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Has Thomas Vanek played his final game for the Habs?

Has Thomas Vanek played his final game for the Habs?

ESPN.COM: Craig Custance suggests some off-season moves for the Montreal Canadiens. He believes it’s not unreasonable to re-sign 25-year-old P.K. Subban to an eight-year deal north of $8 million per season. He also recommends letting Thomas Vanek depart via free agency but re-signing captain Brian Gionta and long-time Habs blueliner Andrei Markov “for the right price” while leaving cap space to add more defensive help. Custance also suggests shopping playoff hero Rene Bourque while his trade value is high.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with Custance. Subban’s critics believe “he ain’t worth $8 million” but they are talking out of their collective butts. He won the Norris Trophy last season and was arguably the Canadiens best player in this year’s postseason. When you consider Kris Letang last year inked an eight-year deal worth $7.25 million annually, and he’s not in the same class as Subban, it’s obvious the Habs star will get top dollar. Wouldn’t surprise me if he gets $8.5 million per season, though the contract could be structured in such a way that he’ll earn most of that in the first or second half of the deal.

If they can re-sign Gionta and Markov to reasonable short-term deals (no more than three years for Markov, two for Gionta), then do it. As for Vanek, unless he was nursing an injury, they should cut him loose as he was a big disappointment as the playoffs went on. His asking price will likely be too expensive to make him worth retaining. It would certainly be worthwhile exploring Bourque’s trade value, as that could shed some salary to shore up depth elsewhere. He has a modified no-trade clause, which could limit potential destinations.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Dejan Kovacevic has some suggestions for whoever becomes the Pittsburgh Penguins new general manager. Among them: Trade Kris Letang and James Neal, re-sign Matt Niskanen and let Jussi Jokinen and Brooks Orpik depart via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Neal lacks a no-trade clause for next season and would certainly attract considerable interest (and a decent return) on the trade market. If cap space can be found to re-sign Niskanen, it could be worthwhile doing so, though he stands to cash in big time via free agency. They might part ways with Orpik, as he’s an ageing asset who could price himself out of the Penguins market. It might be worthwhile re-signing Jokinen, who’s been a terrific asset for the Penguins.

As for trading Letang, easier said than done. He’s got a lengthy list of injuries (including a history of concussions plus a heart condition) which will dampen his trade value, and his new contract kicks in on July 1 worth $7.25 million annually over eight years. The Penguins could be forced to pick up a good chunk of that deal to improve his value, or take back a toxic contract in return. I doubt they can find a sucker willing to take on that contract in its entirety without having to take back a bad contract in the deal. 

CSNPHILLY.COM: Tim Panaccio recently reported the Flyers’ limited cap space ($6.55 million if the cap rises to $71.1 million) will make it difficult to re-sign key players (like Brayden Schenn) while leaving room for a promising young player like Scott Laughton to make the club next season. “If Hextall could package both Luke ($3.6 million) and Brayden Schenn for one player –- a defenseman or left wing that complements Sean Couturier and Matt Read — that would make a lot of sense, especially on the financial end”, writes Panaccio. Schenn’s agent recently told Panaccio he’s yet to have contract talks with new Flyers GM Ron Hextall. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Flyers limited cap space I expect Hextall will have to make a move or two to shed salary while trying to address his needs elsewhere, like bolstering his defense or adding another scoring winger. Schenn could become a trade candidate if his asking price proves too expensive for the Flyers to absorb.