Reasons for signing the players they did
Since July 2nd, when the Habs signed Roman Hamrlik, people have been wondering why they would sign him, Bryan Smolinski, Tom Kostopoulos and Jamie Rivers. Well, here’s my reasoning, which quite possibly could be Gainey’s reasoning as well.
Hamrlik was signed to not only “replace” Souray (Though you can’t replace Souray offensively), Hamrlik was brought in to mentor the Habs defensive corps, especially Markov because he may have had a half-decent season, he did a lot of things wrong that ultimately cost the Habs several games. What Hamrlik will do is “teach” (i use that term loosely) Markov more about the defensive position and get him to achieve his full potential and make sure Montreal gets their 5+ million dollars worth out of him. Too many times last year, Markov would hold on to the puck for up to a minute and a half on a 2 minute power play (I remember one time against the Rangers, he held the puck for 3 minutes straight on a 4 minute PP and also when the Rangers went down 2 men and he held it for the entire 5-3, the Habs lost the game 4-3 and he also had Souray wide open for point shots). Hamrlik will also help Komisarek ease into the 2nd PP unit as well as Gorges or Streit. Hamrlik will also mentor the up and coming defencemen like Archer and O’Byrne during training camp.
Bryan Smolinski brings two things to the table for this year. One, he is going to centre the 3rd line and help mentor his line mates, who most likely will be Andrei Kostitsyn and Mikael Grabovski (Yes Lapierre has more experience, but i’ll get to him in the next paragraph). Helping these two will be Smolinski’s primary objective. The other thing Smolinski brings is a valuable asset come the trade deadline. Say the Habs are more then 10 points out and it doesn’t look very good, Smolinski will have a tremendous amount of trade value and Montreal could land a 1st rounder and a top prospect, much like they did with Rivet. Or they could get a 2nd and 3rd rounder along with a proven 2nd or 3rd liner. So its kind of a win-win situation for the Habs with Smolinski and his 2 million dollar price tag is a cheap one at that, especially for his potential worth come March. This also gives Chipchura one last season to further his growth as a potential future captain.
Now, Kostopoulos is a really good move if you really put your mind to it. He adds a lot of depth to the Montreal depth charts. He’s gonna play on the 4th line with Lapierre and Begin, to form a not-so-talanted “Grind Line” to shut down opposing 1st lines (The Grind Line was a line in Detroit in the 1990’s, made up of Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Darren McCarty). Montreals Grind Line will be fairly quick, not really a defensive liability (Remember, Kostopoulos played for LA and the Pens when they were dwindling at the cellar of the NHL which explains his career -29 rating), and they are all proven 4th line players and aren’t in their growing stages like Montreals rookies. I would rather have Kostopoulos-Lapierre-Begin then Lapierre-Chipchura-Grabovski.
Jamie Rivers may not seem like a “huge” signing but in reality, he’s an insurance policy. Say, Hamrlik, Gorges, and Bouillon all go down with long-term injuries and rather than forcing not-so-ready rookies to the scene, the Habs have 2 NHL capable defencemen in Hamilton in Mathieu Biron and Jamie Rivers. Both can man the PP if needed and both add depth to any blueline. Their only problem is both have minimal talent, which is why both find themselves in the AHL.
So, Habs fans wanted an explanation and that’s a pretty darn good one if you ask me. Smolinski by far was the best but only because of his potential trade value come March. Hamrlik is the best long term and Kostopoulos could turn into a genious move if he is used like I believe he will.