What's next for Habs

Draft is done and the spectacular blockbuster involving Marleau didn’t happen. Some say it’s because the Sharks want to make sure they will get Drury others say it’s simply because Marleau isn’t going anywhere.

The Marleau Situation

I’m a Habs fan… needless to say… but I doubt Marleau will be traded to Montreal. Why would the Sharks do that? Because they want Drury? Why would you pay close to 2 millions more for a guy like Drury who isn’t a sure shot and could very well not like the San Jose system when you have a strong tall and big centre like Marleau that wants to play with the Sharks, that would probably be ready to cut a bit of his salary to stay in SJ? The worst explanation I’ve heard is that next year both he and Thornton will be free agents. So what? If you’re planning on signing Drury and trade Marleau… next year you’ll find yourself with big bucks committed to Drury and Thornton as a UFS you need to resign. So keeping Marleau or trading him and getting Drury is putting yourself in the same situation salary-wise.

Maybe Wilson prefers Drury to Marleau. It is true that Marleau didn’t have spectacular playoffs but he still was good. It’s also true that Drury as always has been great in these playoffs… scoring a lot and showing a lot of leadership. But hey… you’re trading the guy who wears the C and the franchise player. Some speculate that the relationship between Wilson and Marleau isn’t at its best… well relationships move on especially when you’re talking about a big scoring centre like Marleau.

What the Habs have to offer?

Now that the Sharks have traded Toskala… they will be looking for a decent backup goaltender… and we have just what they need. Whether it’s Halak or even Danis, we have plenty to offer. With Price probably staying one more year in Hamilton (unless he’s too good for the AHL and gets shutout after shutout), we can trade one of the two and still have a very good goaltending duo with an obvious number one (or 1b) in Huet and a great backup who has a bit of NHL experience (Danis). Some say Ryder could be a good trade bait, I don’t see that happening I have to say. Ryder… even if he has a pretty inconsistent play… is the only player that had two thirty-goal seasons. He is still young and could get to 40 goals if he has a centre that can create shot opportunities for him… like Marleau would with his size. In a team that desperately lacks offence… I doubt the best goal-scorer would be traded.

Saku Koivu

What I would think would be likely… okay not likely… but what I would love to see happen is the departure of Saku Koivu. Last year, I would’ve never even have accepted to think about this, but Saku with his desire to win a Stanley Cup could accept to move from Montreal. What Habs fans have gone through with Saku is amazing… cancer, injuries but still he was the only one giving us hope when our first line was Brian Savage Saku Koivu and Oleg Petrov. I think if the Sharks are interested in Drury and fail to get him… Koivu could be an interesting alternative. He’s older and not at all the same kind of player but could be very useful because of his leadership, experience and playoff success… of course he’S never won a Stanley Cup but has always performed decently in the playoffs. The Sharks don’t lack size so they could go for a guy like Saku. But it’s just a dream here.

The Draft

The Habs are not exactly copying the Anaheim Ducks philosophy but are definitely taking Bryan Burke’s general philosophy of building a winning team. After his Stanley Cup conquest, Burke said in an interview with Micheal Landsberg on Off The Record (OTR – TSN) “We have a simple philosophy, we build from the goalie and up and we use hard-working players that do everything well. We want to be quick enough not to be outrun, we want to be physical enough not to be outhit and talented enough not to be outplayed.” The Habs have now a solid goaltender to come – Carey Price – and are building they’re defence with hard-hitting fast-skating big guys. They’ve locked up Markov for a while and Komisarek too… and they’ve drafted Fischer last year, McDonagh and four other big and tall defensemen. They’re building from the goalie and up while still having a decent team that plays right now. They passed on Esposito and Cherepanov for all these reasons – right reasons. They don’t want inconsistent and childish players like Ribeiro or Dagenais (and even Kovalev) who will play when they feel like it and let the team down when they’re girlfriends gave them the “I have a headache” killer the night before. I like their picks, a lot.

