Thursday, June 28, 2012

Quiet Frenzy

Well, it was a rough end to the season. Now that the UFA frenzy is almost upon us, it's a lot easier to be optimistic and have us all jump back on the Habwagon. Given that I managed to call Erik Cole last year, I figured I should give another stab at my dream UFA acquisition for this year. Anybody up for speculating on the roster come fall?

Start with the easy part. The Habs have entered salary arbitration with Price, which makes it sound like there might be some bad feelings between him and management. However, this is a canny strategic move that prevents other GMs pulling “gutless” moves (Brian Burke's word) and submitting offer sheets to drive up Price's salary. We have Budaj for another year at $1.15M. Given we need someone to play the 15 or so games Price doesn't start, Budaj is a good fit at a good price.

It's a bit of no-brainer that Price will be signed this year, although I'm having difficulty figuring out for how much. Somewhere near $5M would be my guess. What do you guys think?

There's a good crop of returning defencemen, with a pile of RFAs on the roster as well. The only D-man who goes into unrestricted free agency is Campoli, and I really don't expect to see him back. We have Markov ($5.75M, 2 yrs), Gorges ($3.9M, 6 yr), Weber (850k, 1 yr and then RFA), and sadly, Kaberle (an unbelievable $4.25M for another 2 years). Obviously, we'd love to get rid of him, but there isn't a GM in the league who would take him off our hands. Hopefully the new CBA will allow us to get him off from around the neck of the team, but I don't think we can hold our breaths. On the RFA scene, we have Emelin, Nash, Diaz, Subban, and St.-Denis. 

I could see possibly keeping St.-Denis and Nash for depth, but they aren't big pieces of the puzzle. In my opinion, Subban is second only in terms of Price in terms of priority for team signing. I'm also a huge fan of Emelin, and would love to have him on the CH blueline for years to come from what I've seen from him this season. Also a fan of Diaz, he's got a good sense of what's going on around him and a good shot from the point. I think it would be great to hang on to both him and Weber, both very promising young defencemen that are proven in the league, and trade one (or possibly both) down the line for some more assets up front.

Really not expecting to see much interesting happen in terms of trades or UFA signings on the defence, just hoping to sign most of a great crop of young players.

Now for the hard part. Obviously, there's some good talent up front if we can overlook the albatross that is Scott Gomez ($7.36M, 2 yrs). Again, no GM will ever take that contract off of our hands, and we can only hope that the new CBA opens up some kind of door to get rid of him. After that, we have Plekanec ($5M, 4 yrs), Gionta ($5M, 2 yrs), Cole ($4.5M, 3 yrs), Bourque ($3.33M, 4 yrs), Pacioretty ($1.625M, 1 yr then RFA), Leblanc ($1.17M, 2 yrs then RFA), and Desharnais ($850k, 1 yr). I'm pretty happy with that group, and with much of our RFA crop, which includes Eller, Geoffrion, Blunden, and Nokelainen. Our UFAs consist of Moen, Darche, and Staubitz.

Frankly, I could care less about our UFAs. They're entirely replaceable. I'm glad we've signed White, I have a soft spot for the guy. I think Geoffrion showed some promise, but may have some trouble staying on the roster. I'd like to see Eller kept around, he's got potential and may also prove to be attractive trade bait.

The Dream
Outside of our very wildest dreams, we're not going to be able to trade Gomez and Kaberle for Rick Nash. Within our grasp as UFAs are veterans like Doan, Smyth, and Ray Whitney. I'm happy with Cole and Gionta as vets, and think we need to focus on younger players that might take a couple years to peak: we simply can't assemble a cup-worthy squad for at least 2 years.

Semin is on the market, but I'm not super-excited by him. He's kinda fragile, and hasn't re-found his form of the 08-09 and 09-10 seasons. Parise is another high flier, more interesting in my opinion if we can get value for him. He's in an odd spot, as he took a 1-year contract for $6M last season as an RFA on the back of consecutive 94- and 82-point seasons, but “only” scored 69 points this season and is entering his first year of eligibility as a UFA.

Honestly, I would like to see NO big, bold, interesting moves come Sunday. The crop of UFAs seems pretty thin, but might yield a good bargain or two. PA Parenteau would be interesting: he's francophone, shoots right-handed, and scored 53 and 67 points in the last 2 seasons (also his first 2 in the NHL). Plus, he only made $1.25M last season. I mentioned Dustin Penner earlier, he could bring some much-needed size and can definitely put the puck in the net. However, he's been having trouble with that lately, and as a result may not be able to match the $4.25M of his last contract.

Who's your reality-tempered dream acquisition? Let us know in the comments.

Acknowledgements and big thanks to for numbers!

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