The Canadian Press reported yesterday that Tomas Plekanec will be an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2010. Plekanec signed a six year $30 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens.
The diminutive second line center joins Mike Cammalleri (four years left at $6 million a year), Scott Gomez (four years left at $7.3 million a year), and Brian Gionta (four years at $5 million a year) to be the core of Montreal's front line offense for the next half decade or so.
The talented Plekanec had a great NHL season with 25 goals and 70 points. His signing makes the UFA market for offensive centers that much thinner.
Anyone desperate for a first line center to pump up their offense, who can't sign Patrick Marleau, will be forced to think about spending big money on Olli Jokinen, Saku Koivu, Matt Cullen, or Matthew Lombardi. There are very few other choices out there among the UFA centers.
Plekanec is a skilled offensive player and has been a very good hab his whole career. Unfortunately, this Montreal team, despite a great playoff run, has huge holes to fill especially on defense. They've now got $52 million dedicated to salary on a team that hasn't re-signed goalie Carey Price yet.
You have to wonder if the Canadiens are planning on playing PK Subban full time (probably a good move) and burying one of their big veteran contracts (Hamrlik $5.5 million?) in the AHL.
If they don't, the Canadiens are apparently going to have to stand pat with a lineup that is barely able to sneak into the playoffs. They had trouble competing five on five, and gave up a fifth worst in the league 32.1 shots-against per game, and an even worse 33.7 shots-per-game-against in the playoffs.
The talented playmaker, Plekanec, will be good to have back. Hopefully he and Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri will produce more offense then they managed in last year's regular season.