v_0e0d.jpg?adImageId=12977568&imageId=8266403″ width=”234″ height=”338″ /]

Some may call this crazy, but it actually makes sense on so many levels.

First off is the fact he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer. This means teams can take a chance on him, and if he doesn’t work out, it’s no big deal for them. His cap hit is a manageable $5.75 million, which is great for a team looking for a #1 defenceman. Plus, he’s still a workhorse, playing huge minutes, manning the powerplay and killing penalties. In short, he can do it all.

So why get rid of him?

It’s simple. It’s like we mentioned above. He’s a free agent next year, and will be worth a lot this summer if the Habs want to trade him. They’ll never get more for him than they will now. Once the season starts, it will be harder to trade him because of cap space issues. But trade him early enough in the summer, and teams have plenty of space to take on his contract before signing other players. Also, Habs fans and players would be better off learning to live without Markov at the start of training camp than halfway through the season.

He’s also 31 years old (turning 32 this year), and has started to get hit by injuries. Sure, they’re freak injuries, but he missed the playoffs last year, got injured at the start of this season, and went down again in the first game of the second round. It’s got to be a concern.

Another reason is his salary. While it’s great for a top-tier defenceman, the Habs are going to have cap issues, so it’s better to deal with that now. Next summer, Markov will probably want something around $6.5 million, and the Habs wouldn’t be able to afford to keep him. Plus, this will probably be his last big contract, and will want big money.

He doesn’t want to be captain. While it’s great that he can admit he doesn’t feel comfortable in that role, I think I would rather have someone who can lead on the ice.

The final reason is that PK Subban is ready to join the team. He’ll eat up the minutes, kill penalties and play the point on the powerplay.

By trading Markov, the team can get prospects, draft picks, and possibly a good second-line player. Imagine if the team trades him to Colorado, who is in need of a top defenceman. The Avalanche have plenty of good prospects and young players. Imagine if Markov was traded for a package that includes Chris Stewart (a big youngster who had 28 goals and 64 points in his second full season). That’s not a bad return for a guy who may walk next summer.

Get rid of the Kostitsyn brothers [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=andrei+kostitsyn&iid=8753941″ src=”b/1/9/8/Montreal_Canadiens_v_14bb.jpg?adImageId=12977587&imageId=8753941″ width=”234″ height=”275″ /]

Andrei Kostitsyn especially. The guy has a tendency to play a few bad games, and then have an amazing game. Then he goes back to playing with no heart or passion.

Or, he’ll play a bad game, but then he’ll have one shift that shows he could be one of the most talented players on the team. It makes him frustrating to watch.

Sound familiar? All that’s missing are the words “The enigmatic.” You could substitute Alexei Kovalev’s name in there for any point of his career.

I think Kovalev rubbed off on the young players in a negative way when he was a Hab. Too many of youngsters started to float around and feel like they didn’t have to give it their all shift after shift after shift. That culture is now changing, though, and it’s time to finish it. Get rid of Andrei.

Sergei may be a different story. Although he took some heat for not practicing with his other teammates who were scratches during the second round, Sergei may still have a salvageable career in Montreal. He’s an offensive threat, and stronger defensively than his brother.

Besides being a restricted free agent, Sergei seemed to change once he was sent to the AHL earlier this year, and maybe he’ll be a better player if the team sends him another message of his brother being traded. But if not, then it’s time to cut ties with both of them.

The two of them are still young enough and talented enough that the Habs could get back a half-decent prospect or draft pick.

Don’t be afraid to let Plekanec walk [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=tomas+plekanec&iid=8646928″ src=”e/e/b/6/Montreal_Canadiens_v_d9c8.jpg?adImageId=12977607&imageId=8646928″ width=”234″ height=”158″ /]

Tomas Plekanec had a great season this year. He led the team in points, was the key faceoff guy, and was responsible defensively. And he’ll probably want something among the lines of $5.5 million per season.

That said, unless he’s willing to sign a contract for a max of $3.5 million a year, the Habs need to let him walk. If the Habs overpay him, it would create another contract on the team that would be hard to trade once he starts to slip. Sure, that may not be the popular opinion, but it’s something  that needs to be done.

Here’s four reasons why:

1) Plekanec is a streaky player. His season point totals since the lockout goes like this: 29, 47, 69, 39,  and 70. Is that worth $5.5 million a year for four years? No, it’s not.

2) He was only 49 per cent faceoff winning percentage in the regular season (key faceoff guy, but loses the majority of his draws). That number plummeted to 47.1% in the playoffs. Not good for a #1 centre.

3) He’s not a great shootout guy. Only one for six in 2009-2010 and two for 13 in his career. Heck, Pierre Dagenais has two shootout goals for the Habs, and he only played 32 games in the shootout era. Winning shootouts gets you playoff spots, and a guy wanting a lot of money needs to be able to come through in the clutch.

and most importantly, 4) his size. He’s not a big guy (only 5′ 11, 190 pounds, which makes him big on the Habs, but not against other teams). The Habs have plenty of undersized players, and they don’t need to worry about keeping another one.

And this doesn’t take into his poor playoff performance. Sure, 11 points sounds good, but only four of those points were goals, and seven of those points came in the first six games against Washington. In his last 13 playoff games, he had zero goals and four assists. Yet his linemate, Michael Cammalleri, had eight goals in those 13 games. So Cammy was getting the points without his playmaking centreman setting him up. Not good.

