The respective managements of the Montreal Canadiens and LA Kings will have to address their club’s weaknesses this summer.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Dave Stubbs reports the Canadiens won’t undergo the dramatic, wholesale roster changes they did two years ago, but with six defensemen – notablyAndrei Markov, James Wisniewski, Hal Gill, Roman Hamrlik and Brent Sopel – eligible for UFA status this summer the blueline could have a different look next season. Pat Hickey reports the Canadiens elimination by the Boston Bruins is further proof they need more scoring and bigger forwards.
LA PRESSE: Francois Gagnon believes the Canadiens blueline corps will be younger next season, adding Yannick Weber deserves a chance to play in Montreal. He also believes the Habs were too thin and small at forward, suggesting GM Pierre Gauthier might have to think about what to do with expensive under-achieving center Scott Gomez. Gagnon was also critical on Andrei Kostitsyn’s performance against the Bruins and doubts RFA forward Benoit Pouliot will be back next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Weber definitely deserves a full-time spot on the Habs blueline next season. Markov’s contract talks could prove difficult given his injury history of late, but perhaps the Habs might try to get him re-signed on a one-tw0 year deal for roughly the same salary ($5.75 million per) in hopes of re-signing him long term if he’s able to put his injury woes behind him. Wisniewski could be an alternative if Markov tests the market. Gill hopefully will return for another year or two given his steadying influence on PK Subban. Hamrlik could be done unless he’s willing to accept a lesser role and a pay cut. Sopel probably won’t be back. I doubt Gauthier can move Gomez and expect he’ll return next season. If teams get a one-time penalty-free buyout period under the next CBA as they did at the start of this one, Gomez will likely be bought out. Kostitsyn will likely get a one-year qualifying offer and if he rejects it will probably become a UFA, while Pouliot won’t be back. Expect the Canadiens to look for big, physical skilled forwards via trade and/or free agency this summer.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Helene Elliott reports that despite some individual successes (Jonathan Quick, Kyle Clifford) the Kings’ second straight first round elimination cannot be considered progress. Amongst GM Dean Lombardi’s off-season plans will be deciding whether to re-sign pending UFA forwards Michal Handzus and Alexei Ponikarovsky. He must also re-sign RFAs Drew Doughty, Wayne Simmonds, Trevor Lewis, Brad Richardson, Alec Martinez and Oscar Moller. Lombardi admitted they’ll have to decide if they’ll re-sign Doughty to a short or long term deal.
USATODAY.COM: AP writer Greg Beacham reports the Kings need more dedication from Dustin Penner, who has one more season remaining on his contract and the Kings hope he’ll be properly motivated next season. Lombardi and head coach Terry Murray appear interested in retaining Handzus but perhaps less so with Ponikarovsky.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Doughty will be re-signed and I suspect they’ll try to get it done long-term, but given the uncertainty over the next CBA a short-term (three-to-five years) is a possibility. The other RFAs shouldn’t be difficult re-signings. Handzus could return on a one-year deal worth considerably less than the $4 million he earned this season, but Ponikarovsky won’t be back. As for Penner, he had a difficult time adjusting to the Kings but he won’t be moved, especially given his $4 million -plus salary.