NHL Predictions: Montreal Canadiens to Make Bid for an Elite Player?

Jason HitelmanCorrespondent IJuly 26, 2011

I am very impressed with the money Montreal Canadiens' general manager Pierre Gauthier has saved under the salary cap, but I am not exactly certain why he has done it.

After the big contract that restricted free agent Josh Gorges was supposed to receive turned out to be a one-year, $2.5 million deal, I was left scratching my head.

My first instinct—as was everyone's, I'm sure—was that Gauthier was keeping money aside for the trade deadline in case he wanted to nab a premier impending UFA as a rental player.

Then I had a look at the list of players set to become UFAs in 2012.

As far as forwards are concerned—and that is the area where the Habs are lacking depth—there isn't much to write home about.

Sound familiar?

In fact, I'd go as far as to say that there isn't a premier forward (like Brad Richards was in this year's crop) out there. Alex Semin and Shane Doan are the closest to fitting the elite profile, but let's be honest...

The Habs are currently more than $5 million under the cap. Even with a couple of call-ups to start the season (say, Andreas Engqvist and Brian Willsie, for argument's sake), the team would still have a lot of money to spend, and not just the kind that they would have to dish out for a prorated contract.

It's not as though the Molson's are strapped for cash and need to hang onto a few bucks. The Canadiens are very much a cap team—at least they have been for quite some time.

So is it possible that Pierre Gauthier is still trying to wheel and deal to bring in a big name player?

I suppose anything is possible, but given Gauthier's track record, it is very unlikely.

Maybe Gauthier is just trying to test himself when it comes to budgeting, as P.K. Subban and Carey Price will most certainly be getting hefty raises once the season comes to a close.

Whatever the case may be, I think the money in the bank speaks volumes about the young talent on the team. To think that this team will compete—which it will—while others have to worry about shedding salary (the Buffalo Sabres are currently more than $3.5 million over the cap) is remarkable.

Now imagine if Scott Gomez performed up to the standards of his monstrous cap hit...

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jhytel