When you look at other players that finished with around 70 points this season, this is what you get: Eric Staal, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Vincent Lecavallier. Yes, they all make more than $6 million, but for them, 70 points is a down year, not a career high.

In actuality, Plekanec should be making around what Derek Roy (69 points), Nik Antropov (67 points) and Alexandre Burrows (67 points) make: between $2 and $4 million a year.

So if Plekanec won’t take a cheap hometown discount, it would be better to let him go.

Trade Carey Price [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=carey+price&iid=8822541″ src=”2/a/6/3/Montreal_Canadiens_v_dabc.jpg?adImageId=12977623&imageId=8822541″ width=”234″ height=”183″ /]

I think Price should have been the future of this franchise, but that ship has sailed now. There’s no way the Habs can afford to keep both Price and Halak next year. And with the postseason that Halak had, more people will want to keep him. And that’s understandable. Wrong, but understandable.

If the Habs were to keep Price over Halak and not do well next year, that would create way too much pressure on Price and lead to a fan revolt.

So Price should be traded, where in a few years, he’ll be one of the top goalies in the league. Price is still young enough with a pedigree good enough that he would command a solid package in return. Maybe picks or prospects, or a decent second-line player.

There are still some teams out there that need a good young goalie. Philly is still in need of a top goalie after the Ray Emery experiment failed (I don’t think they’ll trust their franchise long-term to either Brian Boucher or Michael Leighton). Lightning haven’t had a good goalie since 2004. The Sharks could be losing Evgeni Nabakov to free agency this summer and will need someone to replace him. The Blues need to decide whether to sign Chris Mason or go with Ty Conklin in net.

I think Tampa and St. Louis would be the frontrunners. Any team with youth up front knows they are a few years away from being great, and having a young goalie that can grow up with the rest of the team would be a good thing.

Name a captain [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=michael+cammalleri&iid=8699846″ src=”9/e/d/f/Montreal_Canadiens_v_d84d.jpg?adImageId=12977645&imageId=8699846″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]

This past season was the first time the Habs have ever gone without a captain. And many people didn’t like it.

Sure, a leader doesn’t actually need a C on his chest to lead, but it’s more for the fans. They want to be able to root for someone, or know that there’s someone that is going to be there for the team, and come through when most needed. It’s easier for the fans to be able to pick someone out that will answer the bell for the club.

I understand why they didn’t name a captain this past year. Markov didn’t want it, and the team had gone through such an overhaul that it was better to wait.

But the time has come now for someone to step forward, and really, it’s the easiest decision of the summer.

It’s gotta be Mike Cammalleri.

There’s the numbers that back this up. He’s the most dangerous man on the ice for the Habs. He’s the only player on the roster one figures could pot 50 goals next year. He had a great playoffs. He’s signed for a few more seasons (which means he’s less likely to leave), and he never gives up on the ice.

But it’s not just the numbers. More than any other player last year, he seemed to understand the history of the team and respect it. If there was something to do with the Habs 100th anniversary, he did it. If someone from the past came to the locker room, he seemed to genuinely be excited about it.

In short, he is proud to be a Montreal Canadien.

He also bought tickets for military troops and their families as a way to say thank you for serving our country.

He’s the team’s leader, on and off the ice, and should be made captain because of it.

Resign Dominic Moore [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=dominic+moore&iid=8774005″ src=”1/3/7/d/Montreal_Canadiens_v_4bba.jpg?adImageId=12977659&imageId=8774005″ width=”234″ height=”148″ /]

Showed a lot of fire in the playoffs, and works hard every shift. Scores timely goals. Can be a great third-liner, or a half-decent second liner. He can kill penalties, score the odd goal, and is good on faceoffs. If we can resign him for about $1 million or less (which should be doable, since he’s only making $1.1 million now), we should. 

Resign Glen Metropolit

He had a career year with 16 goals, 10 of which came on the powerplay. A hard worker, he isn’t scared to go to the front of the net, will battle through injuries, and is a presence on the ice. Because of his career year, he may want a salary increase from the $1 million he made last season. He’s 36 years old, so if we can sign him for about $1.25 million, I think we should. If he wants $1.5 million or higher though, we need to let him walk.

Resign Benoit Pouliot

I still think Minnesota got the better of the deal when the Canadiens traded Gui Latendresse for Pouliot, but Pouliot was a nice surprise. He scored 15 goals in 39 games for the Habs, after scoring only nine in 65 games for the Wild. Unfortunately, he’s a streaky player. He scored only one goal in the last 14 games of the regular season, and zero in 18 playoff games (with only two assists), despite spending a good amount of time on the second line and on the powerplay. I do like his speed, his work ethic and the fact he’s only 23 years old, which means he has lots of time to get better. I say we sign him to a two-year contract for about $1 million a year (a small increase from the $800,000 he currently makes), and see what he can do the next few years. If he’s able to be more consistent, that’s great. But if he doesn’t, then he doesn’t cost a lot and he’s gone in a couple of years.

