Bob Gainey stepped down Monday as Montreal Canadiens general manager, clearing the way for Pierre Gauthier to take the reins in La Belle Provence. Gauthier, for his part, has many important decisions to make regarding the direction of the team including whether to make a splash at the trade deadline, signing superstar Tomas Plekanec to a long term contract, and sorting out the goaltending non-controversy. (This article originally appeared on Unplucked Sports)
Trade Deadline Chatter
Gauthier, who will be the club’s 16th GM, takes the management helm in Montreal one week before the trade deadline. Understandably, Gainey stepped aside with enough time to for Gauthier to put his fingerprint on the roster. Whether or not he’ll make any changes to the lineup remains to be seen.
Gainey, while announcing his departure, mentioned that he and Gauthier are maintaining dialogue with potential trade partners, indicating a move was quite possibly in the works.
Gauthier was formally the general manager for the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks, and also the director of professional scouting for the Habs. He was also instrumental as one of three general managers for the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. Needless to say, his people are on the ground.
Signing Tomas Plekanec
Gauthier indicated that the team is in contact with Plekanec’s agent, working on a deal that will keep him in Montreal for the long haul. And why shouldn’t he? Of all the free agent talent Gainey signed for this season, the best move was resigning the restricted free agent to a one-year deal.
Plekanec, with 58 points in 60 games this season, is a gifted hockey player who will undoubtedly contribute at a high level for the squad. In recent weeks, the Canadiens were decimated by injuries to Mike Cammalleri, Andrei Kostitsyn, Benoit Pouliot, and Marc-Andre Bergeron. In the absence of these offensive contributors, Plekanec will be called upon to pick up the slack.
Jaroslav Halak or Carey Price?
As far as most people are concerned, Halak is the number one goalie for the Canadiens. Carey Price had plenty of opportunity to take his game to another level. He faltered, and the 24-year old Halak has run away with the gig. Over his last eight games, Halak owns five wins, has kicked away 310 ten shots, and even recorded a shutout.
GM Gauthier correctly assessed Montreal’s strength at the goaltending position. "We have two strong young goaltenders who give us a chance to win every night. We believe we can go forward with them, and they give us our best chance to get into the playoffs." Such an assertion indicates that both will be on the roster past the deadline, though their performance will seriously impact their residency with the team.
What does this all mean? The Canadiens have a fresh GM and Executive Vice President who will guide continue to drive for success in Montreal. He can’t be expected to walk in and make sweeping changes to the team. He’s likely been groomed for the position since earlier in the season, so any impact Gainey made early in the season has Gauthier’s finger print on it.