Some odds and ends on draft day…..
…..Things tend to change but at this writing the Canadiens will be selecting six players at the NHL entry draft this weekend but only twice among the first seventy-eight selections. At one point or the other the Canadiens have given up draft positions to Florida, the Islanders, Winnipeg and Anaheim. The Canadiens traded away their second round choice (47th overall) to Florida for Dominic Moore. A compensatory pick awarded to the Canadiens after they declined to sign former first round pick David Fischer (50th) went to the Islanders for James Wisniewski. 106th overall originally owned by Atlanta became part of the Brent Sopel/Nigel Dawes deal. That draft choice was later traded to Winnipeg. The Canadiens acquired Anaheim’s fourth round pick when they sent Kyle Chipchura to the Ducks in December 2009.
……Those stories that Jaromir Jagr might wind up with the Canadiens simply won’t go away despite the lukewarm reception his agent Petr Svoboda got when he broached the subject to Pierre Gauthier. Educated guessing on his ultimate destination is centering around Detroit and Pittsburgh, but a “mystery team” is being mentioned as a serious bidder. TSN’s Bob McKenzie says that mystery team is the Canadiens. We’ll see. The Canadiens do have the money if they are, or ever have been interested in signing him. Jagr is not the easiest guy to coach, especially on the defensive side of his game, which is probably the reason for Gauthier’s hesitation.
……Winnipeg named Claude Noel their head coach yesterday leaving Canadiens assistant Kirk Muller with the New Jersey Devils as his one remaining NHL head coaching possibility. The Devils are his alma mater, but the team hit the wall when they hired the untested John McLean last year. If Muller strikes out in New Jersey, he has a big decision to make. Return to the Canadiens as assistant or take a step back into the AHL head coaching ranks to get the experience that’s missing in his resume. My guess is he’ll take the latter. Does a straight up swap with Hamilton head coach Randy Cunneyworth sound logical?
….The Philadelphia Flyers unloaded their captain Mike Richards and another offensive anchor, Jeff Carter in a blowup that is reminiscent of Bob Gainey’s dismantling of the Canadiens at this time two years ago. Montrealers are very much aware of Richards for his racially tinged slurring of P.K. Subban last season. In Philadelphia he was known as a sour, media-baiting dressing room distraction. Now he’s LA’s problem. (Must read material – Justin Bourne on the toxic dressing room situation both Gainey and Holmgren faced. Click here.)
…. There was a rumour out there that the Canadiens have made unrestricted free agent Roman Hamrlik a contract offer. I would love to see him back with the club under certain fiscal conditions (one year-2.25 million dollars). There is a solid reason he was named the winner of the Beauchamps Award as the team’s unsung hero last season. But, without some kind of trade, how can he fit? The Canadiens have Markov, Spacek, Subban, Gill and Yemelin under contract. They’ll sign Gorges and Weber in the next week. That makes seven defencemen. Weber might be slotted as a kind of thirteenth forward/power play specialist in next season’s scheme which would allow Jacques Martin to ease the NHL-inexperienced Yemelin into the lineup as the team’s 7th rearguard. Just another piece of the off-season jigsaw puzzle.
……Speaking of Markov. In the day an age of athletic greed, there still remains something called the “hometown discount”. I have no doubt that Andrei Markov’s agent could have milked another half million dollars or more from another team if he had tried. At the end of his new contract, Markov will have played seven years for the Canadiens with no pay increase while others in his class have progressed into the six and seven million dollar category. At his news conference today he said he wants to finish his career with the Canadiens. With some it’s merely a platitude. I believe Markov when he says it.
….The Canadiens now have three Russians in their immediate organization. Alexei Yemelin will be helped immensely by Markov in his integration into the NHL and North American culture. They tell me young Alexander Avtsin, who will begin his second year in Hamilton, is about a year away from challenging for a starting job in the NHL.