It’s been assumed by a broad cross section of media and fans that right winger Brian Gionta had played his last game with the Canadiens; that he would become an unrestricted free agent on July first without so much as a contract offer from the Canadiens.
Always dangerous to make assumptions.
According to Gionta’s agent, Stephen Bartlett the Canadiens are in fact talking. He told NorthJersey.com
“We’re just kind of in discussion and the next probably few days will be critical to see (what happens). We just kind of got serious about it the last day or two, so we’ll kind of see what kind of progress we make on that one and whether he becomes a July 1 guy.”
Doesn’t mean the two sides are going to come to agreement. It only means there’s talk. Gionta has been the Canadiens captain the last five years, so he’s earned that.
Gionta just completed a five year contract that paid him 5 million a year. He’s 35 which means another long term deal is out of the question.
Is a one or two year deal at 5 million another non-starter? Gionta scored 18 goals during the regular season which is the fourth highest total on the team and only two behind Tomas Plekanec who was second to Max Pacioretty’s 39. He plays the game at both ends of the ice and when he was moved away from Tomas Plekanec to play with Eller, that line caught fire in the playoffs. Still, the Gionta-haters will quickly point out that he scored only one goal in 17 playoff games.
If Gionta can’t come to an agreement, Bergevin then has the difficult task of replacing him. In Hamilton last season, only rookie right wing Sven Andrighetto demonstrated the offensive skills that might eventually make him a top six NHL forward. He has work to do on the defensive side of his game before his arrival in Montreal.
It would be nice if the Canadiens could be guaranteed of signing a Matt Moulson or a Marian Gaborik off the free agent roles but there are probably ten or fifteen other teams who are interested them as well.
An insight into the way Bergevin’s mind works might be drawn from last season’s Daniel Briere signing. Briere, also 35 at the time, got a 4 million a year over two seasons.
“He went through three teams in order to stick to that position and I don’t think that’s changing. I think he’s been pretty firm on that for the last year and is going to stick by that. Nothing is going to change between now and July 1st on him, I don’t think.”
Bartlett is the agent for Ryan Callahan. He says there have been talks with Tampa which he described as “tipping either way.”