Post-mortem day in Brossard was far busier than usual this year.
With 10 unrestricted free agents and another five restricted free agents, there were a lot of players us brutal media types wanted to poke and prod as to what they intend to do this summer.
To skip over some of the boring details, I'll start with this: Alex Tanguay, Alex Kovalev, Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider, Mathieu Dandenault and Patrice Brisebois all expressed an interest in returning here next year, while we didn't get a chance to talk to Francis Bouillon and Tom Kostopoulos, but it's a pretty safe bet that both would jump at a contract offer if it came.
"If the Canadiens call next week," Tanguay said, "I'm ready to talk."
The more surprising news was that Saku Koivu and Mike Komisarek did not overtly say they wanted to sign with the Canadiens.
In Komisarek's case that's understandable, because his agent Matt Keator (who also represents RFA Christopher Higgins) is notorious for instructing his clients to hit the market and go to the highest bidder. If Komisarek does that, despite his admission today that he had a bad season, he will make upwards of $5 million a year simply because of the nature of supply and demand with a slim defence crop available this summer.
I used to think he was worth that kind of dough, but I'm not positive after watching him play without Andrei Markov next to him the past few weeks.
But when Saku Koivu refused about two dozen opportunities to simply say he would love to be back with the Canadiens, I was originally pretty stunned. Koivu only needs to play one game next season with the "C" on his jersey to surpass Jean Beliveau as the longest-serving captain in Habs history. It's a record that would mean the world to Koivu, but his comments Thursday lead me to believe that he wouldn't mind seeing what life is like outside the Montreal fishbowl.
Thursday's meet the media day was a perfect example, as there were about 100 reporters, photographers, cameramen and TV personalities on hand to pick at the carcass of this failed centennial season. And even though Bob Gainey said the media pressure is not as great as it seems in Montreal, he's also a man who will be looking to convince some free agents to come to this team.
Koivu has had to deal with numerous attacks from the media over the course of his career, largely based on his inability to speak French after 10 years as captain, but also because he once truthfully said the Habs were not Cup favourites, and another time he and several other European players skipped the pre-season golf tournament.
He estimates that if he's still available on July 1, he'll be gone, and it will be pretty freaking weird to watch Koivu play in another uniform if that were ever to pass. He downplayed his desire to play with his brother Mikko in Minnesota, saying it would be extremely cool but he would rather not risk casting a shadow over his little brother by signing with the Wild (I've got news for you Saku, Mikko's shadow is now considerably larger than yours, and that's not because he's a bigger guy).
Koivu has never had a chance to be on the open market, and though he and his family love the city, having this kind of opportunity probably won't come again because Koivu is not getting any younger at 34. And I think we all saw flashes of that age in the playoffs.
My take on it is that Koivu will surely be asked to take a hometown discount to sign with Montreal, and probably even a lesser role on the ice, and I'm not sure he's willing to do that. I'm also not sure he feels he has a legitimate shot at winning a Cup in Montreal, that if it was going to happen this was the year, and it's been wasted.
Gainey did not disappoint in his 25-minute meeting with reporters, just like a night prior after Game 4 ended and he accused the Bell Centre fans of "bullying" Carey Price.
Personally, I believe fans who pay those ridiculous prices to get in the building can do whatever they want, but the mock cheers for Price were just stupid. He didn't have an outstanding series, and he had a pretty horrendous second half of the season, but so did a lot of his teammates. Price expressed a willingness to stay in Montreal and deal with the inherent pressure of playing goal for the Habs, but he was still seething from the incident Thursday afternoon and I got the distinct impression that if he were a UFA like 10 of his teammates will be, he'd be gone.
Also, I'm not sure how Gainey's "rude, obnoxious assholes" quote was relayed to everyone, but I just wanted to make it clear he was talking about fans in LA who booed Darryl Sydor out of town. But the inference that he felt the same way about the fans who gave the mock cheers to Price would not be a stretch.
Gainey's highlight moment Thursday was calling out Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton for leaking the names of the players being discussed in the Vinny Lecavalier trade talks. Gainey called the leak a "disgrace" and gave it partial blame for the Habs terrible second half.
I understand not being happy that names got out - which, by the way, essentially confirms that the names that got out were in fact the ones involved - but to go from there to blaming it for a meltdown like the Canadiens had is going way, way too far.
Yes, that's a distraction, especially to two guys like Tomas Plekanec and Christopher Higgins who have serious self-confidence issues and take everything way too hard. But to the point where it would send the entire team spiralling downward into an abyss of mediocrity? I don't think so.
I was dying to ask this question, but the Habs PR staff cut Gainey's news conference off and wouldn't let me get it in.
With what Gainey said Thursday, does this mean the potential of a Vinny Lecavalier trade happening at the draft in Montreal is essentially out the window? Gainey was still pretty pissed off about the situation Thursday, and this is three months after the fact. Now Brian Lawton is also pissed, calling Gainey's assertions "preposterous" and denying that he leaked the names to try and up the price on Lecavalier.
If Gainey needed to get that off his chest, maybe he should have done it the same way he's accusing Lawton of doing it - with a discreet media leak. Doing it on a press conference being broadcast live on two networks in Quebec and attended by every major media outlet in the country may not have been the best way of going about it, just like Price's reaction to the fans was probably not the best move either.
The difference is that people will forget what Price did as soon as he starts winning games for the Habs. But I don't think Lawton will ever forget what Gainey did today, especially not before the draft.
So I think Habs fans can now kiss Vincent Lecavalier goodbye.