Going into the July 1 free agent deadline, Canadiens’ GM Bob Gainey had ten unrestricted free agents to deal with.
What did he do?
He blew up the team, essentially cleaning house of the supposed “cliques” and locker room problems that burdened the 2008-09 edition of the Canadiens.
Although he did offer contracts to notables such as Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and Mike Komisarek, those players elected to seek other pastures.
Gainey had been scrutinized in the past for allowing key free agents to walk away (Sheldon Souray in 2007 and Mark Streit in 2008), but this off season he made sure the gaps were filled.
And what a job he did, landing Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez with contracts that will keep them, barring trades, in the bleu-blanc et rouge until the 2013-14 season is over.
Jaroslav Spacek, Travis Moen, Hal Gill and Paul Mara were then picked up on the cheap for three,three, two and one-year deals respectively.
He then re-signed restricted free agents Kyle Chipchura, Tomas Plekanec and Guillaume Latendresse for one-year terms.
Curtis Sanford was grabbed to be the bridge goaltender between Hamilton and Montreal.
Based on data from nhlnumbers.com that leaves $3.2 million and change left over that will likely go to resigning Matt D’Agostini and Gregory Stewart.
Prospect P.K. Subban is signed to a 3-year entry level deal, but it has yet to reflect on the cap.
So what was a panic situation by many, on June 30 at 11:59 pm, now appears to be a well balanced group of players with a new head coach in Jacques Martin and a revamped coaching staff (with the exception of assistant coach Kirk Muller) at both the NHL and AHL level.
What’s good for Gainey is that at the end of the 2009-10 season, he will have 16 signed players in the organization, seven restricted free agents (all of whom are making less that $1 million this season) and five unrestricted free agents.
The principle free agent next season will be goaltender Carey Price.
Pending his performance, we can expect “The Franchise” to sign to a long term extension sometime this season.
In all likelihood, Jaroslav Halak could be moved at the trade deadline. The kid is too talented to remain a backup, unless he and Price go the Hayward/Roy route for another two or three seasons.
With long term signings in place, and a good crop of young players signed and in place, it’s safe to say that come June 30 2010, Canadiens fans will be chewing their nails a lot less than this year .
Not to mention that we won’t be worrying about a #1 or #2 d-man walking away next summer.