Montreal Canadiens Cash In On Young Talent

Matt EichelSenior Writer IAugust 24, 2008

Such young talent on such a storied team trying for a 25th Cup in their 100th year.  

A great headline.

But who would have thought that the fate of the Montreal Canadiens' centennial year would be left up to many youngsters not even close to their 30s—or even mid-20s.  And in the new NHL, playing for so little compared with the rest of the league.

Besides the top-paid players—such as Saku Koivu ($4.75 million), Alex Tanguay ($5.375 million), Alex Kovalev ($4.5 million), and newly resigned youngster Andrei Kostitsyn ($3.25 million/three years)—the Canadiens' lineup this coming season gives GM Bob Gainey room to work and maneuver if the Habs still have not found that impact player they need by the trade deadline.

Young forwards such as Maxim Lapierre ($575,000), Sergei Kostitsyn ($550,000), Guillaume Latendresse ($850,000), Chris Higgins ($1.9 million), Tomas Plekanec ($1.8 million), and Kyle Chipchura ($860,000) are all under $2 million a year in the 2008-09 season.

On defense, young players such as Ryan O'Byrne ($700,000), Josh Gorges ($1.1 million), and Mike Komisarek ($1.8 million) are all under $2 million, as well as veteran Francis Bouillon ($1.875 million).  

And in net, Carey Price ($850,000/two years) and Jaroslav Halak ($750,000) are both under $1 million each.

If the Canadiens capture the Stanley Cup in their centennial season, they would cash in majorly with the payroll they have this season.  With many young players in contract years, such as Komisarek, Higgins, Plekanec, Chipchura, Latendresse, as well as veterans such as Tanguay, Koivu, Kovalev, Kostopolous, Begin, Dandenault, and Bouillon, the Canadiens may only be able to have this core group of young players and veterans for only this centennial year.

Great timing?  Or great planning?  Maybe neither.  

Bob Gainey had something up his sleeve when he decided to stick with Alex Kovalev after acquiring him for propsect Josef Balej back in 2002.  Since the deal, Gainey has created a strong core around Kovalev and Koivu, and made the Canadiens into a contender.

And Gainey has done his job very shrewdly, as the young players are under contracts that pay them modestly—yet they perform. Andrei Kostitsynm was rewarded with a large contract, but something the Canadiens could afford.  The same will happen with Price, S. Kostitsyn, Higgins, and Plekanec in the 2009 offseason if they can elevate their games again this season.

It's fair to say that all the players in contract years will be getting handsome pay raises—if the Canadiens can capture that Stanley Cup in their centennial year.

With only six players over $2 million a year signed, the Canadiens are going forward into this 100th year with a relatively smaller payroll.  

And all their hopes and dreams ride with it.