The General Manager’s position is restless. At this time of the season, when the team is not in the playoffs, players’ evaluations are done and GMs know who they want to keep and who they will let go.
Two years ago, we saw Bob Gainey complete a major clean-up and bring some much needed new blood in the dressing room in desperate need of change after the disastrous centennial season.
Pierre Gauthier has started his shopping by finally signing Alexei Yemelin and agreeing to terms on a contract with Swiss UFA Raphael Diaz, two defensemen. Gauthier, who only had two defensemen under contract for next year in Spacek and Subban, was not done when he signed veteran Hal Gill to another one year deal. Gill had a great influence on young stars PK Subban and Carey Price amongst others and he will continue in that role. Some say that Gauthier is negotiating with Andrei Markov, a delicate negotiation if we consider his recent serious injuries. There is also RFA Josh Gorges who is due for a substantial raise this summer, as well as fellow RFAs Yannick Weber and Alexandre Picard. Roman Hamrlik, James Wisniewski, Brent Sopel and Paul Mara, who have all helped at the blue line last year, are all UFA this summer.
Gauthier wasn’t done, agreeing to one year contracts with forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Mathieu Darche. Five other forwards are RFA this summer. They are, with last year’s salary in brackets: Benoit Pouliot ($1.35M), Max Pacioretty ($910,000), Ryan White ($850,000), David Desharnais ($550,000) and Tom Pyatt ($500,000).
In goal, Carey Price is under contract for another season while his backup, Alex Auld, is a UFA.
It remains to be seen if Pierre Gauthier will be able to improve on last year’s team in addressing the needs of depth, toughness and adding some much needed offensive punch to a team that finished amongst the worse on offense in the entire NHL.
Will he trade for a power forward to better assist the smaller skilled forwards on the team, or does he have someone in line for that position? Will he address the lack of toughness on the bottom six? Would Jacques Martin, who wasn’t playing Maxim Lapierre, know how to use that type of player? Will he chose to look for another defenseman if he feels that Markov’s requests are too rich and that he’s too much of a risk?
Many questions, few answers.
In Part two, we will take a closer look at the team’s needs and explore player options to answer those needs in helping improve the Canadiens. To be continued…
En français: Pierre Gauthier: Une entre-saison bien remplie