Habs GM Bob Gainey came right out and said it Thursday afternoon: he's looking for a big centre and he hopes to find it via the trade market at the NHL draft.
The last time we heard Gainey speak so assertively and candidly on anything he planned on doing was when he was chasing after Marian Hossa at the trade deadline last year. We all know how that turned out.
For Gainey to come out and announce to his fan base that he is actively working on trades that would make the Canadiens "a lot better" shows, to me, that there is something big brewing and we could be privy to quite a night at the Bell Centre on Friday.
But is Gainey willing to close the deal? Is he willing to add that extra player, or that draft pick, or to take on the risk of a long-term contract? Basically, is he willing to not be Bob Gainey, at least for a couple of days?
In a direct response to a question regarding the possibility of acquiring Vincent Lecavalier, Gainey said, "It hasn’t been a secret that we’ve always been in the market for a big, strong first-line centre."
Though he declined to specifically address the Lecavalier situation, that answer shows me that there is a line in the water with the Lightning, but not necessarily only with the Lightning.
The fact Gainey wants to make a big deal at this draft has been generally assumed for quite some time, and having him confirm that intent has to be reassuring for fans.
But what I found was the most revealing part of Gainey's meeting with the media Thursday was that he confirmed having made an actual contract offer to Mike Komisarek. Not only that, but Gainey hasn't made an offer to anyone else. So what does that mean, exactly? What's the expiry date on the Komisarek offer? Is it this weekend? And who knows just how competitive an offer it is?
If Komisarek is seeking $5 million a year over a long-term deal, I don't think Gainey will be willing to go that high. I would have to believe that someone out there will be, but it's hard to handicap the behavioural tendencies of the league's GM's in this economic climate with owners breathing down their necks to be smart with their money.
As for the rest of the Habs free agents, Gainey says they understand the situation and are willing to wait until after the draft to talk contract. But really, what else would Gainey say? That Saku Koivu is insulted that after the years of loyal service he's offered this franchise he is now a second-rate priority? Or that Alex Tanguay is starting to get an idea of what he'll be worth on the open market? Or that Alex Kovalev won't sign unless he's assured of being captain?
No, Gainey will say they understand because that's what he has to say, even though his rationale that those players would like to play for a better team is pretty sound.
But he also seems to be admitting that with his assertion of being a major trade partner this weekend, his own performance as GM of the Habs will go down in history as being a positive or a negative one based on what happens over the next two days.
"I think the situation is somewhat risky," he said, "but risk brings opportunity and we’re open to opportunity."
Finally, Gainey says he anticipates holding on to the 18th pick in the draft because he would like to be able to make a first round pick in front of what is anticipated to be a standing-room crowd in the Bell Centre.
But could anyone really care less who the Habs pick in the first round, considering what's at stake?