Free Agents and Montreal

It’s been said that free agents don’t like Montreal because of the pressure, the media and the fans. I can understand them because it’s true that the fans and the media can kill a player’s future with the team. I wasn’t happy when Samsonov was signed, I thought he was overpaid and not what we needed (a small speedy 29-goal-scorer). However I have to say he didn’t get his full chance and the team, the media and the fans didn’t let him adapt or try to work and get better. Carbo’s a bit to blame for all this he said too much too soon about Samso. However I was happy to see him leave and didn’t understand why the Habs didn’t get Aucoin. He’s overpaid at 4 million dollars but so was Timmonen and so will be Souray and so is Markov (5.75 is a bit too much I think). Souray who could reportedly get up to 6 million dollars (unless he signs with Anaheim, he would then accept a paycut to be close to his daughter and… hey they just won a Stanley Cup and could win more). I think Aucoin could’ve been a fit in Montreal but again, maybe he didn’t want to waive his no-trade clause. The only players I think would love to play in Montreal would be Briere and Preissing. Preissing knows the pressure of a Canadian city and even if Montreal and Toronto are muche worse than Ottawa, he could still thrive under this kind of pressure. Briere is a french-speaking hockey player that would love to be more than just a hockey player and it’s probably only in Montreal that he could be more than a simple centerman. He could really become an Ambassador in Montreal. The media already love his availability, the fans dream of him. All this being said, I doubt the Habs will get into a bidding war to get him. He’s not the perfect fit here. He’s small and quick. A more talented version of Saku. He has more speed maybe and take more initiatives but I don’t think he would be as efficient with the Habs wingers. Apart from Higgins and Kostitsyn, the Habs don’t have fast skating and always moving forwards… the type of forwards the Sabres have. Briere will be more easily neutralized as the other forwards won’t be active on the ice. I’d rather trade for Marleau (if possible).

Sheldon “Cali” Souray

Sheldon won’t be back and I think Gainey is already starting the process of replacing him. Souray will probably fo to California… the only place he could go I think would be Anaheim and that only if Niedermeyer retires. I don’t think Bryan Burke or Randy Carlyle are big fans of his defensive nonchalence but he will do anything to play there and he will even listen to what the coach says. It’s always easier to respect and listen to a coach who has just won a Stanley Cup than a rookie coach who got hired mainly because in Montreal we need a french-speaking coach (not that Carbonneau isn’t good, I just think there were better options).

The replacement will most likely come from free agency. Schneider has already stated his interest in coming to Montreal and could prove an interesting option until the Emelin (if he ever comes), Valentenko, Fischer, McDonagh, Subban, Gorges, O’Byrne and Carle can play in the NHL (if any of these make it). Hamrlik could also be an option but a costly one looking at the contract Timmonen just got. Danny Markov is a less offensive option the Habs could consider but on that front they could go for the less expensive Preissing. Sydor, Modry, Miller f
rom the Stars could also be nice options.

On offense, I’d love to see Ryan Smyth wearing the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, but I highly doubt it. Even if he would bring a much needed boost on offense and would provide with the perfect hardwork-talent-scoring-grit combination, he could be too expensive for the Habs whose first priority is a centre. Keith Tkachuk could also have the same effect Shanahan had on the Rangers. A scorer that isn’t affraid of opening his mouth, looking for a short-term contract. For that to happen, I think the Canadiens would have to get rid of Kovalev because even if the cap could hit the 50 million mark, the Habs will have to resign Plekanec, Ryder and Kostitsyn and have about 35 million dollars already committed.

The Final Word

Do the Habs have a bright future? I think they do and the draft next year will probably confirm this. The team’s objective this year will be to make the playoffs in a decent position (Top 6 in the East) that is if they sign or obtain a centre and a decent defenseman. Otherwise the last two spots to get into the playoffs will be already a great achievement. Gainey said after the last trade deadline that he didn’t trade Souray or didn’t make any significant trade because he thought the probelem wouldn’t be fixed with a quick short-term solution. This is why this summer and next year’s draft are important. This summer will help the Habs to be a fast rebuilding team if they get proven NHL players that are still young (Like Marleau). Next year’s draft is supposed to be much deeper thant this year’s, especially on the offensive front. Even if Gainey said that the team drafting so many defenders was only a question of circumstances, he did take advantage of a draft that had good prospects on the blueline and not so good prospects on offense. He and Timmins will have a year to assess the situation on offense and make proper selections next year to get the Habs depth on offense like the Ducks did with Getzlaf and Perry.

