MONTREAL, QC. — Pierre Gauthier evidently has a plan this offseason, with the 2011 NHL entry draft and free agency approaching. Last week, I wrote about the Montreal Canadiens cap situation following the signing of Hal Gill, and today, I will elaborate on that thought with the recent signings of both Andrei Kostitsyn and Mathieu Darche, each to one-year contracts.
I like both signings. In the case of Andrei Kostitsyn, although his inKostitsyncy has been his achilles heel throughout his short career, I have yet to give up on him. We’ve seen brilliance from him in the form of crafty goals, blazing speed, and heavy hits, and if he can be matched with the proper line-mates, I strongly believe he can be that guy to score 30 goals in a season for the Habs.
As for Mathieu Darche, what a difference a year makes, eh? Last year, he was fighting to prove that he belonged on the team, and 12 goals and 14 assists later, people are rejoicing over his recent signing. It’s not just about the goals and the points in his case, he’s really earned the respect of his teammates, his coaches, and clearly, the fans. His work ethic and determination opened the eyes of many on just the type of player and person he is.
Let’s look at the impact these signings have on the Montreal Canadiens overall cap situation.
- Scott Gomez: $7,357,143
- Mike Cammalleri: $6,000,000
- Tomas Plekanec: $5,000,000
- Brian Gionta: $5,000,000
- Travis Moen: $1,500,000
- Lars Eller: $1,270,833
- Andrei Kostitsyn: $3,250,000
- Mathieu Darche: $700,000
- Jaroslav Spacek: $3,833,333
- Hal Gill: $2,250,000
- P.K. Subban: $875,000
- Alexei Yemelin: $984,200
- Carey Price: $2,750,000
- Georges Laraque: $500,000
- Total Salary (to date): $41,270,509
- Salary Cap: $59,400,000
- Cap Space: $18,129,491
If we continue to assume that Pierre Gauthier and Jacques Martin will start the season with a 23-player roster (and also assuming Yemelin will make the club), that now means the Canadiens have 13 players under contract, with $18,129,491 left to sign 10 players.
If we look at the forwards, I predict that players like Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Ryan White, who are all restricted free agents, will get re-signed for the next season. Tom Pyatt is another strong possibility as a possible 13th forward.
As for Benoit Pouliot and Jeff Halpern, I believe the Canadiens will opt to not offer them a new contract, and allow them to test free agency this summer.
I would therefore expect that the following players will makeup the Montreal Canadiens top-six forward lineup to start the next season, barring injury of course:
Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri
Max Pacioretty, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta.
Those who are hoping Pierre Gauthier might attempt to sign a top-six forward, I fear will be disappointed, unless he can pull of a trade, which I believe is very unlikely. Too much money is committed to these players to see them play anywhere else in the lineup, and in the case of Max Pacioretty, he’s the only player on the team not making big bucks that is deserving to be there.
The bottom-six could easily be composed of Lars Eller, Travis Moen, Mathieu Darche and Ryan White, leaving a couple of spots open for some cheap signings. I would not expect anything spectacular in this area.
If we look at the situation with the defensemen, here’s where things get a little more interesting. Assuming Yemelin (The Gremlin from the Kremlin) starts the season with the team, the Canadiens have four players signed, leaving three spots open if they should elect to start the season with seven defensemen.
One would expect that Pierre Gauthier will do everything in his power to re-sign Josh Gorges, assuming his recovery is going well, following his knee surgery last season. Gorges has been a pillar on the Montreal Canadiens blue line, not only proving to be a defensive warrior, but a great friend to Carey Price. His leadership and earned respect from his players even had him pegged as a possible “next captain” prior to last season, when everyone speculated who the next Montreal Canadiens captain would be.
Pierre Gauthier has some choices at his disposal with regards to the seventh defenseman position. Likely candidates would be Yannick Weber and Alexandre Picard, both who are restricted free agents with the team. With what we saw at the end of last season and in the playoffs, one would hope Weber gets that spot over Picard. Weber tremendously improved over the course of last season.
Roman Hamrlik, Brent Sopel and Paul Mara will probably end up on free agency this summer, there’s simply no room for them anymore with the Canadiens.
That leaves us with the big question on defense, who will Pierre Gauthier sign between Andrei Markov and James Wisniewski? Habs fans have been arguing this question for months, and with the free agency period approaching, it risks only getting worse. The reality of the situation is, there is a possibility both could be free agents as of July first.
Many feel that with the signing of Yemelin, one could read between the lines that Gauthier would also re-sign Andrei Markov in order to mentor Yemelin, however, one can imagine the signing of Yemelin was not dependant on Markov being able to play that role for him. If Yemelin is as good as some have said, sometimes referred to as a nasty “Darius Kasparitis type player”, then he will be a great defenseman in this league, whether Markov is there to hold his hand along the way or not.
Some rumours indicate that Markov is after a three-year deal while Gauthier would be reluctant to offer him anything more than a one-year contract, while other rumours have his signing with the Canadiens as imminent. Fact is, on the official record, Markov, his agent Don Meehan, and Pierre Gauthier have all been silent on the details of the negotiations.
In the case of James Wisniewski, rumours in his case are that he would want to test free agency this summer, however just like in Markov’s case, there is nothing on the official record to confirm this, and his agent Bill Zito, refuses to comment on the negotiations.
Finally, in the goaltending department, it will be interesting to see who ends up being the backup goaltender to Carey Price for the next season. It’s clearly not an attractive position coming to Montreal to be Carey Price’s backup, knowing whoever ends up being that guy will only play about 15 games next season. Don’t be surprised if Alex Auld is there once again next season, with the exact same contract as he had this season.
Overall, with the exception of a few minor changes, I would not expect the Montreal Canadiens lineup to look much different next season, then it did this season, or does Gauthier have an ace up his sleeve?
Looking for news on the Montreal Canadiens development camp? Look at the following articles by Rick Stephens who has been at the camp all week long: