Are the Canadiens poised to buy out Scott Gomez? What are the top issues facing the Senators? The answers, plus an update on the Hurricanes off-season plans.
YAHOO.COM: Greg Wyshynski referenced an interview given by Sportsnet’s Louis Jean, who suggested the Canadiens will buy out Scott Gomez “even before Bergevin comes in. It’s Geoff Molson saying, ‘OK, let’s get this done.’ “Buying out Scott Gomez … this is a Geoff Molson thing. I think it really shows that this is Geoff Molson’s team.”
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Gomez said he hasn’t spoken with the Canadiens regarding his contract status, though he said such a move would be a management decision.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jean was suggesting the Canadiens owner will make the decision to buy out Gomez before Bergevin officially takes over, that it would be Molson’s decision and Bergevin will have to go along with it. That remains to be seen, but one person who doubts this will happen is TSN’s Bob McKenzie, who explained via Twitter it wouldn’t make sense for the Canadiens to do this, citing the cap hit, the fact the deep-pocketed Habs would be better off burying Gomez in the minors or overseas, and the possibility there could be an amnesty buyout period in the next CBA. If the Canadiens were to buy out Gomez, they cannot do it until the buyout period, traditionally the last two weeks in June.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch recently reported on Senators obvious need to re-sign Erik Karlsson, citing the potential difficulties (salary, term, impact on salary cap and efforts to re-sign other players) in getting a deal done. Garrioch listed re-signing Karlsson as the second most important priority (after convincing Daniel Alfredsson to return for one more season), and believes the Senators should try to bring back Chris Kelly via free agency, attempt to trade Sergei Gonchar either this summer or at the trade deadline at the latest, and buy out Bobby Butler.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: What pundits believe a team should do, and what general managers actually do, are usually two different things. For example, Garrioch last year believed the Senators should to move Filip Kuba, who became one of their better defensemen last season, earning praise from GM Bryan Murray in the process. I agree bringing back Alfredsson is a priority, but re-signing Karlsson is the top one.
Trading Gonchar? Not a good idea for a team lacking experience and leadership on their blueline, especially if Kuba is allowed to walk via free agency. Gonchar is an offensive blueliner, but his skills and experience were valuable in the Senators improvement this season, and should be again next season. If the Senators stumble next season and appear out of playoff contention by the trade deadline, then sure, shop him at that point. Not during the off-season.
As for buying out Butler, I can see that if his salary made it difficult for the Senators to bolster their depth elsewhere. Otherwise, bring him back for the final year of his contract and see how he performs. Bringing back Kelly is a good idea, but he reportedly wants to re-sign with the Bruins, and while it remains to be seen if he’ll stay in Boston, it’s also no certainty he’ll return to the Senators. If he does, he’ll want a deal similar to whatever he sought from the Bruins, which might not fit into the Senators cap space.
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Chip Alexander recently interviewed Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford on his off-season plans. While Rutherford cannot directly state which players he’s interested in pursuing via trade or free agency this summer, he indicated the front office is working on landing a top player, be it a center or winger, noting Eric Staal could move to the wing. He also wouldn’t rule out going the trade route, acknowledging the difficulty in winning a bidding war for a top free agent. The Hurricanes also hold the eighth overall pick, which Rutherford said he’d be willing to move but only for the right offer. Rutherford also suggested it’s unlikely pending UFA blueliners Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek will be re-signed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Interesting bit there from Rutherford that he wouldn’t just limit himself to adding a first line winger if he could find a first line center and move Eric Staal to the wing. It’s expected the Hurricanes will be among the serious bidders for New Jersey winger Zach Parise if he tests the UFA market, but there aren’t any centers of the same calibre in the UFA market, so Rutherford would have to go the trade route to land that type of forward. With their depth in promising young blueliners, it’s not surprising Allen and/or Spacek might not be re-signed. Then again, Rutherford suggested Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason might not be re-signed during the season and would up re-signing both, so don’t fully dismiss the possibility of Allen and Spacek returning.