Analysis of possible offseason moves by the Canadiens, speculation the Sharks could trade Joe Thornton, the Canucks could add a veteran goalie and Sabres winger Chris Stewart acknowledges he could be traded again.
TSN.CA/SPORTSNET.CA/CBC.CA/THE GLOBE & MAIL/MONTREAL GAZETTE: all weigh in on possible offseason moves by the Montreal Canadiens in the wake of their surprising run to the Eastern Conference Final. All believe P.K. Subban will be re-signed to a lengthy, expensive new contract, while questioning if long-time Habs blueliner Andrei Markov will be re-signed. RFAs Lars Eller and Dale Weise will also be re-signed, though it remains to be seen what kind of deals they get. It’s also uncertain if captain and pending free agent Brian Gionta will be re-signed. None believe Thomas Vanek will return.
CBC’s Tim Wharnsby sees the Habs re-signing Gionta and defenseman Mike Weaver for their character. The Globe & Mail’s Sean Gordon speculates they might consider shopping second-line center Tomas Plekanec (if he agrees to waive his limited no-trade clause) and moving Eller or promising Alex Galchenyuk into that role. The Gazette’s Pat Hickey believes Douglas Murray and Francis Bouillon won’t be back. Given Dustin Tokarski’s solid playoff performance, Hickey wonders what the future holds for Peter Budaj, who has one season left on his contract. All agree the Canadiens’ young core – Carey Price, Subban, Eller, Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher – points to a bright future for the team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I also agree the Habs have a good young core to build around. Subban will likely get an eight-year deal worth between $8 – $9 million per season. His critics will argue he’s not worth it, but that’s what he’s going to get. Fortunately, the Canadiens have a projected $26 million in cap space (assuming the cap hits $71 million) so GM Marc Bergevin has plenty of space to re-sign Subban and their other key players, as well as add some much-need size and speed at defense and up front. Speed is the key factor here. Bergevin invested in George Parros and Douglas Murray (thankfully for only one season each) and they were busts this season. It’s pointless to invest in big, strong players if they can’t keep up with the pace of the game.
Shopping Plekanec is an intriguing idea and it could be worthwhile to quietly gauge his trade value. Given Rene Bourque’s impressive playoff performance, it wouldn’t surprise me if Bergevin also tries shopping him. Vanek won’t be back, and it could be risky to invest beyond two years for the ageing Markov, who really declined over the course of the playoffs. If a suitable deal can’t be reached, Bergevin could seek a short-term replacement via trade or free agency. I also believe Bergevin should try to re-sign Gionta and Weaver to two-year deals. Weaver could be the easiest of the pair to retain. Tokarski’s performance could make Budaj a trade candidate. Overall, the Canadiens have a bright future and enter this summer in good shape cap-wise. Its up to Bergevin to invest that space wisely.
THE SCORE: Katie Flynn reports TSN analyst Bob McKenzie believes the San Jose Sharks will try to trade Joe Thornton rather than strip him of the captaincy. McKenzie acknowledged trading Thornton won’t be easy, given the cap hit of taking on his new three-year, $6.75 million per season contract. Flynn also noted Thornton’s no-movement clause muddies the trade waters. McKenzie also mentioned Patrick Marleau as another who could be dealt.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Note that McKenzie isn’t saying Thornton or Marleau “will” be traded, merely speculating they could be. Though both would attract interest in the trade market, moving either will be difficult, given their respective contracts, ages and no-movement clauses. McKenzie also noted return will be an issue. The Sharks won’t get equal value back for either guy, but if they’re looking toward turning over to a younger core, it might be worthwhile to seek young players or prospects. One of my readers is a Sharks season-ticket holder, and she notes Thornton and Marleau are pictured in the club’s season ticket holder renewal booklet. Goalie Antti Niemi was not. Make of that what you will.
SPORTSNET.CA: Luke Fox reports Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning is willing to entertain adding a goaltender via free agency. ““We’re going to look at every avenue we have to make our team competitive. Vancouver is a big-market city, we’ve got a passionate fan base, [and] our owners want to win”, Benning told a Sportsnet radio show. The current tandem consists of Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom, whose combined stats aren’t as impressive as the former tandem of Roberto Luongo and Corey Schneider, but they are more affordable. Fox suggests that could be a factor as Benning tries to add depth at forward. Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller, Ilya Bryzgalov and Tim Thomas are among this summer’s notable free agent goalies.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those UFA goalies, Miller and Thomas probably prefer signing with American-based teams. Hiller could be a good addition but he’s likely seeking a long-term contract. Given this summer’s limited goalie market, Benning might be able to get Hiller for a shorter term at an affordable deal if there’s no market for the Swiss goalie. Bryzgalov’s inconsistency and flakey personality won’t make him a good fit in Vancouver.
NBC SPORTS: Mike Halford cites a report from the Buffalo Sabres website in which Sabres winger Chris Stewart acknowledged the possibility he could be traded this summer. Stewart was acquired from St. Louis just before the March trade deadline as part of the Ryan Miller trade.