What on earth is Bob Gainey thinking? I know, most of you are probably thinking, “a Leafs fan is talking about the plight of the Habs?” Yes I am. I know, I know, Brian Burke has not been the miracle worker that the Toronto media hyped him up to be but we all know it is not an overnight process. On the other hand, Burke has a game plan, a blueprint for the future and a direction he wants to go; Gainey on the other hand, not so much. What vision does he have for the club?
Going into the offseason, Gainey found himself in a pretty good position. He had a boatload of money to revamp a team that proved last year that it can not compete in the playoffs. Gainey found himself with upwards of $25 million to spend on players to help build the Habs for the future. In saying this, the salary cap for the upcoming season has been set at $56.8 million, but has been rumored to be falling as low as $48 million for the 2010-2011 season. This is clearly not set as of yet and won’t be until next off-season. Likely, it will not be as low as $48 million but I see it being in the low $50 million range. As the salary cap drops, player salaries are not rolled back. This is where I begin my love affair with Bob Gainey.
Bob Gainey’s first move was to bring in Scott Gomez in a deal with the Rangers in exchange for Chris Higgins. Higgins was due to make $2.25 million this year and is due to become an UFA in the summer of 2010. Normally known for his defensive abilities, Higgins was an average sized winger who only played in 57 games while putting up 23 points in the 08-09 campaign, while putting up 52 points in 82 games the previous year. On the other hand, Gomez is a small center who is known for his offensive prowess, and more so, his set-up abilities. The problem with this deal is not in the player swap but the contract that Gainey picked up in the deal. Gomez is due to make $7.357 million for each of the next five years. That makes Scott Gomez the 10th highest paid forward in the NHL. Now go ahead, grab a piece of paper and jot down I don’t know the 30 forwards in the NHL that you would rather have on your team. Don’t worry Habs fans, he only has 5 more years on his deal. (And that is one hell of an expensive buyout.)
After making his biggest trade of the off-season, Gainey was back at it, testing the free agent waters. His first major acquisition was the signing of Toronto native, Mike Cammalleri to a 5 year, $30 million deal. Cammalleri coming off a breakout year with Calgary, scored 39 goals and 82 points, totaling a career best for the University of Michigan alumni. Cammalleri clicked with Iginla playing on the first PP unit as well as the first line for the most part of the season. I feel as if it will be difficult for Cammalleri to put up the numbers he achieved in Calgary, as the support he had there, just won’t be there in Montreal. I do not completely disagree with Gainey’s move to get Cammalleri but I do feel as if he paid far too much for a guy who is coming off of what may be a career best year in Calgary. Did Gainey not learn from the Jason Blake signing by the Leafs?
Gainey said that chemistry was a major factor in his signings, and that Brian Gionta was brought in from New Jersey to play with Gomez and Cammalleri on his first line. Gionta, who makes Theo Fluery look tall, comes off a completely mediocre year, putting up 60 points in 81 games. Gionta is a guy that I see as really getting paid based on one year, 2005-06 where he put up 89 points. Outside of that one year, Gionta has never exceeded 60 points, or 25 goals; including averaging 53 points over the past 3 years. Hopefully for Habs fans, this ex-Devil will prosper from getting out of a completely defensive minded system and jumping into a system that has no choice but to win games by scoring a lot of goals, assuming Carey Price is the #1 again this year.
Alright, I understand that lines change and that this may not be the number one line in Montreal come opening day, or more so the Olympic break, but a line averaging a height of 5’8” and 150 pounds? Who in gods name will play outside the dots; win the puck along the boards? And on top of this, these guys make a combined $18.357 million per year. To put this in perspective, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Franzen make a combined $16.733 million per year, Carter, Richards, and Gagne, make a combined $16 million per year. Sedin, Sedin, and Demitra make $16.2 million per year. You see what I am getting at, these three guys must be capable of doing something that I am not aware of, because I do not foresee this line putting numbers up anything close to any of those trios. Or if you take a look at the Anaheim Ducks, Getzlaf, Perry, Selanne, and newly signed Saku Koivu, make a combined $16.525 million a year.
For the sake of Habs fans I hope that these little guys can do things that I do not see as possible, because last I checked, Carey Price makes home grown Manon Rheaume look like a legitimate Vezina candidate, so goals for will be necessary to make it back to the playoffs.