The Montreal Canadiens might have been one of the busiest teams thus far in the free agency signing period, jumping feet-first into the market to secure players to fit new head coach Jacques Martin’s system.
The Habs seem to have gotten smaller up front, with the ever-elusive Vincent Lecavalier still not in the fold but a gaggle of new players well worth their salt.
GM Bob Gainey signed wingers Mike Cammalleri from Calgary and Brian Gionta from New Jersey to start things off and polished it off by signing defencemen Jaroslav Spacek from Buffalo and Hal Gill from the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also landed Scott Gomez in a trade with the New York Rangers, adding another big salary to the team and adding one of the league’s better pivots.
The Habs released 10 free agents to the market without expecting to see any of them back, thus effectively mixing things up in Montreal in dramatic fashion. Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, Mathieu Dandenault and other veterans from last year’s Habs are all on the block at this point without contracts in Montreal.
“We’re going to have to play big and smart, but this was a day where you had to grab talent where you can,” Gainey said. “There are other teams that don’t have anyone to announce.”
The Habs will hope for some chemistry between Gomez and Gionta, who were teammates together in New Jersey, and will also bank on Cammalleri’s skill and speed to put the puck in the net. Spacek and Gill will help fill space on the blueline, as the sizable defenceman Mike Komisarek made his way to the rival Maple Leafs.
Gainey was ready and willing to make big moves, armed with about $34.5 million in cap space as the week began and game for some smart signings. While time is the only real way to tell if these were smart moves, it certainly looks like the rebuilding process, for better or worse, in Montreal has gotten well underway.
Posted by Jordan Richardson.