When I left the Canadiens post-mortem media day in Brossard following the completion of their sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins, I said goodbye to a few of my colleagues and wished them a good summer.
"Oh, I have a feeling we'll be back here quite often," one of them responded. "I'll see you next week."
That was April 23.
Here we are nearly two months later, and the one bit of news to come out of the Canadiens was the hiring of Jacques Martin as head coach. It was a biggie, admittedly, but otherwise news surrounding the team has been completely shut off, at least in terms of the hockey department.
News has abounded on the ownership situation, including yesterday's gem from prospective buyer René Angelil that the Canadiens don't elicit the same level of pride in Quebecers as they did way back in the day. Way back to 1993.
Mr. Angelil, it's easy to be the pride of a nation (easy now federalists, nation just sounds better than province in this context) when you're winning the Stanely Cup. But how exactly does he explain that the Canadiens have played in a sold out building for the last four seasons, in spite of a pretty mediocre product on the ice?
In that same story, Angelil's potential majority partner Pierre Karl Péladeau revealed that he's expecting an answer on Quebecor Media's bid for the team over the coming days. Now that is news, because the sooner this ownership business is settled, or at least slightly clarified, the better.
Over in Bob Gainey's Brossard office, meanwhile, one would have to imagine that things are very busy, even though nothing concrete is really happening.
First, we heard from Alex Tanguay's agent Bob Sauvé that Gainey had another priority to focus on before dealing with his client, which led to pretty wild speculation as to what that priority might in fact be.
Now, we are hearing from Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren that he believes Gainey is in negotiations with Mike Komisarek to bring him back to Montreal. The answer was given in the context of trading for free agent rights at next weekend's draft, an avenue Holmgren used very effectively to grab Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell a couple of years ago.
I have to believe that if Holmgren says he believes that, he has to have heard it from someone with a bit of credibility. Teams don't often talk about other team's players like that.
Now, even if Gainey is negotiating with Komisarek and that is what is keeping him from signing other UFA's like Tanguay or Saku Koivu or Alex Kovalev, that doesn't necessarily mean Komisarek will be back wearing Habs colours next season.
RDS recently did an extremely unscientific comparison (using the extremely useless giveaways statistic as one of the criteria) and determined that Komisarek is worth no more than $3.75 million per season. If Gainey thinks he can get Komisarek under contract for $4 million a year, he's dreaming, even though it's probably true he's worth no more than that. His agent Matt Keator knows very well the inflationary nature of the free agent market, and Komisarek can easily fetch another $1 million or so per year when 10 or 11 teams are competing for his services.
Jay McKee, a defenceman with a similar skill set, managed to grab a four-year, $16 million contract from the St. Louis Blues in the summer of 2006 after a phenomenal playoff run with the Sabres to Game 7 of the conference final. That was three years ago, under a more restraining salary cap, and McKee was 29 at the time. I see no reason why another GM today wouldn't think to offer even more money to a 27-year-old who may very well have more of his best years ahead of him.
In any case, today is June 18, which leaves Gainey 12 days to figure out which of his 10 UFA's he wants to keep, who he'll be selecting in next weekend's draft, who he can trade for at the draft, and who he would like to target once the meat market opens on July 1.
Gainey may be waiting to hear what next season's salary cap figure will be, which something that should be revealed next week after the NHLPA decides this weekend whether or not it wants to implement its 5 per cent inflator option. But really, does it make that big of a difference whether you have $30 million or $33 million to spend in the offseason?
I'm hardly someone who has the right to be scolding someone for leaving things to the last minute, but this is getting somewhat ridiculous.