Thanks, cheers and I hope to receive constructive comments.

15 Responses to What's next for Habs

  1. Tropbovin says:

    Great article !

    I agree the current draft deception should be very temporary.  The habs have'nt made huge draft mistakes (except passing on Getzlaf and Parise) since Gainey took the team.  Though I am not sure of what I say, I think Esposito won't be a champion in the NHL. 

    Both Brière and Marleau would be huge additions to this hockey club.  I doupt any of it will happen.  I think Brière will end up staying were he is and we will not be willing to give what the Sharks wants for Marleau.  Before the draft, it remained possible because of the two 1rst round picks we had and the ones SJ wanted.  But now, I could'nt see SJ ask for somebody else than Higgins and that should not be done. 

    I honnestly don't know what is going to happen.  Souray is a huge loss and has to be replaced.  Probably Schneider would be the best candidate, but still Detroit wants him back. 

    Having largely anticipated a major deal, my hopes now starts to slip away.  I highly doupt the 2007-2008 version of the Habs will be better than last year's  team.  Maybe this offseason still reserves us some suprises, but the move will have to be genious to really help this team out.

    Any possibility of a Kovalev trade ???

  2. rossay says:

    thanks for your comments… great to see we share a few common ideas. If the Sharks ask for Higgins this would be crazy. It's ridiculous to give our top young forward for a guy we're not even sure to keep beyond next season. I'd rather give Ryder who we keep signing for one year and have little arguments with. I hope either of these two centers will come but I'm also starting to believe this was just some speculation. Maybe the Habs and Sharks had talks before the draft but the Sharks preferred to take other options to get a first round pick.

    I don't think Schneider will stay in Detroit if the Habs make him a solid offer. I think he will be a Hab if Gainey makes it right. And he would be ideal for a year or two.

    Kovalev is someone you can't predict. If Gainey finds a suitor, it will be an exchange of underachieving overpaid players. A swap with Pheonix for Boynto or Morris (not straight up though, Montreal would have to add someone or a pick, I'd love to see Bouillon leave). At 4.5 millions a year, I don't see many teams being interested in Kovy. Only a retarded GM would accept to trade for him while giving back a prospect or a high pick. The thing I like about this is that we didn't pay much to get him … Josef Balej is now dying in the minors with the Canucks. The contract was too big though.

  3. rossay says:

    I'v given more thought to your Kovalev inquiry. First, I'm pretty sure it is out of the question to buyout his contract. 3 Million bucks for some air is too much and you don't buyout a guy like Kovalev who can give you an 80-point season if he decides to.

    If he is traded, it could be again for other players that are oerpaid but have smaller contracts that Gainey would buyout. Just like he did with Samsonov (for Cullimore and Salmaleinen, and he bouht Cullimore's contract).

    There are a lot of teams that would like to get rid of some contracts, the problem is that Chicago believed in Samsonov, I don't see many teams that are in Chicago's position (weak and overpaying players while still believing the guy they're getting (Kovalev) is worth it).

    Detroit always had a special thing for Russians, eventhough now they're more attracted by Swedes. Pheonix has a few defensemen they would like to get rid of that could be attractive to the Habs but they won't take Kovy like they took Savage, I don't think they believe in him. The Stars are more intriguing. They don't have an excellent team right now. They've had a good year because Turco played consistently and they had a nice mix of youth and experience, of talent and hardwork, of speed and size. However they have many free agent forwards Lindros and Stefan being unrestricted and Ribeiro, Jokinen and Miettinen being restricted. They could go for a guy like Kovalev like they've gone for Lindros, it's just that Kovalev would be much more expensive. They've also made it clear that they wouldn't be pursuing Nagy (who is going under the radar right now but could prove a very good pick up). A Kovalev-Ribeiro tandem like we had in Montreal for a few months could be interesting. But again, this is highly unlikely speuclation.

