NHL Free Agency: Montreal Canadiens' Roman Hamrlik Signing Seems Unlikely

Jason HitelmanCorrespondent IJune 29, 2011

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 23:  Roman Hamrlik #44 of the Montreal Canadiens takes the puck in the third peirod against the Boston Bruins in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 23, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in double overtime.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

I would never have believed Pierre Gauthier's most difficult signing during the offseason would be Roman Hamrlik.

In fact, I didn't really think that he would be a target after the Habs signed Alexei Emelin.

The 37-year-old Czech defenseman has refused the one-year contract offered to him by the Canadiens. He, apparently, is seeking a longer term.

The question is: Will Gauthier bow down and give him a second year?

The Canadiens' general manager had a clear plan for his lineup. With Hamrlik signed, the Habs would have seven regular defensemen under contract (Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Josh Gorges, Hal Gill, Hamrlik, Jaroslav Spacek and Emelin) with Yannick Weber assuming the role of a fourth-line forward.

It looked like a pretty deep d-corps and a rather safe experiment with the contracts of the aging Hamrlik, Gill and Spacek set to expire at the end of the season.

Hamrlik's contract demands put a real damper on things.

I think Gauthier would be more inclined to offer a younger defenseman a multi-year deal when push comes to shove.

James Wisniewski would obviously be more expensive, but I think the Canadiens could get away with signing him to a three-year deal worth, say, $13.5 million. Seems like a lot of money for a guy who often struggles in his own zone. 

With newly signed prospect Rafael Diaz waiting in the wings, I think the smartest move for the Habs would be to go with what they have and focus on signing another forward. Let Weber develop in his natural position rather than trying to turn him into something he is not.