Montreal Canadiens: GM Pierre Gauthier Keeps Busy Offseason Rolling
Greetings folks! For those who have been asking: no, my son hasn't been born yet. He's due on June 23, so he still has time. The fact is that 95 percent of babies are born within two weeks of their due date, give or take.
So at this point he could really come any time!
But, like Pierre Gauthier, he prefers to do things at his own pace.
Speaking of Gauthier, the Habs GM has been busy so far this offseason. Already inking Alexei Emelin, Hal Gill and Andrei Kostitsyn, Gauthier announced two more signings yesterday: Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais.
Click on their names to read the official press release for Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais.
Both of these signings are key to maintaining the talented young core of this team. While Desharnais will likely continue to see time in the bottom-six, Pacioretty will be expected to pick up where he left off last season.
In his telephone press conference yesterday at 4:30 p.m., Pacioretty said he is feeling no ill effects of the concussion he suffered at the hands of Zdeno Chara last season.
In addition, he said that since being cleared he has been training hard—for about two months. Patches went on to say he has put on about 10 lbs of muscle and now checks in at about 215 lbs. He also claims to be a faster skater than he was last season.
For anyone who watched this kid play last year, he played a big, rugged game and was surprisingly fast for a big man. For him to now add mass and speed to an already formidable game could help him become a game-breaker for the Canadiens.
Injuries aside, I can see Pacioretty scoring in the 30-goal vicinity next season.
Gauthier seems to be meandering his way from the easier contracts to the ones that are perhaps a little more difficult to figure out. With Pacioretty and Desharnais signed, Gauthier can now turn his attention to Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov.
To be fair, he has been talking with both players' camps for some time now as he works to sign players in parallel. That being said, Markov's agent, Don Meehan, said last week that he expects a deal could be in place as early as this week.
Perhaps even before the draft.
My gut tells me that even if it isn't done this week, Gauthier will ink his All-Star defensive before July 1. Markov will not become a free agent.
Gorges too—destined to become a restricted free agent July 1—is a key member of the Habs' back end. The Canadiens played most of last season without either Gorges or Markov, and having both healthy and in the lineup will make Montreal a much better team.
I can see Markov coming in at around $5.5 million on a two- or three-year deal and Gorges signing for around $3 million per season with longer term.
The open market
Will Pierre Gauthier make a splash on the open market?
That's the burning question on everyone's minds. With the announced salary cap increase from $59.4 million to around $64 million, the Habs' GM will have ample room to hook a big fish.
Keep in mind that Roman Hamrlik is likely done with the Canadiens, so his $5.5 million will come off the books. In addition, as much as I'd love to see him stay, James Wisniewski—and his $3.25 million—is also likely a goner.
That leaves Gauthier with $8.75 million just between those two players. If we assume that Markov and Gorges will gobble up most of that space, say around $8 million, then Gauthier will still have more around $4.75 million extra dollars to play with over and above last year's team.
Gauthier still has to take care of RFA's like Ryan White and Yannick Weber, while deciding what to do with the likes of Benoit Pouliot and Tom Pyatt. But let's assume that none of those players will garner significant increases, if any at all. In addition, players like Pyatt and Pouliot will likely find themselves on the outside looking in as they don't seem to fit into the Habs' future.
All of this to say that Gauthier should have cap room to sign a pretty significant free agent.
The trouble is not the cap space but more finding the right player and hoping that he wants to play in the high tax zone that is Montreal.
A word on Jaromir Jagr
There has been much debate and discussion about Jagr wanting to sign with the Canadiens and, by all indications, the story is legit.
Jagr could definitely help the Habs in several areas, most notably on the power play, but there are too many things about him that make me say "no thanks."
He has an Alex Kovalev-like ability to sulk and drag his feet when things aren't going his way and, as tall as he is, Jagr is not a very gritty player. The Habs could use a healthy dose of size up front, but not if it doesn't come with an edge.
Montreal needs toughness and grit more than size, and Jagr doesn't bring either.
In addition, can you imagine Jagr trying to exist and thrive under Jacques Martin's defensive system? I don't think Jagr has ever backchecked in his entire career!
That sounds like a match made in hell to me.
Lastly, word has it that while the Habs were high on Jagr's list, Gauthier told his agent, Petr Svoboda, that Montreal is not really interested. He has other priorities right now.
That's a bit like telling him, "I'm a bit busy, I have to go stand over there."
At the end of the day, the storylines and rumours and just starting to circulate and I'm sure they'll continue to fly all summer long. The good news is that for the first time in a while, Gauthier has a lot of options.
Now is the time for him to seriously put a stamp on this team.
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 to 9 a.m. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/
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