    The Thrashers also are an interesting case. Although they should go for after young hard-working forwards, they could very well be interested in a replacement of Vyacheslav Kozlov. The big problem again is that at 4.5 million dollars, they could resign Kozlov instead of committing to Kovalev. The only upside is that they could give Montreal some other overpaid player, I just don't see any they would want to get rid of.

    The Rangers could want him back, but with the Nylander problem and the eventual arrival of Gomez/Drury, I don't think they'll go for 4.5 million of trouble. It would make Jagr and Straka happy though.

    St Louis is the last option. They like veterans and veterans for some reason like St Louis. And even if Larry Pleau is a very clever GM. JD (Davidson the president) is a not so wise hockey guy. You never know.

    My guess, he stays in Montreal and gets traded as soon as he has some value, cause he will have a better season. And if Carbo starts to like him better, then he stays.     

  4. DoubleDown says:

    totally agree. don't think the Habs are going to be any better (on paper)…only improvment will come if the youngsters continue to develop. we know they will, but will it be enough to take a step up?

    i think any fans expecting a big name player will be disappointed. i don't believe bob has any interest in that right now.

    but i think in the long run this will be to our benefit. it would be very easy to drop picks and prospects for players wholl will get us 8th, but it would be impossible to ever get out of that glut under such a philosophy.

  5. ferron says:

    We (Habs fans) always wait for something BIG to happened but it never comes, NO we wont sign any big UFA this offseason, once again we(habs fans) will get all excited for Nothing. I also don't care about this year draft, we should of taken a chance on Chere or Espo cause most of us knows that McDonagh would of still been available at 22! Something good better happen soon,cause WE (soon to be formaly known as habs fans) deserve it! Also if Timmins was wrong it might cost some people there jobs?

  6. Tropbovin says:

    Defenitly, Gainey has a lot of pressure.
    If Esposito has to become a great player, we will still be talking about this draft in 15 years.
    I don't agree that McDonagh would still have been available at 22.  TSN mock draft was listing 11th overall and it seems many observers are saying he is very good.
    Taking care of the defense seems to be a wise decision.  Montreal remains a defensive team.  But something has to be made to improve the offense.  As of now, the habs regular top 6 forwards will be : Koivu, Plekanec, Kovalev, Higgins, Ryder and ??? Kostitsyn or Latendresse.  It is not exactly what we can call an elite offensive unit.  Though it is true Higgins, Plekanec, Kostistyn and Latendresse will likely improve, there is no such hope for Kovalev.  Personnaly, I think he is burned out.  He has dominant a single game last year.  He was instrumental to the PP success, it is true.  He remains very talented.  But his communication problems with coaches and teammates are detrimental to the team's overall success.  That is why I hope he gets traded.
    But we should not expect a Kovalev trade to be of the likes of the Samsonov.  Samsonov was really useless to us.  That is not the case with Kovalev who remains a much better player.
    So, what could we get in exchange of him?
    Any positive opinions to give us hope ?

  7. ferron says:

        The thing is those deffensemen are only playing around 25 games a season and they will take for ever to develope into NHLers. Also it's one thing to use your 12th overall pick to draft a kid out of highschool but then went on to draft 6 total ( what a gamble) and all from the same region? We could of use a early pick or trade for an offensive spark(Cherepanov) or even Moroyov went at an incredible 72th overall, he was also a left winger with great size and speed witch we need , are only natural LW on the team now that Samsonov is gone is Garth Murray. I'm not mad that MTL passed on Esposito and Cherepanov but the fact that they passed on a Kid(Moroyov) who was ranked in the top 10 before the draft started!Do MTL realy thinks that P.K Subban has the slightest chance of one day becoming as good of a player as Moroyov?

