After a reasonably successful 2010/2011 NHL season, the Montreal Canadiens enter the offseason with most of their core players already under contract and quite a bit of cap space from expiring contracts.
Despite a good season, the team can’t look at that and proceed as if they have no improvements to make. Especially in the Eastern conference, there are a number of young teams that are only going to continue to get better, so Montreal has to keep pace with their opponents.
With the NHL’s salary cap officially set at $64 million, here’s my 15-point plan for GM Pierre Gauthier this offseason.
Tasks already done:
Re-sign Hal Gill
Re-sign Andrei Kostitsyn
Re-sign Mathieu Darche
Sign Alexei Yemelin
First, the defense:
1 – Sign Andrei Markov to a deal worth 3 years-$16.5 million ($5.5M cap hit)
Considering what D usually get on the open market, this is a good cap hit for a #1 defenseman; and for Markov, who is returning from injury, the 3 years is very fair.
2 – Re-sign RFA Josh Gorges to a long term contract of $12 million over 5 years ($2.4M cap hit)
It’s a bit much for a one-dimensional defenseman, but Josh Gorges is a steady and reliable D and is known to be a great leader. Locking him up long term is important, despite missing a big part of last season due to injury.
3 – Lock up pending UFA James Wisniewski, 4 years-$17 million ($4.25M cap hit)
Perhaps I am not valuing Wiz enough, but I just can’t see teams paying him over $4.5 million. I figure he enjoyed his time in Montreal and a small hometown discount would be agreeable. He is very valuable on the PP and definitely worth bringing back.
4 – Trade Jaroslav Spacek for a late-round draft pick or marginal prospect
This may seem impossible, but Spacek is an expiring contract, has a big enough cap hit that teams needing to get up to the cap floor can take on, and is a good veteran who can help mentor young defensemen on a re-building team (see: Florida).
5 – Get Yannick Weber under contract, 2 years-$1.8 million ($900K cap hit)
Weber earned $875k last season, so a small raise is in order. He has shown flashes of brilliance, is good with the man advantage and can be versatile. He is the perfect #7 defenseman for the Habs.
Now, the forwards:
6 – Don’t qualify RFA Benoit Pouliot
The $1.5 million the Habs save in cap space is enough of an asset to let Pouliot walk. He is a tremendous talent who is inconsistent and soft. It’s unfortunate but you have to fold the hand when you know you can’t win.
7 – Re-sign Max Pacioretty for $3.5 million over 2 years ($1.75M cap hit)
Contrary to reports out of Boston, Pacioretty is coming off a serious injury but he did put in half a season of great work for the Habs. This deal is good for both sides, as it offers Patches a bit of a premium for potential, and it’s short term which means the Habs would have another chance to re-sign Pacioretty as an RFA.
8 – Agree to terms on a 1 year-$675k deal with Ryan White
I picked the number 675k so as to not give White more money than Darche. White is a valuable fourth liner, he is physical, drops the gloves and has the ability to score 10-12 goals.
9 – Sign David Desharnais for 1 year-$800k
Some fans think he should get 600k, some fans think $1 million. I think he’s somewhere in the middle and for only 1 year, given he has played less than 50 games in the league. Both sides would benefit from re-assessing after a full season in the NHL.
10 – Move Desharnais to wing on the organizational depth chart
Desharnais struggled at times defensively, so a move to wing would allow him to think more offensively and would create a spot for him in the top 9 so that he could play alongside better players.
This leaves the Habs with 2 needs up front; a fourth-line center, and a winger who can play on the top 2 lines:
11 – On July 1, sign UFA Zenon Konopka for $1.9 million over 2 years ($950K cap hit)
Konopka is among the league leaders into 2 categories: faceoff win % and fights; both of which Montreal could desperately use. His limited offensive ability keeps his cap hit below $1 million.
12 – Sign Brooks Laich or trade draft picks/prospects for someone similar
The Habs can comfortably afford to absorb a cap hit of up to $5 million, which would leave them with over $3 million in room for callups and in-season trades. If Brooks Laich is available, I would sign him for up to $3.5 million. If he re-signs in Washington, I would try to trade for an impact player from a team needing to shed salary (Philly, New Jersey, Pittsburgh etc.).
And finally, the finishing touches:
13 – Re-sign backup goaltender Alex Auld to the same 1 year, $1M contract
There are plenty of good UFA goalies available that can fill this void, but this is more about Carey Price than the backup goalie. Price excelled last year and emerged as one of the best goalies in the NHL, so having said that, I wouldn’t change anything and that includes his backup.
14/15 – Sign both Tom Pyatt & Alexandre Picard, but only 1 makes the team as either the #14 F or #8 D
Both are good guys to have in the organization, carry a small cap hit and are valuable depth players in case of injuries.
Here is what the Habs would look like after this 15-point plan:
(using CAPGEEK.COM Cap Calculator)
Mike Cammalleri ($6.000m) / Tomas Plekanec ($5.000m) / Max Pacioretty ($1.750m)
Brooks Laich ($3.500m) / Scott Gomez ($7.357m) / Brian Gionta ($5.000m)
David Desharnais ($0.800m) / Lars Eller ($1.270m) / Andrei Kostitsyn ($3.250m)
Travis Moen ($1.500m) / Zenon Konopka ($0.950m) / Ryan White ($0.675m)
/ Mathieu Darche ($0.700m)
Hal Gill ($2.250m) / P.K. Subban ($0.875m)
Andrei Markov ($5.500m) / Alexei Yemelin ($0.984m)
Josh Gorges ($2.400m) / James Wisniewski ($4.250m)
/ Yannick Weber ($0.900m)
Carey Price ($2.750m) / Alex Auld ($1.000m)
BUYOUTS: Georges Laraque ($0.500m)
SALARY CAP: $64,000,000
CAP PAYROLL: $59,162,176
CAP SPACE (22-man roster): $4,837,824
There you have it, now get to work Mr. Gauthier! Keep in mind that the 2012 offseason will see $11 million free up between Kostitsyn, Gill, Price, Subban and Moen; so re-signing PK and Price to long term deals should not be a problem.
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.