Habs Free Agent Signings
This article is solely based on my opinion and what I think about the signings by the Habs. With that said, at first i hated the Hamrlik and Smolinski signings but, if one were to truly think about it, they are fairly good signings possibly bordering great signings. Yeah, they aren’t Briere or Drury or Marleau, but what they are though, are 2 verteran leaders that come at a fraction of the cost of Briere and all the rest. Philly’s royally screwed for the next 6-8 years because they can’t get rid of Timonen or Briere even if they wanted to because both have no movement clauses which basically means they can’t be demoted, traded, put on waivers, released or bought out. Gomez is THE most over-rated free agent signing because he has scored over 15 goals once in his career, maybe twice. Ryan Smyth isn’t worth 6 mill a year and Drury isn’t either though the latter is awefully close. Now, I have faith that Souray will find it in his heart to come back but I also believe that only San Jose is in the running for him considering LA and Anaheim already spent their money on players. New Jersey, who is “supposedly” looking at Souray, they won’t get him. I believe that San Jose isn’t either because since they couldn’t get Drury, their gonna sign Marleau to an extension, or at the very least try their damnest, so that may take them out of the running. That practically eliminates all the California based NHL teams, which is why i have faith that Souray will sign back for roughly 4 years at 25-30 million, which the Habs can now afford, since they have only spent 2 million on Smolinski and 22 million on Hamrlik (roughly 5.2 mill a season). That’s 7.2 out of a possible 13-14 million the Habs could potentially spend this year. Ryder will get 3-4 in arbitration and Plekanec will probably accept the Habs qualifying offer which probably borders 1.5-2 million. which leaves the Habs with roughly 2.3 million but since Gainey said he will probably make some trades, I see Bouillon and Dandeneault being traded for some prospects and/or draft choices ranging from 2nd to 5th rounders. Dumping these salaries will increase the Habs payroll to about 6 million, roughly what Souray will get unless he takes a discount to stay in Montreal rather then going to New Jersey or any other Eastern Conference team. That being said, the Habs will have a tight budget for this upcoming season, which leads me to believe that if the Habs get Souray and are contenders come trade deadline, Huet and his 2+ million dollar salary will be traded in favour of Price and Halak.
Now, onto the Habs actual signings. I love these 2 signings. One, Montreal just went from being a decent defensive team to being a good, border line great defensive team. Hamrlik will probably man the 2nd PP unit or he’ll team with Markov on the 1st PP unit, leaving Gorges and Streit or Komisarek to man the 2nd unit. Smolinski filled a gap at the 3rd line centre position because truely, Chipchura isn’t quite ready for the NHL and having an extra year in Hamilton will benfit him more then being in Montreal. Smolinski will be used in a mentor role as well, helping Lapierre out so as to hopefully get him to become a bit more offensive. Smolinski will also help out his wingers, who will probably be rookies or at the very best, 2nd or 3rd year players. I believe the Habs line up will look like this heading into October:
***Now, if the Habs sign Souray and trade Bouillon and Dandeneault, the defence will look like this:
Now, remember, this is all my opinion and before everyone jumps on it, just think of the potential this line up could have. It may not be a winner this year but if everything goes right, like it did for the first few months of last year, the Habs could push for the North East title or at the very least a spot in the 6th-7th seed range. We may not win right away but if everyone grows and matures the way i see them growing and maturing, 2008-09 could be the year the Habs make a run for the Cup.
Also, keep in mind that every team in the North East is now fairly even. Leafs got Blake who will probably score only 25 goals and not the 40 he did this year and they also got Toskala, who could turn into a huge bust or could help them win. Sens are now a year older and lost a key D-man in Preissing but they are the team to beat in the East. The Sabres are definetly more weaker then the rest of the North East teams and will battle Boston for the 4th spot in the division. The Habs, Leafs and Sens will battle for the top spot, and the way I see it, it’ll go like this: Sens, Habs, Leafs, Sabres, Bruins, with the Habs making the play offs in 6th place and Leafs getting the 8th or 9th spot. I believe the East will go like this:
1. *NYR (Gomez and Drury will only help them)
2. *Atl (Too much talent to not win their division)
3. *Ott (Experience will edge out Habs for the division
4. Pit (Adding Sykora and Sydor only strengthens their team but still too young)
5. TB (Still have Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards now add Ouellet, and you got a 5th place finish)
6. Mtl (Young guns will lead Habs to a 6th place finish)
7. NJ (May have lost Gomez and Rafalski but they still got Marty Brodeur and 2 young snipers in Gionta and Parise)
8. Tor (Toskala and Blake add to Leafs depth but will barely make play offs)
9. Phl (May have gotten Briere, Timonen and Hartnell, but still have unproven goalie in Biron and Niittymakii and weak D after Timonen and Jason Smith)
10. Buf (Young guns won’t make up for the leadership and scoring left by Drury and Briere)
11. Fla (May have gotten Voukoun but still a 2 line team)
12. Wsh (Ovechkin and Semin now have a centre but after that, rather weak)
13. Car (Cam Ward will once again prove he was a one play off wonder)
14. NYI (Losing Yashin will hurt, I know, it’s hard to believe, and DiPietro is still rather unproven in big game situations)
15. Bos (Fernandez will help but knowing the history of Boston, I think this will be the year Bergeron will be traded to the West coast, other names, Jason Allison, Sergei Samsonov (when he could score), Ray Bourque)
Remember, these are just my thoughts and the standings are based on talent and potential alone, not on last years stats, because no one can guess what type of season a player will have based on last seasons stats alone, unless your name is Mario or Wayne or Maurice.