A Swing and a Miss?

If you take last year's club, subtract Streit, Ryder and Smolinski and add Tanguay, here is the lineup we'd be looking at:

Pencil in a combined $3.5M for Halak, Gorges and O'Byrne and we're sitting at a cap number of $49.3M for 12 forwards, 7 defensemen (including Dandenault) and 2 goalies.

The bad news is this team is not obviously better than the one whose season ended in early May. Tanguay boosts one of the top lines, and that is significant. However a lot of that gain will be offset by the losses of the #3 centre in Smolinski and a solid PP contributor in Streit.

The good news is the hard part of acquiring a top-flight forward is already done and there is still ~$7M in cap space. Even if none of Gainey's big UFA plans pan out - and as of 1:30pm EDT, that's how it appears to be shaking out - bolstering the bottom of the lineup should be a snap.

The minimum needs are:
- top 9 forward, preferably a C
- A #4-7 RS defenseman. May already have this in Dandenault.

Optimally, we're looking at a top-notch C who can play at EV and doesn't carry a huge cap hit into 2009-10. If this fantastical creature exists, it's name is Sundin. The big guy has said that he would take it year by year. To me, that sounds like a one year contract. If he's willing to take less money to join a good club and commit to one year, the Canadiens are still in the running.

Since the end of the season Gainey has said the top priority is a centre. When he took on Tanguay, is it possible he misjudged the market for Sundin? Without Tanguay's $5.25M, a top dollar offer for Sundin would have been possible. Now a $7M will have to suffice. I think Sundin is still a possibility - he may pull a Hossa and go for the 1-year deal for less than he could get elsewhere. Then again he might take $500k to join the Wings, or stay in Toronto or retire.

Looking at other centres to occupy a the #3 slot, Vasicek (RHS like Smolinski) looked OK last season and would come cheap. An inexpensive option at C leaves room for short-term upgrades on a wing and/or defense. Think Naslund, Vyborny, Satan...


I was dead wrong about Ryder being a bargain. Chiarelli unbelievably gave him a 35% raise. He would have been a great addition at $2M. Instead, his cap hit will be the same as Derek Roy's over the next three years and double that of Trent Hunter's. Ryder would be the highest paid skater on the Canucks, Panthers or Kings.


Here is an early look at some notable expected UFAs for 09-10:

Both Sedins
P. Boucher

Plus the Habs' own Tanguay, Koivu, Kovalev, and Komisarek.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you need to swap Kosty Sr and Tangs. Otherwise you have 3 pass-first guys on the second line.

I'm not ready to pass judgement yet. There is a gaping hole at the 3rd line center but Gainey is not finished yet. If the puck drops in October with this lineup then I think at best we have moved sideways - though an extra years experience for the young guys might still mean we have improved - but if we can add a center, even a soft one, we will have improved quite a bit.

Assuming that the likes of Marleau and Sundin are off the table then a softie like Robert Lang (and Chi desperately needs some cap relief) still makes us a substantially better team with 3 scoring lines.

I still have faith that either Sundin is coming (it seems like every other contender has been priced out) or that Bob will pull off a trade to get the guy we need. Whether that trade loses us some quality at wing or whether it can be swung for picks and prospects is the question that worries me.

M. Ilard

7/02/2008 6:19 p.m.  
Anonymous olibou said...

I kind of copy & paste the same remark every time, but still:

The question right now (Sundin-less, of course) is: Who, on the market, is a better C than Higgins? A better Wing than Latendresse or Lapierre? I already put Higgins in front of Lapierre at C, but I may be mistaken. Plenty of options if you look at it that way. In fact, mayber the best use of our resources right now is with some LW/RW type to complement Higgins and bump Lapierre in Chipchura's spot...

Vrbata bumping SKost on the 3rd line was my personal choice, but hey, them bolts are on a spending spree...

7/03/2008 3:47 a.m.  
Anonymous mikeyhabs/mikado said...

I'm not terribly optimistic...without Streit, the PP will fall considerably, and we might find ourselves fighting with the Leafs for last. (Thankfully, I've been terrible at predictions, over the years!)

7/04/2008 7:38 p.m.  
Blogger Rob said...

People said the same when Souray left.

Our PP is good. I think we are fine.

How big of an upgrade is Laraque over Begin on that 4th line? Is he and upgrade?

7/04/2008 8:01 p.m.  
Blogger Jeff J said...

The chart is more to get an idea of depth rather than line combos. A return to C for Higgins isn't out of the question if Gainey can't or won't pursue another centre.

A dip in PP production is inevitable, and would have been even if Streit was retained. Kovalev just can't repeat his ridiculous 8.1 pts/60. Streit's loss will still hurt, unless a fwd emerges as a good point man. Using Hamrlik on the #1 unit subtracts from the #2 unit and cuts into his EV time, meaning more EV time for the bottom D pair. It all trickles down. I think the PP is still in good shape and one of the best, just not quite as good as it looked last year.

How can you not be stoked by getting Laraque? The best fighter in the league over half a decade, and he's not one dimensional. The guy is a unique player. We've seen him singlehandedly hem an opponent's #1 line in their own zone for an entire shift with his solo-cycle (unicycle?), where he owns the puck along the boards and there is nothing anyone can do about it. The downside is... well, the rest of his game. Except fighting. Other coaches (including Gretzky) have tried him in bigger roles. Used right he can be more than an enforcer, but he's a very different player than guys like Begin or Kostopoulos. I doubt we'll see much of him outside the 4th line, but you never know.

7/04/2008 9:30 p.m.  
Anonymous olibou said...

Re: Ryder

A Lucic - Savard - Ryder does have potential... Savard could rake in 50 assists over a year with me playing both wings, so I guess Ryder may have a very nice tally at the end of the year...

7/07/2008 6:46 p.m.  

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