Resign Maxim Lapierre [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=maxim+lapierre&iid=8774034″ src=”f/b/1/8/Penguins_vs_Canadiens_469c.JPG?adImageId=12977678&imageId=8774034″ width=”234″ height=”187″ /]

A poor man’s Claude Lemieux, he gets better in the playoffs. Not scared to be an agitator, will bump the other team’s goalies, and generally try to get the other team off their game. Yes, he had a bad season, but last summer people were considering him as captain material. That sort of stuff just doesn’t disappear. Another hard-worker, and a great third-liner for a team that is short of players wanting to mix it up. I wouldn’t mind if he was signed to a three-year deal for about $1.5 million a season, especially after the playoffs he just had.

Let Marc-Andre Bergeron walk

Last November, I wrote a letter to Marc-Andre Bergeron, asking him to leave the Habs because he wasn’t performing. He doesn’t like to hit, doesn’t like to be hit, and he actually seems to forget there’s a d in defence. He ended up scoring 13 goals, had 21 assists and was a -7 (that dropped to a league worst -12 in the playoffs). There’s probably a reason he’s played on four teams in the last three years, and wasn’t signed last summer until the Habs needed someone to replace Markov. His salary cap of $750,000 is impressive though, but in the end, I think it’s same thing as Markov. The Habs need to let Subban lead this team, and they’re actually deep at this position (with Hamrlik, Spacek, Gorges, O’Byrne and Gill, not to mention youngsters like Subban). Plus, I think there’s a couple a half-decent free agents that can take his place pretty easily.

Trade for Dustin Byfuglien [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=Dustin+Byfuglien&iid=8892974″ src=”8/4/c/a/Chicago_Blackhawks_Byfuglien_251c.jpg?adImageId=12977773&imageId=8892974″ width=”234″ height=”314″ /]

Yes, I know, easier said than done, especially after the playoffs he just had. But Chicago is going to have a hard time meeting the cap (they’re already at the cap limit for next season, and still need to sign Antti Niemi, John Madden, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Adam Burish, and about five other guys, or sign players to take their place). Byfuglien and Brent Seabrook are free agents next summer, and I think Chicago will want to hold on to Seabrook. That means Byfuglien could be available if the Blackhawks want to clear up space.

The guy is scrappy, can score (three straight seasons with 15 to 20 goals), can play as a defenceman if needed, can bother the other team and is a big strong body. I think he’d be great for the Montreal powerplay (just screen the other goalie) and makes $3 million next season.

I think the Blackhawks won’t trade Byfuglien for cheap, but the Habs need to make an effort to get a big body.

(P.S.- I originally wrote this part after the first round, when Byfuglien had zero playoff points because he was playing as a defenceman. His playing great upped the price, but I still think the Habs need someone like him.)

(P.P.S. – This is what I wrote on Dennis Kane’s Montreal Canadiens blog last week: “Maybe, just maybe, we could convince them to trade Campbell and Byfuglien for Markov and the Kostitsyns (with a draft pick or prospect thrown in). They save money (Markov is a free agent next summer, so they could use that money to resign Seabrook), and get speedy youth, and get rid of Campbell’s contract. We get a younger, more expensive and more skilled version of Markov, and the powerhouse we need. Could be a win-win.” I now think the Habs would have to add more to the deal, but if the Blackhawks want to get rid of Campbell, they’ll have to add something else to the deal)

Free agents

So let’s just say the Habs listen to me, and make all the moves I’ve outlined above. That means they’ll have about $10 million in salary cap space to play with (about $3.5 million extra if Plekanec doesn’t sign). They’ll also buy out Georges Laraque this summer, which will save them a little but more money as well. That’s quite a bit to make a move this summer in the free agency market. And despite what you may read elsewhere, there’s a good crop of players that could help the Habs.

Remember, most of the Habs core will be staying here (Gionta, Gomez, Cammalleri, etc.), so there’s no need to make drastic moves. All they need to do is get some complimentary players. Here’s the top 10 players that could help the Canadiens (and no, I don’t think we need to sign all of them, just a couple of them): [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=ilya+kovalchuk&iid=8589409″ src=”6/2/f/8/New_Jersey_Devils_6ce7.jpg?adImageId=12977702&imageId=8589409″ width=”234″ height=”363″ /]

Ilya Kovalchuk: A bit more than a complimentary player, but the only true top-tier free agent out there, and I would like to see a 50-goal scorer in Montreal before the Canadiens celebrate their 200th season. But at the same time, the Habs don’t need to go overboard. If they make a pitch for him, make it a long-term deal similar to what Marian Hossa got, where the salary at the end of the contract is low to keep the cap hit down.

He just turned 27, but here’s the key. Unlike a lot of 50-goal scorers, Kovalchuk doesn’t need a lot of help to succeed. He doesn’t need an Adam Oates-type player to get him the puck. After all, he’s not Dany Heatley. He carried the Atlanta Thrashers team on his back with little help for years. He made Todd White get 73 points two seasons ago.

Only one time in his eight-year career has he scored less than 38 goals, and that was his rookie season when he got 29. The guy is money, and imagine him playing with someone like Gionta and Gomez, leaving Cammalleri on the second line as another scoring threat. That would be great.

Now, odds are this won’t happen. But the Habs need to make a pitch. Offer him a 12-year deal where he gets $9 to $10 million a year the first year, and close to $1 million a year near the end. Make the cap hit around $6-$7 million a year. And since everyone else will be making Kovalchuk the same type of offer, the Canadiens need to show him why Montreal is the place to be. Show him the fact the Habs have a system, that they can upset top teams in the playoffs, that Montreal is a great city to live in and the history is amazing. Appeal to his sense of playing in front of a rabid fan base (which would be a change after all those years of playing in Atlanta, followed by a few months in New Jersey).

