Former Canadiens forward Benoit Pouliot
The NHL deadline for offering qualifying offers to restricted free agents (RFA) was 5:00PM EST. Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier made a few key decisions that have drastically altered the Canadiens lineup for the 2011-2012 season.
Players not tendered a qualifying offer by their respective NHL clubs will be unrestricted free agents (UFA) on July 1st. Just because a club has not tendered a specific layer does not mean they cannot resign with said club, it's just very unlikely.
The Canadiens let three players walk without tendering a qualifying offer they are forward Benoit Pouliot, forward Tommy Pyatt and defenseman Alexandre Picard. All three players will be free agents on July 1st.
While Gauthier decided to let some players walk, he also tendered offers to defensemen Josh Gorges, defensemen Yannick Weber and forward Ryan White. By tendering these players their rights are protected from the 29 other NHL clubs, should an offer sheet be filed on any of these players the Canadiens will have the right to match the offer or take draft pick compensation on a sliding scale.
It seems apparent with these moves that Gauthier believed Pouliot would not meet his potential here in Montreal—he will now have the opportunity to salvage his career elsewhere. While Pyatt who came to the Canadiens as a throw in piece as part of the Gomez trade, had become a favorite of coach Jacques Martin for his solid defensive play and decision making.
It seems Gauthier did not see Pyatt as an integral piece in the Canadiens plans moving forward, probably due to the large amount of third or fourth-liners who can play better two-way hockey than Pyatt available on the UFA market on July 1st. While for Alexandre Picard he became expendable with the improved play of P.K Subban, Yannick Weber and the signings of Raphael Diaz and Alexei Yemelin.
By letting Pyatt, Picard and Pouliot walk Gauthier also leaves close to $3 million in salary on the table, some cash that can be used for some key parts that will be available on July 1st.