Now don’t get the wrong idea about a Habs fan writing about free agency before we are out of the playoffs, I Have Not Lost Hope. The free agency market is the most exciting time for a hockey fanatic outside of the playoffs, All-Star game and Entry Draft.
My main analysis is going to be for the Montreal Canadiens and how they can become a better team after golf season. Now many fans are breathing a sigh of relief for the great chemistry our new team has found after being formed less than a year ago, but I still think there can be room for improvement.
I'll starts off with the players on UFA after the season is over, and end with good replacements and a few extras.
Now the Canadiens have around 4.6 million in cap space to work with for next season, which allows us to make a few greedy purchases this summer.
Rounding out the UFA’s are:
Thomas Plekanec- $2.75 million: Plekanec is one of best up-and-coming centres I have witnessed over the last few years. In my estimation he will ask for double the salary he is making now so that he feels as important as Scott Gomez or Brian Gionta. While the Canadiens can afford this, and I strongly recommend re-signing him, we have little hope of signing a better first line centre. Unless we participate in a large blockbuster trade of Gomez/Gionta for a top line centre, lose Plekanec and gain a few prospects (but that’s a totally different article).
Glen Metropolit- $1 million: While he is a decent 3rd and 4th line center, Glen is a small 5’ 10 with 200 pounds on him. While size has proven not to be a disadvantage in the previous two rounds of the playoffs, if you have a goalie who is 6’ 5” screening him is useless.
Paul Mara- $1.675 million: One name – P.K. Subban. He is making the team next year either as a 7th defensemen or bottom three. The Canadiens need room to let this amazing player grow. By ditching Mara we set up more cap space and allow for a young feisty player to make the pros.
Curtis Sanford- $1.6 million: Now Curtis is not a legit goalie yet in the NHL but with the current ifs on Price and Halak, having a backup in Sanford (he was a backup to Luongo) is not a bad idea in legitimizing a No. 1 goalie.
On to the RFA’s. Though a bit harder for other teams to obtain these players they make up the back bone and in two cases the lifeblood of the Habs.
Carey Price- $850,000: Was a brilliant prospect, but burnt out after a few seasons with the Habs, I will stop there.
Maxim Lapierre- $800,000: A proven 4th line center. If Metropolit leaves, he may have a third line job waiting next year.
Jaroslav Halak- $800,000: The proven game maker in the playoffs and the unsung hero of the regular season, he will be shopped for by a large number of teams who have cap space. We may have to pay dividends for a goalie most portrayed as an Andy MacDonald.
Sergei Kostitsyn- $585,000: This is a player I would not mind seeing leave. His brother Andrei Kostitsyn is a proven player on the team even though he may be inconsistent, but without the trouble of watching his brother we can really see the skill of Andrei.
Now god forbid we lose all these players, what next? They still need to be replaced and I like to think it is my job to replace them. Now the defence is perfect, no changing as we have a fit blue line. What needs a revamping is our centre position and goaltending position.
Matthew Lombardi- $2.35 million: While not as skilled as Plekanec, Lombardi has proven himself as a number one centre for his Phoenix Coyotes with 19-34-53 in 78 games this season. With a breakout season Mat may be looking for a 3-4 million contract with a winning team. Seeing the opportunity to be a number one centre, Lombardi may sign for a cheap 3.2 million. While not as productive as Plekanec, we should give him a chance as we did Plekanec. Don’t forget he is a Montreal native and would be an instant home town favourite.
Wayne Primeau - $1.4 million: Now for some reason this player is making 1.4 million on just 8 points in 59 games, though it was with the Leafs. Yet this player is worth a little around 1 million because of the grit and size he brings to the game. Easily replacing Metropolit and allowing another prospect into the game when Primeau is benched or another player is injured.
Vinny Prospal- $1.1 million: With a 20-38-58 in 75 games, Vinny is a much needed reliable, secondary scorer. Give him a raise to $2.2 million he might be a Habs with little pout.
Now if both Halak and Price leave then another number one goalie will be needed. While Sanford can’t hold his own, a few reliable goalies could fill the gap. The best fit in the Habs salary cap would be:
Marty Turco - $5.4 million: A goalie looking to redeem himself, the Quebec native goalie would thrive in a hockey mad city instead of the football mad one in Dallas. Coming off a very mediocre season that came up with 22 wins in around 50 games. A very reasonable 3.5-4.3 million dollar cost for Turco to hold the crease.
Chris Mason- $3 million: A late bloomer and thought of as a backup for most teams, Mason has proven himself with a 30 win season. Though he is not as reliable as proven veterans, he shows skills and the ability to make key saves with the right chemistry. Up his salary to $4-4.7 million and Mason may move to La Belle Province.
If either Price or Halak re-sign with Montreal, a proven back up would be needed to stand behind either goalie.
Alex Auld- $1 million: Given the chance, Auld has shown he is able to rise to the occasion and be able to lead a team to victory. Lately Auld has seen little time with little complaint. He would be able to take 20-30 games off the starting goalie in Montreal with ease. Better than the 21 game start with a poor Turco in net.
There are my predictions on the upcoming UFA for the NHL and how Montreal can come out on top. I hope you enjoyed the read and remember ‘keep your stick on the ice’.