Do what we can, but give it our best effort to sign this guy. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=paul+kariya&iid=8319681″ src=”7/f/b/a/St_Louis_Blues_4ae5.jpg?adImageId=12977756&imageId=8319681″ width=”234″ height=”325″ /]

Paul Kariya: Failing Kovalchuk, there’s a lot of guys who can help fill out the second and third lines that could be signed for a good price. Kariya had an off-year, and still finished with 43 points, which would have had him fifth on the Habs scoring list this year. Kariya is a leader, and you can’t have too many quality guys. Won’t make anywhere near the $6 million a year he has been recently, but $3 to $3.5 million is doable, especially if he can score and get 50-60 points.

Ray Whitney: A consistent 20-goal scorer, strong skater, could teach some of the younger players what it takes to win. Has a Stanley Cup ring, and as these playoffs have shown with Hal Gill, that means a lot more than most people think. Could sign him for about $2 to $2.5 million.

Rob Blake: If the Sharks had won the cup, I could see him retiring. Would be a good leader to have on defence, and would be a calming influence. Gets nastier in the playoffs, and isn’t scared to clear the way in front of the net. Will probably be signed for $3 million.

Matt Cullen: Will be the most sought-after character guys in the free agent market. Will probably sign for about $3 million, and will want at least a three-year deal. He’s consistent, plays the powerplay, is a great penalty killer, and led the Sens in the playoffs this year.

John Madden: One of those third or fourth line guys that steps it up in the playoffs. Chicago won’t be able to resign him, so look for him to change teams. Maybe $2 million a year for one of the best shadowers in the league.

Teemu Selanne: He’ll probably retire, but I included him just in case. Even in old age, can still score a ton. Will probably cost about $4 million to sign though.

Bill Guerin: Another veteran. Just look what he did for the Penguins. Despite his age, he still plays the top line and on the powerplay, and is great come playoff time. He also scores about 20 goals a season, and his cap hit will be about $2 million. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=derek+boogaard&iid=3171258″ src=”8/3/d/2/St_Louis_Blues_88e4.jpg?adImageId=12977718&imageId=3171258″ width=”234″ height=”334″ /]

Derek Boogaard: Yes, let the laughter out now, but I think the Habs need to get tougher, and not all of your guys need to be scoring machines. There’s a reason Boogaard is well-loved in Minnesota, and it’s not just the fighting. The guy knows how to hit, and hit often. And with his size, it hurts. He doesn’t score because he doesn’t need to (and the fact he only shoots the puck about once every four games helps that stat). I’d rather have Boogaard on the bench playing about six minutes a game than Matthew Darche sitting on the bench and not playing at all. Sign him for $1.5 million, and let him protect the smaller players.

Kurtis Foster: One of the most underated defencemen out there. Had nine goals and 48 points last year. Yes, that was well above his career high of 28 points, but he would be a nice fourth or fifth dman. Plus, he could probably be signed for about $800,000 (he made only $600,000 last season).

Do not sign

Under any circumstances, do not sign the following players: Andy Sutton (goes out of his way to make a big hit, leaving himself out of position), Matthew Lombardi (will want too much after a surprising year in Phoenix), Patrick Marleau (too expensive), Olli Jokinen (not a good leader, not consistent, has been traded three times in three years), Alexander Frolov (will want too much money), Joe Corvo (too much like Marc-Andre Bergeron), and Anton Volchenkov (will want too much money to block shots and not do anything else).

Lineup

So under my plan, our lineup next season could look like this (not including any players we might get from trading Markov or the Kostitsyn brothers):

Gionta-Gomez-Kovalchuk

Cammalleri-Kariya-Cullen

Lapierre-Moore-Pouliot

Boogaard-Moen-Metropolit (not including a trade to get Byfuglien)

Subban-Gorges

Hamrlik-Spacek

O’Byrne-Gill (with Blake in there somewhere)

Halak

Cheap backup to be named later

That team could compete, would be better than the team we just iced, would work hard, and would actually be under the cap by about $5 million, in case we want to make a deadline deal.

Will it happen? Probably not. But it’s fun to dream.

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26 Comments

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26 responses to “What the Habs should do this summer

  1. Danno

    Ryan, I just read your piece and it is very good. Dennis Kane is a very wise man to consider you for a front office job with the Habs after he buys the team!
    Only one thing I kind of wonder about. Benoit Pouliot. How could he have showed such promise after the trade with Latenderness and now he has become such a disappointment. Yes, he’s young, but I wonder if he has some underlying problems…

    • I’m not sure. Dan Cleary was the same way when he first started with Edmonton, but ended up becoming a solid player. Maybe he needs a wake-up call like Claery had (no team wanted him, had to go to Detroit and play his way on to the team through training camp).

  2. Danno

    I said Ryan, but I think your name is Tom.
    Sorry about that…

  3. I don’t think Pouliot has the drive. When I was a smallish-yet-speedy right winger for the Orillia Byers Bulldozers Midgets, I recall many times skating down the ice with the puck and thinking about getting laid instead of what I was going to do next. I feel Pouliot is sort of the same only he’s taller than me and probably has a better shot.

