The news came in yesterday that Lapierre had been signed to a one-year pact, worth $900,000 to the player. Last season he pocketed $800,000. As I mentioned, it was the second raise doled out to an RFA, as Pouliot goes into 2010 with a $1.35 million payday, a hefty raise for the spectre of the playoffs from a similar eight tenths of a million.
Both deals can indeed be viewed in multiple lights.
From a positive outlook, the Canadiens need forwards. They got two here. They need forwards who aren't Ben Maxwell, again they got two here. Both Lapierre and Pouliot have talent and can really turn it on for spurts. The problem is that they really turned it off for spurts last season too. Pouliot for his part took our leave some time in March, round about the time Lapierre joined us this season.
It brings the inevitable question. Why, if they didn't perhaps perform to the desired standard were they rewarded with generous raises?
It's the culture of the NHL for a start. Young players come in, get an initial deal and then earn their next few contracts by building off that initial number, no matter how outlandish it was to begin with.
Pouliot may well deserve a raise for improving his numbers so dramatically, but does his agent not even blush to think he earned at an $800,000 a year rate for his paltry output the season before. Lapierre somehow got an unexplained $800,000 sweetheart second year from his last negotiation, and now, despite his terrible regular season, the Canadiens management must hold to that for negotiations?
It's silly, but let's accept that it could have been worse. Lapierre's a good player even at a near million, and Pouliot might be.
I was reading on the Lapierre deal over at The Daily Hab-It today, and Arpon said something I thought was dead on here:
It appears that Gauthier decided that he didn't want to decide.More than the value of the deals (which are slightly inflated), the one year term of each deal is somewhat infuriating.
In deciding not to decide, he sets up another precarious year where top players need to be traded so that erosive salary bumps can take their toll. He doesn't risk signing in Lapierre or Pouliot too long, but also might miss a window to sign them at a low going rate.
The really interesting implication of Gauthier's nervous off-season steps to date are in the negotiations with Carey Price.
The one good thing about watching Carey Price struggle to wrestle wins from the schedule this season was the feeling that at least he might play himself into a more modest contract. That hope appears to be disappearing fast.
While a dip in form is good leverage, it might not be good enough compared to Price's option to make the Canadiens consider starting the season with Auld and Sanford. What's more, Price's agent won't have to look very far to garner examples of players being given raises for potential rather than merit. The Pouliot contract will no doubt be close at hand.
At this point and on this evidence, it seems very unlikely that Price will be signing anything long-term at a modest salary. It's a shame really.