There were rumours, circulating mostly in Southern Ontario, that the franchise would be moving to Laval when their lease in Hamilton ends in two years. Andlauer, a resident of the Hamilton area and a shareholder in the Canadiens, publically put the rumours to rest yesterday.
Enforcing a clause in their agreement with a group connected to the Coliseum that kicked in when average attendance fell below 4400, Andlauer also announced that the club will be taking over ticket sales and marketing.
The Bulldogs have been based in Hamilton since 1996. Despite competitive teams, in recent years their fan base was shaken first by reports of potential move of the team to nearby Burlington, Ontario, the possibility of an NHL franchise in the city and then the Laval rumour.
On the team side, Pierre Gauthier, who doubles as Hamilton general manager, has six restricted and three unrestricted free agents to deal with before July first. Among the restricted, Dustin Boyd and Nigel Dawes have departed for the Kontinental Hockey League. They will get qualifying offers, which will allow the Habs to retain possession of their NHL rights. That leaves defensemen Mathieu Carle, Frédéric St. Denis, and Kyle Klubertanz plus forward Ryan Russell.
Along with forward J.T. Wyman, two of the three ‘unrestricted’ are goaltenders; Curtis Sanford and Drew MacIntyre.
The decision on goaltending will take up some of Gauthier’s busy off-season schedule. Sanford was an AHL all-star while, from late February to the end of the playoffs, MacIntyre carried the Bulldogs on his back. If Alex Auld re-signs with the Canadiens, then one or the other becomes, in effect, their third goaltender and, at the same time, would be asked to mentor young Robert Mayer who didn’t make a start through the Bulldogs final forty games of the season. Entering the equation is Sanford’s February season-ending shoulder surgery. .
Wyman likely will take advantage of his UFA status to move to a franchise that gives him a better chance of stepping up the NHL.
Coaching will remain the same unless either Randy Cunneyworth or Randy Ladouceur is offered a possible vacancy created by the departure of Canadiens assistant Kirk Muller. Muller is currently being interviewed for three or four NHL head coaching openings.