  4. So let me get this straight. You want to sign Byfuglien and then stick him on the fourth line with Derek Boogaard? I’m not sure that is the best use of Buff’s abilities.

    Next, apparently you have decided to throw out the salary cap to make this roster happen. The Habs are at 45.7 mil against the cap next season. You have to figure Kovalchuk is going to get at least 10. He was offered 11 by Atlanta and turned it down. Figuring 10, that puts the team at 55.7 million, or about 1 million shy of the cap. He isn’t the type of guy to sign a deal that helps the team. He’s selfish, and if the money doesn’t make him look special, it won’t happen.

    That leaves no room to add Byfuglien, unless you find someone to take salary, which obviously cannot be the Hawks. Even if you can dump Price, which is doubtful, it only adds 2.2 million. Say you somehow manage to do so, it gives them 3 million. Which is what you want to pay Cullen.

    With the guys you say you want the Habs to re-sign (not resign, that would mean to quit), they would likely eat up the 3 million you want to give to Cullen. Pouliot has to be qualified at 100%, likely to go up. Metropolit is going to get a raise.

    The Kostitsyns aren’t going anywhere, sorry. Doug Risebrough didn’t get the job in Tampa, so no one is stupid enough to take them. Andrei has to be qualified at 100%, Sergei at 110%. Lapierre at 110% as well, but he likely gets more than that.

    I really only stopped by because Google Reader told me you were discussing Boogaard, but the whole scenario doesn’t work.

    • I didn’t put Byfuglien on the fourth line. I said those would be lines, not including a Byfuglien trade. Obviously, if Byfuglien was traded to Montreal, then he would be on one of the top two lines. But it wouldn’t have made sense to give the first line, and say it doesn’t include Byfuglien. That’s why I put the note at the end of the forwards line.

      Kovalchuk didn’t re-sign with Atlanta because he wants to go somewhere new. They gave him the max possible, and he turned it down. He’s not going to get more anywhere else in the NHL. That’s why I was hoping he would take a Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa, Roberto Luongo type deal. He gets a front-loaded contract and lots of cash, but the cap hit is reasonable (I actually think he’ll wind up with the Caps though).

      In regards to the Habs cap situation, with my vision, Markov would also be traded, saving almost $6 million there. Sergei Kostitsyn does not need to be re-signed (thereby not counting toward the cap since he’s a free agent) and Andrei Kostitsyn, well, let’s hope someone is willing to give him a chance (which always happens: Bertuzzi has been given three or four chances now. Someone will take a chance on a young player with talent). And I did give Pouliot and Metropolit a raise.

      So if Markov is traded, and Kovalchuk signs a cap-friendly deal for about $7 million, that’s only an increase next season of about $1.25 for the Habs.

      • Sergei will be qualified. Count on it. NHL teams rarely do not qualify their RFAs.

        Tell me why Chicago trades Campbell at 7.1 mil and Byfuglien at 3.1 for Markove at 5.75 and the Kostitsyns at a combined roughly 3.9. That is trading 10.1 million in salary for 9.65 million in salary, and they give up the best player in the deal in Byfuglien.

        Bob Gainey is with the Habs, not the Hawks.

        They need cap relief now, not after next season. Trading Campbell may be an option, but bringing 5.75 back in Markov doesn’t fly.

        I think you are putting a pipe dream into writing. Kovalchuk signs for 10 million a year, or he bolts for the KHL. He wants his money, and he doesn’t care who gives it to him, as long as it isn’t Atlanta. No one wants the Kostitsyns, so offering them up for a potential Conne Smyth winner is ludicrous.

        You say you gave the re-signed players raises, which is great, except that you didn’t lay that out in the post. As they taught you in school, you need to show your work.

        Who takes all this salary you want to dump? Why do they do it? Why do other teams suddenly want the players you so badly want the Habs to get rid of?

  5. Gérard

    I agree with everything but the Markov trade. Markov has had a tremendous career in Montreal and still should have a number of good playing years left. What is more, his style of play both fits the new NHL and doesn’t lend itself to rapid decline (good outlet passes, smart puck movement, etc).

    What about moving Hamrlik’s contract for next season for prospects or even future considerations if need be, and re-negotiating to sign Markov to a 9 year deal that would actually decrease his cap hit to 4 or 5 million? This would save a lot of money next season and allow the team to build the back end around him and Subban. Plus, if Markov’s play falls off, he would be easier to deal given the lower salary for the last few years of his deal.

    I understand why it is good to be bold and strategic with your assets – and that my proposed Hamrlik move is more of a salary dump than a good return on an asset. However, Subban is a hopeful replacement for Markov and not a sure thing (maybe he’ll be injury prone or regress) and franchise players like Markov aren’t available every day. I think it would be just as bold to make a long-term decision to lock Markov down.

    Thoughts?

    • We wouldn’t get much in return for Hamrlik. I think we’d get more for him at the trade deadline because teams wouldn’t have to pay his full salary and it wouldn’t be such a big cap hit at that point.

      Signing Markov to a nine-year contract means he’d be with the Habs until he’s 40. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but most defencemen have their best years between 26 to 32 years old. If Markov starts to decline, we wouldn’t be able to trade him, no matter how attractive the cap hit, simply because he would have too many years left on his contract.

