GOMEZ ON THE OUTS – Because of his season-ending concussion, even if they wanted to, the Canadiens could not offer a contract buyout to Scott Gomez which means he’ll only be cleared to play when he undergoes physical examination at training camp. How he does in training camp will dictate how the Canadiens dispose of the remaining two years and ten million dollars of his contract. It doesn’t take a Sam Pollock to know that the Canadiens depth at centre ice leaves no room for Gomez, no matter what kind of camp he has. His only option is perhaps right wing on the Eller line but nobody liked what they saw when Randy Cunneyworth tried him there last season. Few doubt the end result will be waivers and demotion to Hamilton and there he will stay.
CAPPED OUT – According to CapGeek.com, including the Scott Gomez 7.3 million dollar hit, the Canadiens are $8,277,024 under the current 70.2 million dollar cap. But they still have six restricted free agents left to sign. The contracts of Eller and Subban are likely to take up most of the remaining 8 million. The other four, Blake Geoffrion, Aaron Palushaj, Rafael Diaz and Frederic St. Denis are destined for Hamilton. Still, the situation lends even more ammunition to the economics of placing Gomez on the waiver wire.
NO REST FOR THE GM – Somebody said Marc Bergevin looked very tired at his July 2nd news conference that included the announcement of Carey Price’s six year contract. Do you think? Bergevin was named general manager of the Canadiens on May 2nd. In the three months leading up to the July 2nd signing of Price he has totally reshaped his front office with the hiring of Rick Dudley, Scott Mellanby, Martin Lapointe, Patrice Brisebois plus coach Michel Therrien and, in Hamilton, coaches Donald Dufresne and Vincent Riendeau. He signed off on Therrien’s hiring of Gord Gallant, Clement Jodoin and J.J. Diagneault as assistant coaches and signed 13 players including five unrestricted free agents capped by the Price deal. There were also those 10 qualifying offers to potential restricted free agents. Yet to come are the Subban and Eller signings. In all of this, Bergevin’s best move was no move at all. He allowed Trevor Timmins to run the Canadiens table at the NHL entry draft with the usual impressive result.
MAKES YOU WONDER – Bergevin becomes the second general manager in two years to pass on the opportunity of signing Jaromir Jagr without so much as a phone call to his agent. Jagr had great international success playing on a line with Tomas Plekanec for the Czech Republic especially at the Vancouver Olympics. From the outside looking in, it seemed like a natural fit. Is it possible that both Pierre Gauthier last year and Bergevin picked up the phone and called Plekanec for his opinion talk and the reception was lukewarm to cool on the idea? Guess we’ll never know the whole story.
DARK HORSES – At first glance the Canadiens appear to have a set lineup for the start of next season but there are always one or two players in training camp who simply won’t go away. Last year it was Brendan Gallagher, Michael Bournival and Gabriel Dumont who hung on until the final exhibition game. They’ll all get a second shot this year and you can expect that Alexander Galchenyuk will get every opportunity before he’s sent back to Sarnia. Among the unsung, watch for defenseman Brendon Nash and rapidly improving Finnish centre Joonas Nattinen to get a long hard look. They’ll probably start their season in Hamilton but they’ll also be at the top of recall list when inevitable injuries strike.
BUYING TIME – On second glance, limiting the contracts to Colby Armstrong and Francis Bouillon to just a single year was an important move because it gave breathing room to the farm system it didn’t have last season because of the extraordinary injury list. Louis Leblanc, Aaron Palushaj and Frederic St. Denis and maybe even Rafael Diaz, had no business being in the NHL at that stage in their hockey development. Most, if not all of them, will get a chance to step back and regroup in the AHL at least to start next season. They’ll probably find it pretty easy compared to the forced NHL feeding they got last year.