PENTICTON, BC. — Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs and the NHL, over the past few weeks. The recent signings, the pending Subban contract, unrestricted free agency, the collective bargaining agreement negotiations and more. Feel free to post your comments as they are always welcomed.
1- When the news came out that the team signed Carey Price to a six year contract worth $39 million (cap hit of $6.5M), it was received with mixed emotions amongst some Habs’ fans. Some think that it is a lot of money to give to a guy who hasn’t won anything yet. Others are pointing to Price’s numbers in spite of playing on a team searching for an identity. Either way you look at it, the reality is that the Canadiens had no other alternative and the team had no leverage with no goaltenders to speak of in the system. Every Habs’ fan, the coaching staff and management are all hoping that the deal pays off.
2- Price was not the only young player signed. Lars Eller put his name at the bottom of a $2.65 million deal spread over two seasons ($1.325M cap hit). Acquired in the transaction for Jaroslav Halak, Eller recorded a career high 16 goals in 2011-12, and many feel like this season should be the year where the 23 year old takes a major step forward with his career. Here is hoping that he will be able to do just that under Michel Therrien, who seems to like Eller’s style of play.
3- Another restricted free agent also signed a two-year deal with the Canadiens. Defenseman Raphael Diaz, who was amongst the top rookies on offense at his position, will be receiving $2.45 million for the length of the contract ($1.225M cap hit). One has to wonder what this signing will mean for fellow countryman Yannick Weber as both players are right-handed and bring similar attributes to the team.
4- After signing a couple of UFA’s, Marc Bergevin has been busy insuring that the team kept its depth by agreeing to terms with three of its RFA’s. Aaron Palushaj, Frederic St-Denis and Blake Geoffrion all signed two-way, one year contracts with the team. With those players in the fold, the Canadiens might be able to survive a few injuries if or when they occur next season.
5- The above mentioned signatures only leave P.K. Subban as a RFA to sign. Coming off his entry level contract, Subban will be looking for a pay raise after leading the team in ice-time last season. He has rejected the Canadiens’ qualifying offer, which is a technicality as no signing bonuses can be attached to such offer. Mike Green did the same and agreed to a three-year-deal with the Capitals. But seeing the amounts given to other RFA’s like Green, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Tyler Myers, one has to wonder what kind of term and dollars the Subban clan will be seeking.
6- Speaking of dollars, TVA Sports reported that Shane Doan was contacted by Marc Bergevin and the news, if we can call it that, was confirmed by Doan’s agent, Terry Bross. The 35-year-old is still holding hopes that the ownership situation can be arranged as his priority would be to stay with the Coyotes. Crazy rumours have been circulating that a team in the East apparently has offered Doan $30 million for four years ($7.5M cap hit). Not only is the contract ridiculously high, but when considering that it would be an over-35 contract and would count against the cap even in case of retirement, it would be insane for anyone to even think of offering such a contract. While Doan is the type of player that I love, I personally don’t believe that he would sign in Montreal. He would be more likely to go to a contender with more star power, for a run at that elusive Stanley Cup, as opposed to a team that finished in the basement.
7- As we know, former Habs Guillaume Latendresse signed a one-year, $2 million deal (with bonuses) with the Ottawa Senators. Many were quick on the trigger in blaming Marc Bergevin for not offering the local product a similar deal. Little did we know, as TVA Sports reported, that Bergevin had indeed offered the same contract to Latendresse, who turned around and asked for more years from the Habs. Here’s hoping that this will serve as a bit of a lesson to those who are premature at spitting on the organisation for not signing local players. Sometimes, the bad guys aren’t the ones we want to blame first.
8- Much has been said about the way Michel Therrien chose Jean-Jacques Daigneault as an assistant coach over Larry Robinson. In an interview with The Gazette, Robinson mentioned that he could not meet with Therrien in the time given due to the clean-up from a tornado that had hit his property a few days before. The former Habs All-Star defenseman nicknamed Big-Bird didn’t wait long before finding a job, as he signed with the San Jose Sharks. It is interesting to note that the Sharks gave him the title of associate coach instead of assistant coach, although it may not mean anything. While I would have preferred Robinson, there is no denying of the work Daigneault has accomplished with the young Rangers like McDonagh, Del Zotto and Girardi. He deserves his chance.
9- As if having the highest taxes of all 30 NHL teams wasn’t enough, Montreal also has to deal with two recent complaints about subway station employees not wanting to sell transit passes to people who don’t speak French. A few weeks ago, it was two Montreal Impact players including midfielder Miguel Monntano who were refused access to the subway, and the most recent incident was directed at the appointed minister Michael Dunning, who filed an official complaint. Those negative media stunts, including the countless manifestations and violence, certainly don’t help Marc Bergevin in his quest to convince players to choose Montreal over other NHL cities. It can however explain why the Canadiens must pay more to get those players. It goes without saying that other factors also come into consideration.
10- Ahhh, UFA’s… Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, after capturing most of the attention before and after July first, have decided to settle in Minnesota to play together. They stated that location, ownership stability and the team’s prospect pool were key factors in their decision. Personally, I take a wild guess (pun intended) that they each had 98 million reasons to want to stay with that team for 13 long years. By the way, we’re still waiting for that domino effect they were all telling us would be happening.
11- In my opinion, the NHL’s first offer to the NHLPA is a slap in the face and shows the lack of good faith by commissioner Bettman and his negotiating team. The league offered to cut the players’ share of the revenue from 57 per cent down to 46 per cent. They then want the players to remain restricted for ten years as opposed to the existing seven years. The league wants the contract lengths to be no more than five years (who gives those contracts, Gary?) The NHL also wants to eliminate signing bonuses and would make salaries the same for every year of the contract, eliminating salary arbitration while extending entry-level contracts from three to five years. In 2012, one would think that they could base their negotiating on more current methods of negotiation by cutting the unnecessary waste of time and get straight to the point, especially after losing a full season the last time the two sides got into that situation.
12- Hockey fans better prepare as yet another lockout looming. The NHL offer appears to be nothing but a test to see how strong the NHLPA is this time around. With Donald Fehr at the helm, Gary Bettman might realize sooner than later who he’s dealing with this time around. While I was fully supportive of the NHL owners the last time around, I now have zero sympathy for people who had a chance to fix the NHL with a hard cap but couldn’t manage their own destiny. I’m behind the players this time around and the NHL better hope that the lockout doesn’t last too long, as many fans are already fed-up with Bettman’s antics and rule changes in a lame attempt to attract fair weather fans with gimmicks, at the expense of long time, hardcore fans.
It will be a long summer folks. Brace yourself, we’re in for a bumpy ride, one that hopefully won’t take us into 2013 without hockey.