      I do like the thinking outside the box though (if we’re going to sign him, go big or go home mentality).

      • Gérard

        We wouldn’t get much for Hamrlik, it’s true: moving him would be more about making space for others than it would be seeking a big return.

        I guess I only see five possible options re Markov:

        1) Trade him as you suggest. Markov is very popular and has been the best player on this team for at least the last five years. Unless you can land an amazing deal with immediate impact, I can’t see this happening. Anything less smells like a re-build which would not go down well after a decent cup run and almost two decades of rebuilding. Montreal has had so few proven elite-level players it seems unthinkable to trade the only real one they have at the moment they appear to be turning a corner. I like your idea, I just can’t imagine a scenerio wherein we get the right return and can sell that return to the fan base. This kind of deal would take balls and involve a major remake to a team that has just been remade. I don’t think the cajones or appetite are there.

        2) Resign him to a conventional contract after or during next season. Unless Markov has a terrible season, lets say this is for 3 to 4 years at top-market price, the 6.5M range. Montreal simply can’t afford this kind of deal with the amount of money it has tied up in its current contracts. You’re right in thinking that this can’t really be an option.

        3) Sign him to the type of Contract I suggested earlier – say something between 7 and 9 years that greatly reduces his cap hit. Even if his production falls off after a few years, I think this would still be worth it. And I don’t think you’re right that he would be untradeable at 35 or 36 if his production fell off. Would you take a risk on a Lidstrom or Pronger or Blake or Boyle (you might not agree with the comparisons) or any other defencemen of his status if they had a few less then stellar seasons but were available at a reasonable cap hit for a few years near the end of their career? Unless there are serious injury concerns – and even then – I think the answer is absolutely.

        4) Wait until the trade deadline next season and trade him if Mtl is tanking.

        5) Do like we usually do: wait for his contract to expire and then let him walk away.

  6. Gerard, it’s option 5 I’m worried about. I like options 1 and 3 the best. But what I’m worried about is that if he doesn’t resign, and we’re battling for eighth spot again, do we trade him? That’s why I think it’s better to trade him this summer. It gives the fans time to adjust to the fact he’s not here.

  7. @Buddha:

    Why would Chicago take Markov and the Kostitsyns? Because both Andrei’s are unrestricted next season, meaning Chicago would have an extra $10 million in cap space to re-sign guys they need to re-sign. And I did say the Habs would have to add more (prospects? draft picks? Who knows?).

    I guess Kovalchuk is going to the KHL. No way a team signs him to a $10 million deal for 10 years.

    As to your other point: “You say you gave the re-signed players raises, which is great, except that you didn’t lay that out in the post. As they taught you in school, you need to show your work.”

    Ummm… I think I did. For Pouliot: “I say we sign him to a two-year contract for about $1 million a year (a small increase from the $800,000 he currently makes)”

    For Metropolit: “Because of his career year, he may want a salary increase from the $1 million he made last season. He’s 36 years old, so if we can sign him for about $1.25 million, I think we should. If he wants $1.5 million or higher though, we need to let him walk.”

    For Moore (although this one isn’t a raise because he’s an unrestricted free agent): “If we can resign him for about $1 million or less (which should be doable, since he’s only making $1.1 million now), we should.”

    Did they not teach you in school to read the whole thing before writing down answers?

    And for your final set of questions: “Who takes all this salary you want to dump? Why do they do it? Why do other teams suddenly want the players you so badly want the Habs to get rid of?”

    I explained Markov, and I think there would be a market for him. Not re-signing Pleks and Bergeron, they don’t need to worry who picks them up since they’re unrestricted and can sign anywhere they want. And I would be willing to bet there are a few teams out there that would be willing to take a chance on Price. So that only leaves the Kostitsyns. Again, the NHL is filled with guys who have gotten plenty of chances in their career (Dan Cleary was my example in another comment above), so someone would be willing to give a 25-year-old former top 10 pick a chance, along with his younger brother.

  8. Bubble

    Sorry, but first of all, no one’s going to want Sergei K’s little temper tantrums. Also, saying you like Benoit Pouliot’s work ethic is like saying you like it when your friend comes to help you paint your house but then lets you do all the work. Maybe he works hard in practice, but it clearly doesn’t show come game time. As a Wild fan who also hates the Habs with a fiery passion, I know for a fact that this is an aspect of his game that didn’t change in MTL.

    Second, Big Buff isn’t going anywhere. If the Hawks are trading anyone, it’s either Sharp or/and Versteeg, and believe me, the Habs do not need another overpaid contract in Campbell. I would think Gomez is enough for one team to overpay for.

    Third, I hope you don’t expect everything you talked about in your post to happen at the same time? I fail to see why you would need to bring so many changes to a team that just made the conference finals (albeit quite miraculously). All they really need is a good scorer to take the load off Cammy’s shoulders and a replacement if Plekanec leaves. This is where Price comes in: It’s been rumored the Devils want to give a top line forward for Price, if this trade goes through, the answer’s been given.

    Fourth, I agree about letting MAB walk and letting Subban come on to the big stage, he’s become a hell of a good player and it’s nice to see a MTL product not becoming screwed up (don’t worry, Minny’s been just as bad in the developpment of prospects, look at James Sheppard!) However, Subban’s going to need big minutes and this is where trading Markov would make sense, but I don’t think he’s going anywhere. Sure he’s a #1 d-man, but injury concerns alone will make him rather hard to move, and if he does move, it’s likely the Habs will have to accept more salary in return.

