The Upper Canadien
by The Upper Canadien on 07/04/11 at 10:23 PM ET
So the frenzy has come and gone for Les Canadiens, and the outcome, surprisingly, isn’t all that bad. I’m actually pretty impressed with Pierre Gauthier. He went out and got, arguably to be sure, the best free agent available. Not only that, he identifies the immediate need of the team: a power forward. When’s the last time you can say the Habs did that?
I’ll tell you when: never. Unless you include signing Yanic Perreault many years ago because the Canadiens were bad on faceoffs. No, Erik Cole is a solid signing by Gauthier, and as a fan I’m pleased. Did he get too much money? Probably. Did he get too many years? Probably. Did everyone else that was a free agent? Yes they did. So despite the $4.5 million price tag, and the 4 year term, I am pretty happy that Erik Cole is a Hab. There’s no one else I wanted more.
You’ll recall that I cited Cole as target #1 in my Habs off-season review. Why? Because of what Erik Cole brings to a hockey game. Size, strength, grit - everything that Montreal’s top two lines have been missing. He’s a consistent 20-30 goal scorer, and someone who is usually close to the league lead in hits. Again: he’s exactly what Montreal needs. I’m not sure Gauthier is getting enough credit here. Erik Cole is perfect for the Habs first line.
What makes Cole more interesting is his history. As most know, Cole had a serious neck injury years ago, very similar to the injury suffered by Max Pacioretty at the hands of Zdeno Chara. Cole battled back and has enjoyed success since his mishap, and my bet is Pacioretty will too. Cole is the perfect tutor for the young Pacioretty, both as a power forward but also as someone who rehabbed from a terrible accident. Without question, Erik Cole makes the Montreal Canadiens a much better team, for many, many reasons.
Now, the backup goaltender is a separate issue. I was a tad perplexed on the Peter Budaj signing, but here’s my theory: 1) Alex Auld wanted more money to stay than he got in Ottawa, which is probably true. 2) Budaj wanted a multi-year deal, Auld did not - also quite possible, and 3) the second year of the contract was a very, very important aspect of this signing. Why? Carey Price is a restricted free agent next year. Surely Montreal will sign him; however, should this prove to be difficult, the Canadiens now have insurance in an NHL-proven goaltender who can step in. Having Budaj for the second year of the deal may not get much consideration from fans, but my bet is that this was a central aspect to passing on Auld and locking up a goalie who, we can only hope, is not the next David Aebischer.
Lastly, as some may have heard, the Canadiens confirmed earlier today the signing of Brock Trotter, which was reported on this blog weeks ago. Trotter comes back form the KHL an older, wiser player, with a keen hockey sense and a solid two-way game. Trotter was solid as a Bulldog two years ago, and has a reasonable shot of making the Canadiens in a fourth line role.
Benny moves on
A small mention here of Benoit Pouliot, who goes to Boston on a one year contract. This is where the businessman inside me goes ballistic. How can a team deal an asset like Guillaume Latendresse, that cost a 2nd round draft pick, not to mention many hours of development on, for one as talented as promising as Pouliot, play him less and less over two years until his value is nil, and then let him go? If he didn’t fit, why not trade him last offseason, or this fall after a good few weeks? Surely they could have dangled him for a draft pick, or as part of a package at the deadline.
It’s not often you see a team take an asset once as valuable as Pouliot and turn it into dust, but the Habs did here, and it’s a real shame. Not only do I suspect he’ll do well in Boston and ply his trade as a solid NHLer, I hope he does. The Canadiens give up on players far too often, and that’s one thing, but acquiring an asset at a reasonably high value and letting it go for absolutely nothing is not only hockey, it’s bad business. Shame on Pierre Gauthier, Jacques Martin, and the Habs for letting this kid go for zilch.
Josh Gorges still needs to be signed, but the Canadiens still have lots of breathing room under the salary cap. Rumours swirled on many Quebec radio stations over the weekend that Pierre Gauthier was trying to dump Scott Gomez and his anchor of a contract. Can it be done? I doubt it - but Brian Campbell was traded, and I never thought I’d see that either. If Gomez moves, I have to believe the Phoenix Coyotes are the team that bites. They need to make the cap floor, and there aren’t a lot of options left in free agency.
I suspect that Gauthier also tries to sign a depth forward, a veteran with some faceoff skills and shot-blocking abilities. The Canadiens had Dominic Moore and let him go, had Jeff Halpern and let him go - why they continue to let these players leave I do not understand. Each was a key member of the team and played a pivotal role in important games. I’ll be interested to see who Montreal finds to slot in as their faceoff expert for the 2011-12 season.
As for the trade route, I suspect Gauthier is looking, but I don’t expect him to bite unless there’s a deal to be made. The Canadiens have a roster that is pretty much set, so he has no reason to rush a deal. The Fourth Period, an excellent hockey magazine for those interested, had an interesting piece on their website last night speculating that the Habs may be looking into restricted free agent defenceman Keith Yandle on the Coyotes. Yandle would be an excellent addition to Montreal - but he’d be an excellent addition anywhere, and for that reason, I suspect a deal isn’t forthcoming.
Jaromir Jagr may be gone…Alex Kovalev on a try-out, anyone?
Don’t hold your breath, Habs fans. The team that takes the ice in October is likely to look very similar to the one on paper today.
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The Upper Canadien is your one stop shop for all things Montreal Canadiens. Since the summer of 2010, I've been providing Habs related news, notes, and most importantly, opinions. As a blogger, I don't believe it's my job to report the news, it's my privilege to comment on it. You may disagree with what I suggest. In fact, you most likely will. But that's the great part about blogging: it spurs opinion, comment and engages all involved. I've really enjoyed all the debate and commentary from readers thus far and I encourage everyone to respond with ideas on lineups, trades, logos, sweaters, mascots, whatever. The Upper Canadien is a conversation for all hockey fanatics.
I've come to Kukla's Korner with four years of campus radio and three years of sportswriting from my time at Mount Allison University on Canada's East coast. Not only do I not have any professional journalistic training, after five years in the corporate world, I've spent much of the past two years completing an MBA. Business by day, hockey by night, I'm a Canadiens fan through and through. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing.
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