In part one, Pierre Gauthier: A busy off-season, we looked at the work done by the Canadiens’ GM so far this spring, with the signings and negotiations with some players on the team who are scheduled to become RFA or UFA this summer.
Today, we will have a look at the other options available to the Canadiens’ General Manager. But first, we must determine the team’s needs and that’s where it can get dicey. It goes without saying that deciding on the team’s needs is based on opinions. You will understand that those will be based on my personal opinion and that yours may be completely or partially different. After all, when we see 30 NHL GM’s disagreeing on the value of a player or a prospect, it’s even more normal that fans like us could see things a bit differently.
The Canadiens have several players under contract. They are, with their cap hit:
Scott Gomez ($7.357M), Mike Cammalleri ($6M), Tomas Plekanec ($5M), Brian Gionta ($5M), Andrei Kostitsyn ($3.25M), Travis Moen ($1.5M), Lars Eller ($1.27M), Mathieu Darche ($700K), Jaroslav Spacek ($3,83M), Hal Gill ($2,25M), Alexei Yemelin ($984K), PK Subban ($875K) and Carey Price ($2.75M). That’s 8 forwards, 4 defensemen and a goaltender tying up just over $41 million (according to Capgeek.com.
If we take for granted that our RFA will be re-signed, we can then add, with last year’s salary:
Benoit Pouliot ($1.35M), Max Pacioretty ($910K), Ryan White ($850K), David Desharnais ($550K), Tom Pyatt ($500K), Josh Gorges ($1.1M), Yannick Weber ($875K) and Alexandre Picard ($600K). The total is now of 13 forwards, 7 defensemen and one goalie. An easier way to show the players under contract would be like this:
Cammalleri – Plekanec – Kostitsyn
Pacioretty – Gomez – Gionta
Moen – Eller – Darche
Pouliot – Desharnais – Pyatt – White
Gill – Subban
Spacek – Yemelin
Gorges – Weber
The Canadiens’ needs
The team finished last season 23rd in the NHL with 2.60 goals per game. Was it due to injuries? Not at all. The previous year, the Canadiens were 26th out of 30 teams with 2.56 goals per game. The team must improve in that department.
Considering that they finished 7th on the power play, it’s at even strength that the Canadiens must improve the most. Having said that, is it a player-personnel issue or is the problem behind the bench, with the system imposed on the team? You’ll find some good argument on both sides in this debate. But one thing is for sure, the Canadiens must find a way to score more goals at even strength.
Another factor is that the Canadiens finished 26th out of 30 teams in hits. This stat is even inflated a bit as it’s taking into account Maxim Lapierre’s 104 hits in only 38 games before being traded! This issue really needs to be addressed in my opinion.
Finally, based on the players currently under contract, the Top 6 forwards have three question marks: Will Scott Gomez rebound from his disastrous season? What kind of season will Kostitsyn have? How will Pacioretty react after his injury? Two of those question marks are related to the two biggest Top 6 forwards on the team. The Canadiens need a true power forward who can contribute offensively and create room on the ice for the smaller, skilled forwards on the team. In addressing this need, Pacioretty and Kostitsyn can have a healthy competition for Top 6 minutes, while adding depth to the 3rd line or in case of injuries.
Also, in spite of the emergence of young Subban and Weber, this defense is not NHL calibre at this time. What immediate impact will Yemelin and/or Diaz have? The team needs a Markov or another good experienced defensemen to cement this defensive corp.
There are three ways to address the Canadiens’ needs:
- Free agency
While there are some good young players in the system, none of them are ready to take on a Top 6 role and be an improvement over Kostitsyn or Pacioretty. The Canadiens also don’t have a defenseman in the system who would be better than the ones already under contract.
Rumours are everywhere that Paul Stastny and the Avalanche aren’t seeing eye to eye. As a matter of fact, Petr Stastny went public last year adding to the speculations that his son could be available. But what are the 25 year old center and his $6.6M contract worth in a trade? How could the Canadiens fit him under their cap even if they had the assets Colorado wanted? It has been rumoured also that defenseman John-Michael Liles could be available.
If the Flyers give in to Ilya Bryzgalov’s salary demands, they’ll have to clear some major cap space. Rumours around Philly are that Jeff Carter could be sacrificed. What would be keeping Gauthier from inquiring about Carter or Scott Hartnell?
Now to free agents… Let’s start with the defensemen:
Eric Brewer (145 Hits, 120 blocked shots); Kevin Bieksa; James Wisniewski; Christian Ehrhoff; Ian White (144 blocked shots); Shane O’Brien (164 hits); Andy Greene (157 blocked shots); Roman Hamrlik (192 blocked shots); Tomas Kaberle (at the right price)
Now the forwards:
Brooks Laich; Zenon Konopka (57,7% face-offs, 25 fights); Eric Bélanger (55,3% face-offs); Michael Ryder; Erik Cole; Tomas Fleischmann; Chuck Kobasew; Chad Larose (196 hits); Joel Ward; Raffi Torres; Ben Eager; Michael Rupp; Ville Leino; Darcy Hordichuk; Arron Asham; Brad Winchester (171 hits, 10 fights); Sean Bergenheim; Tanner Glass; Steve MacIntyre
In conclusion, as you can see, there are options available to Pierre Gauthier this summer. It remains to be seen which direction he wants to take, and if he will or not do like Mike Gillis did with Alain Vigneault, in telling him that the strictly defensive style is in the past, while providing his coach with the proper personnel to change that style.
En Français : Pierre Gauthier: Adresser les besoins du Canadien