    Fifth, why do you think that it’s wrong for the Habs to trade away Price and not Halak? Talk about being ungrateful! If he stays in MTL, Price will NEVER become the top flight goalie he was supposed to be. It won’t happen, he can’t stand the ruthless MTL fans night in and night out, and who could blame him? Price is still a child, the Habs should’ve given him a season or two in the A for him to grow. Halak on the other hand won his #1 spot, well deserved. He also showed he can take the heat when things go bad and he certainly proved he’s a big playoff goalie. The only test he needs to pass is ”Is he capable of going through the 82 game schedule as #1 after being a back-up his entire career?” I think he’s ready. Boy, MTL really have a problem with giving players spots they don’t deserve: Price, Pouliot (giving him a first line spot right away after never really giving G-Lat a legitimate chance.. plus Pouliot never proved anything in his career, there’s a reason he only played 65 games in Minny!), Darche (I still wonder why he got benched, yet Martin let guys like Pouliot and Kostitsyn still play? Darche deserved way better)…

    Sixth, Kovalchuk ain’t playing in the NHL this year unless some crazy GM decides otherwise.

    Seventh, ”You don’t need to build a team for the regular season, but for the playoffs”… Sure, but you do need to actually MAKE the playoffs, which the Habs almost couldn’t do. It could be argued that the injuries played a big part in the Habs almost not making the playoffs, but that’s just the thing, if you had a durable squad, that wouldn’t have been a problem. Look at Minny, we lost the second biggest number of man-games in the league this season (mostly because of Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s 81 games missed), but injuries are part of the game, EVERY team suffers a couple of injuries in the season, it’s not a viable excuse anymore. That being said, if you have some good players who don’t miss too many games, you’ve got a good shot at making the playoffs. The first step is making the playoffs, then anything can happen. You don’t necessarily need to win the President’s trophy, but at least make the playoffs. Could you imagine if the Flyers hadn’t had a good enough team to steal a playoff spot away from the Rangers? What about the Habs? Can you imagine if they wouldn’t have been able to hang on to their playoff spot despite needing only 3 points in the last 8 games to clinch it? The playoffs would’ve looked mighty different…

    Whew! Excuse me if it looked like I was rambling, I just had to get it off my chest…

    • That’s a lot in there. I’ll just take some of the points for a response:

      Benoit Pouliot: He played well to start his time with the Habs, and was actually a solid player in the first round against Washington (despite not scoring). He was getting chances, lots of shots, and was solid. But then he started fading (frustration maybe?), and before too long, he was back to the Pouliot of the end of the season. I think he’s got enough skill to stay with the team, but he needs to work harder to get through those slumps.

      I didn’t think Big Buff (I think I’m going to call him Buffy from now on) is going anywhere either. Like I said, I wrote that when he wasn’t playing forward. If he had stayed as a defenceman the whole playoffs, and had no goals and a couple of assists, it would have been easier to trade for him. But he does too well against the Canucks to not put him at forward.

      I don’t think all this would happen, but I think it would help. I think the Habs playoff run was a fluke more than anything, and I’m worried they’ll suffer from Edmonton-itis. When the Oilers made the cup finals a few years ago, they thought they were set, instead of realizing it was a fluke run. I don’t think the Habs can win a cup with this group of players.

      About Markov, I agree they’ll have to take back some salary, unless they can trade him to a team that has a lot of cap space (hence my suggestion of Colorado).

      Agree about Price. That was my point. Habs fans should have let Price develop over the course of a few years (like Fleury in Pittsburgh), and if we had to suffer losses because of it, so be it. So I think Price will be much better than Halak in the future, and Habs fans should realize that (which they don’t). Most just see current stats, so if Halak was traded and Price wasn’t winning, then the fans would be all over him. The best move is to keep Price and be patient, but that won’t happen.

      Disagree about Kovalchuk.

      Agree with the part about the playoffs. Some players become a different beast in the postseason (Buffy being a good example, Gary Roberts is another good one). It was the injuries that did the Habs in. They just couldn’t put together a consistent effort unless they went on a fluke streak at some point (Halak’s six-game winning streak in December, for example, which started the whole goalie debate, came against non-playoff teams).

    • Sorry, also forgot to add the part that said this was one of the most intelligent comments I’ve ever had on the blog. It was a pleasure to read.

      • Bubble

        Wow! Thanks 🙂

        About Pouliot, to me it seems all he did was feed off of Gomez and Gionta. Granted, I didn’t watch all their games, but I watched enough.

        About the habs’ playoff run, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m nothing if I’m not honest so here goes… ”gasp”…. I don’t think it was a fluke! I think it was more a matter of finding the Caps and Pens’ weakness. They’re skill teams, they don’t have too many booming slappers on the point, they scored most of their goals up close, and the habs found a way to keep that at a minimum, which is why they were forced to shoot from afar where Halak could easily handle the shots, and his D did a great job taking care of the rebounds… ugh… I’m going to have to wash my fingers and keyboard with soap! Hahaha…

        And to be honest, I have trouble imagining Chicago getting rid of a big, versatile (can play all positions) and hard working guy like Buff, even before the playoffs. Then again, the salary cap can be a real pain on some teams.