  8. openclose says:

    ive read a few places that schneider is fond of detroit and has no plans to move. But if he does come to us… fine by me.

  9. openclose says:

    if he starts playing well and has a good trade value, there is no way the montreal media would allow gainey to trade him.  Deep down we all love kovalev and those few games every year where he shows up do just enough to keep us begging for more.

  10. Tropbovin says:

    Gainey does'nt give a shit about the media.
    He thinks they are crazy like hell and they do not know rationality.
    I do think he is right.
    Really, one has to listen to them for a while and then it become very hard to pronounce another conclusion.

    Kovalev's great days are over.  He has not been a dominant player (like best on the ice for a game) a single game last year. 

  11. openclose says:

    good article. I don't agree with the adrian aucoin idea, since he truly is a terrible hockey player now and i would much rather have markov/streit shooting on the power play. I agree with the building strong from the net out, it was how i justified those first two picks later on during draft night when my friends questioned not drafting Cherepanov or Espo.

    also the D i want most is Danny markov… He plays an agitating style and is pretty darn good. Plus he has a mean streak that i love. If montreal is going to go after any free agents this summer i hope they are going to go after 2 solid stay at home defense men. Bouillion/dandy just aren't good enough to play many more minutes than a 5/6 D.

    if anyone has any doubts about whether or not we should try to sign briere, watch the first game of the last season. A 5-4 SO  loss to buffalo. Buffalo was getting the worst calls against them and montreal looked like they were going to start the season with a win.  Then Briere decided that he didn't need to sub for the last 5 minutes of the game.  He was everywhere. those last 5 minutes (where buffalo scored twice to tie) were all briere. One of the most dominant hockey performances i have ever seen. sign him so other teams fans have to deal with him

  12. habsoverserver says:

    some gm's go out and get what they need (san jose, anaheim, philadelphia), some gm's go out and get what is left (montreal). 

    you make a lot of interesting points about stuff the habs may or may not do, but i don't understand the team's strategy at all.  15 years after the last Cup, in Gainey's fifth year as GM, we are still looking to the draft or to free agency to find the key building blocks for the future. 

    the team is forever gutting its highest paid players (i think you suggested moving Koivu and Kovalev and losing Souray) and hoping for a top tier free agent to find this mess an attractive place to make their mark in the NHL.  The real reason no one wants to play in montreal, is that no one wants to be part of a team that hasn't won for 15 years. 

    there is a lot of hope and optimism if the team is willing to chose a direction – any direction – and pursue it.  But a management that tries to pass off laissez faire as thoughtfulness is only fooling themselves. 

  13. MR40 says:

    Balej went to Russia. I thought he was pretty good myself, and didn't stay with the organization long enough for me to know if he was a team cancer, or ifhe was always an issue.

    Was he an issue in Montreal?

  14. m4gician says:

    Another Hab and Hab not thread.

    The reality is, for players to come to Montreal it's really black or white. You want to because you want the pressure, the atmosphere and the competition or you don't.

    Gainey is the right man for the job, he traded Samsonov for more than the bag of pucks, and while some will argue Chicago wanted salary cap room, Gainey negotiated and will negotiate good deals. Hell, you may not get Marleau but you may get Gomez.

    Gomez would compliment Saku well.


  15. habsoverserver says:

    Hab or Hab not?  I think, 15 years of poor performance, not making the playoffs last season, being a seller at deadline, trading away the top free agent signing of the prior year and likley letting the team's power play quarterback leave for free agency pretty much answers the question.

    Free agents want to play for a team that can win a Cup. 

    Gomez is a smallish playmaker, like Koivu, they are similar players.  Both would benefit from playing along side a scoring right wing.  Gomez's ratio of assists to goals is almost 3:1  Koivu's is closer 2.5:1, but I think you get the idea.  Gomez would add huge value to the Habs, no question, but the Habs need a first or second line center with size who can score, not a first line wing playmaker. 

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