While Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier has a host of options when it comes to re-working his team’s defence, up front flexibility is limited.   there are  two unrestricted and four restricted free agents to deal with in the off season.

Under contract for next year are Brian Gionta, Michael Cammalleri, Scott Gomez,Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller.   Mathieu Darche and Jeff Halpern are unrestricted free agents.  In the restricted category are Andrei Kostitsyn, Benoit Pouliot, Max Pacioretty, Ryan White, David Desharnais and Tom Pyatt.

Everybody seems to have an opinion about what Gauthier might do in order to upgrade his  offense.  It runs the gamut from sending the unproductive Scott Gomez and the remaining three years of his contract to the Hamilton Bulldogs to signing, and then trading away Andrei Kostitsyn.

Gauthier doesn’t telegraph his punches a la Brian Burke, so like everyone else, we can only guess the directions he’ll take. . 

First, about Gomez.  The consequences of sending him to the minors are major.  It’s not just about saving the 7.35 million dollar cap hit for next year.  There are three years left in his contract for a total of 17.5 million dollars.  The Canadiens may be one of the NHL’s wealthier franchises, but that’s an awful lot of money to swallow. 

The Canadiens gave Andrei Kostitsyn a three year 3.25 million dollar annual contract after he scored 26 goals his rookie season.  He’s scored 20 goals in four of his five years in the league.  On the down side are those horrendous slumps.  Under the rules, the Canadiens have the right to match any outside contract offer.  I can’t imagine an offer that amounts to much more than he’s getting now.  Sign him and trade him?  For 3.25 million there has to be a more consistent player on the free agent market.  

Assuming that the Canadiens will spend around twenty million of the estimated sixty million dollar cap limit on their defence and another 3.75 million on goaltending, that leaves give-or-take a few hundred thousand, 36 million for forwards.

The six committed contracts total 26.1 million dollars.    Assuming the Canadiens carry thirteen forwards, that leaves ten million available to sign the seven remaining.  The main priority will be Max Pacioretty.  His contract called for 910-thousand last season.  If we follow the Kostitsyn example, he should be in line for a multi year deal in the neighborhood of three million per season.

57-Benoit Pouliot

Is there anyone who thinks the Canadiens should even consider re-signing Benoit Pouliot?  Definitely not at the 1.35 million he earned last year.  I can’t think of any team that would even make an offer for his services.  If Pouliot has any NHL future it might lie in a two-way contract  and a stint at Hamilton to get his game together.

Mathieu Darche and Jeff Halpern returned full value on their contracts.  Together, they earned 1.1 million dollars.  I like them both.  So does the coaching staff.  Their fate will be determined by what kind of pay raise they demand.  As we found with both Glen Metropolit and Dominic Moore, Gauthier has been very adept at replacing this type of player.

David Desharnais, Tom Pyatt and Ryan White are the others.  Desharnais has the most upside.

We haven’t even discussed trades or free agent signings.  It’s going to be another interesting summer.

The Canadiens 2010-11 Forwards

                                    2011-12 Cap Hit   


Scott Gomez –              $ 7,357,143               Signed Through 2013-14

Michael Cammalleri –    $ 6,000,000              Signed Through 2013-14

Tomas Plekanec –         $ 5,000,000              Signed Through 2015-16

Brian Gionta –                $ 5,000,000              Signed Through 2013-14

Travis Moen                  $ 1,500,000               UFA July 1st 2012

Lars Eller                       $1,270,833                RFA July 1st 2012

Total Contracts         $ 26,127,976

Unrestricted               2010-11 Contract

Mathieu Darche             $ 500,000

Jeff Halpern                   $ 600,000

Restricted Free Agents

Andrei Kostitsyn          $ 3,250,000        (2010-11 contract) 

Benoit Pouliot              $ 1,350,000                    

Max Pacioretty                  910,000

Ryan White                       850,000

David Desharnais             550,000

Tom Pyatt                         500,000