        Most habs fans just see the ”now” and not the ”later”, which may be why Price was forced up when they traded Huet. But then again, a lot of fans from all over are like that. I like to consider myself a fan that can bear to wait a couple of years if it means real success. I’m very optimistic right now with our new GM, who has been nothing short of genius so far, and our new, promising college free agents, who give a lot more credibility to our prospect pool, which used to be non-existant. I also like to think that I’m realistic in that we don’t have a playoff team yet, not even close. Sure we may make the playoffs next year, but we’ll probably get creamed…

        Edmonton-itis.. good one! Maybe it could’ve also been called Carolina-itis or Tampa Bay-itis..

  9. Bubble

    Also, don’t anyone dare laugh at the Boogeyman, or he’ll come and get you!

    • “About the habs’ playoff run, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m nothing if I’m not honest so here goes… ”gasp”…. I don’t think it was a fluke! I think it was more a matter of finding the Caps and Pens’ weakness.”

      I think there were only a couple of teams the Habs matched up well against, and those were the two teams they defeated. I think they would have had trouble against New Jersey, Ottawa, Buffalo, and half the teams that missed the playoffs. And I think Pittsburgh losing Guerin for a couple of games in the second round helped the Habs a lot. The Pens dominated game one due to many factors, but Guerin was the main reason with his screening in front of the net.

      I think Washington was outcoached in the first round, mostly because they weren’t willing to change their style of play.

      But against a team that runs the net, screens the goalie, and has good wingers? We saw what happens to the Habs when they play those types of teams in the Flyers, and it’s not pretty.

  10. Danno

    I sort of feel that way too. Could it be that Jacques Martin knew we matched up better against the Caps and the Pens and made sure we successfully jockeyed for 8th place in order to avoid the teams we don’t match up well against? We lost quite a few games near the end of the season and only squeaked in with the loser point against the Leafs.
    It does make you wonder…

  11. I need some of what you are on. You live in a dream world.

    No one will sign Kovalchuk to a $10 mil per deal? Write down the exact date and time you said that. There are teams that will be willing to do so, and I have listed them for you. For the last time, if they don’t, he will go to the KHL, not to Montreal. Keep dreaming though.

    As for the dollar amounts after the RFAs, I have an edit button over at Hockey Wilderness, too. They were not there originally, so… good on ya for covering you butt with that.

    You are the only person on the planet that thinks the Kostitsyns have value. Let me correct that. People in Montreal are the only ones who think they have value. They don’t. Let it go. You’re stuck with them, and the horrible contracts.

    Bringing up Plekanec and Bergeron is avoiding the topic, as they are not included in the cap hit for next season, so who cares?

    You are willing to bet there are teams willing to take a chance on Price. As I have asked you before, name them, please.

    The NHL is indeed filled with guys who have been given too many chances, but none of them are drama queen Soviet bloc nothings.

    Now. Cut straight to it. Do the math on your line-up. You have no back up goaltender, and your salary comes in at $63.058 million.

    You are going to say “Show your work,” so here it is:

    Gomez 7.37
    Squid 6
    Gionta 5
    Moen 1.5
    Laraque 1.5 (He is still under contract…)
    Maxwell 0.735
    Hamrlik 5.5
    Spacek 3.833
    Gill 2.25
    Gorges 1.3
    O’Byrne 0.942
    Moore 1.1 (He will not take a pay cut)
    Metropolit 1.25
    Pouliot 1
    Lapierre 1.25
    Byfuglien 3
    Kovalchuk 7
    Karyia 3.5
    Boogaard 1.5

    This does not include a salary for Halak, either, since you do not have one listed in your post. So until you edit it to include one, I am going to simply figure the standard RFA raise of 5%, which puts him at $.840 million, but we all know he has to get more than that.

    Say they buy out Laraque, he gets counts at a buy out rate of 2/3 of the contract, or 1 million, split up evenly over double the number of years remaining on the deal, or two years, so a hit of $500K.

    So, that puts the total cap hit at $62.058 million. Even with the likely $2 million raise in the cap, it will be around $58.6 million. You are roughly
    $3.458 million over the cap.

    Care to change your post to cover this up, too?

  12. By the way, those are your numbers, listed in the post, not mine. Except for Moore, of course, but there is no reason for him to take a pay cut.

    As for the Hawks taking Markov and Kostitsyns because of the cap relief… they need relief now. Not after next season. Trading for an equal amount of salary doesn’t work, even if it does give them relief a year later.

    Also, you argued that Markov is going to Colorado, now you are arguing he goes to Chicago again. Which is it?

  13. My math was incorrect above, apologies, but things do not get any better on the double check.

    Gomez 7.37
    Squid 6
    Gionta 5
    Moen 1.5
    Laraque .5
    Maxwell 0.735
    Hamrlik 5.5
    Spacek 3.833
    Gill 2.25
    Gorges 1.3
    O’Byrne 0.942
    Moore 1.1
    Metropolit 1.25
    Pouliot 1
    Lapierre 1.25
    Halak 0.84
    Byfuglien 3
    Kovalchuk 7
    Karyia 3.5
    Blake 3
    Cullen 3
    Boogaard 1.5

    Total of $62.37 million

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