Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sather evens things up

I guess this is payback for Jozef Balej.

When Bob Gainey hoodwinked Glen Sather into taking Balej in exchange for impending free agent Alex Kovalev back in 2004, Montreal was abuzz with the thought of a marquee name finally landing in the city.

Now, just over four years later, those two men have hooked up on another trade and Montreal is buzzing just as much over a marquee name.

Only this time, it is with rage.

Scott Gomez is a pretty good hockey player, and taken solely on his merits on the ice he would be worth taking a chance on.

But these days you can't look at a player in a vacuum.

Gomez represents a $7.357 million cap hit for the next five years, which should theoretically lessen his trade value. But, sensing Gainey's desperation to make a big move to improve his team down the middle, Sather managed to grab Christopher Higgins AND Ryan McDonagh AND Pavel Valentenko AND Doug Janik.

The deal is bad on so many levels, the worst of which is that the Rangers can now compete with the Habs on the free agent market.

Adding Gomez's salary brings the Habs cap space down to about $27.5 million, while the Rangers are suddenly at a shade over $25 million. The Rangers aren't out of the woods, however, because they only have three NHL forwards and four defencemen under contract for next season, so they can't exactly start spending that money all in one place. But this deal gets them out of a major league jam.

"It gives us a lot more options, more availability to do other things," Sather told reporters in a conference call. "We're not up against the cap now. We have lots of cap room. It just makes the options more inviting to us."

Secondly, this limits how much Gainey can spend on free agents Wednesday. Gainey knows as well as all of us do how poor of a track record he has when it comes to closing deals on UFAs, and this trade couldn't have been a bigger admission of that.

The third negative point is giving up on Ryan McDonagh, who only turned 20 two weeks ago. He may not be lighting things up at Wisconsin the way Trevor Timmins anticipated, but he's widely regarded to be a future top-pair defenceman and he may very well be an all-star by the time Gomez's contract runs out.

Finally (and I'm only stopping here because this is going to start getting redundant) this trade stinks because Gainey is committing all this money to someone who is essentially the same style of player as Saku Koivu. Yes, Gomez is more durable, has more points and has two rings, but he's basically a slightly better and far more expensive version of Koivu.

If Gainey had gone out and acquired a big bruising centre who could go mano-a-mano with Zdeno Chara and Chris Pronger at that price, I would be the first to say "bravo." But this? A 5-foot-11, 200-pound Scott Gomez will not change the identity of this team one bit. In fact, he's an almost perfect fit to what has been the identity of the Habs for years.

It was only yesterday that Gainey said, "It’s not a question of spending money, that’s not the problem. It's to spend it properly, to spend the right amount on the right person."

I don't think Gainey chose the right person here.

But really, just as no player can be looked at in a vacuum, no trade can either. They all need to be placed in the context of the moves made around them, and in this case, that part of the story has yet to be told.

If Gainey is able to add Martin Havlat or Marian Hossa to play with Gomez and Alex Kovalev, then suddenly the Habs have a pretty credible looking first line. If he can add Francois Beauchemin or, better yet, somehow re-sign Mike Komisarek, then the team is starting to look pretty good.

Despite Gomez's $7.3 million cap hit Gainey still has a good deal of money to spend Wednesday. But this trade makes the pressure to get something out of free agency even more stifling, simply because adding Gomez does not make the Canadiens a better team than they were with Koivu and Alex Tanguay.

In essence, Gainey will be fighting for his job over the next few days.

Gomez, meanwhile, took some time before heading out on a fishing trip in Kenai, Alaska, just south of his hometown of Anchorage, to speak with the Montreal media.

The first thing he said, while we waited for CKAC to shutup so we could start the conference call, was addressed to Canadiens media relations director Dominick Saillant.

"Who did I get traded for?"

Oh, how I would love to be in the woods and away from all news sources right about now.

Otherwise, Gomez was actually pretty candid about rating his performance last season, which was basically the worst of his career when expectations and salary are taken into account. His 58 points in 77 games was his lowest mark since 2003, though he barely topped that with 60 points in 2007.

"If anyone was disappointed about last year, I would be the first," Gomez said. "That's why we play, there's always something to prove...You bet I was embarrassed about last year, the way I played."

An encouraging thought when trying to figure out if Gomez will be able to bounce back is that his most effective years, if not his most productive ones, came in a system in New Jersey that preached tight, disciplined defensive play. In New York that wasn't always the case, but it most definitely will be here under Jacques Martin, so maybe Gomez will be able to thrive.

He also spoke about Montreal's reputation as a hockey "Mecca" and that he feels like he "grew up in the Montreal organization" because of all the former Habs he came across in New Jersey. One of them, in fact, recently had Gomez's No. 19 raised to the Bell Centre rafters, so the newest member of the Habs will have to find another number.

"I thought about calling Larry and asking him," Gomez joked (I hope).

Finally, Gomez addressed the idea that he was crumbling under the pressure of his enormous contract.

"There's pride," he said. "I've never been about money, never grew up with it."

Unfortunately for him, now that he has it, money will be the number one consideration for Canadiens fans when judging Gomez on the ice. And something tells me whatever he does will never be good enough.


Anonymous said...

I don't agree Arpon. Let's give this until December to gauge.

Gomez is a very good player - always one of the best on the ice whenever we played New York and this trade gives us the sense for the type of team Martin wants to field - some offence and defensively aware.

Sliver24 said...

You've said it all.

I hate this trade. It was my immediate reaction and I haven't been able to come up with any reasons to change my mind.

I just hope and pray that I'm wrong about this and that it turns out better than I expect.

Best case to me is that Gainey flips him in a deal but I just can't imagine anyone else being that gullible.

Anonymous said...

Habs fans will continue to get the players and team we deserve. We're become a fickle, neurotic, impatient, and sometimes uterly rude bunch who no solid hockey players worth their weight want to play for.
I remember when the forum was a fun and exciting place to watch a game in. Because of the fans, it no longer is.
I hope we return to those days. When we do, I'm sure the team will improve. As Gomez said, It's about pride, not money!

Anonymous said...

too bad we can't trade teams. right now I'd take the LA Clippers for the Habs and throw in a first round draft pick.

pfhabs said...

Arpon et al:

4.5 hrs later and I still see no reason to have traded McDonagh. off loading about $5.2 of cap from the NY (Gomez - Higgins' qualifying offer) + Valentenko should have been enough.

Bob has just added another competitor for Havlat, Hossa, Komisarek and others...great move dummy

hopefully Geoff Molson is paying attention and we need only suffer until august when Bob will be shown the door.

as great as he was on the ice he's a disaster off ice...I have a deep seeded feeling of anger regardless of what happens tomorrow.McDonagh will be an all star in years to come and we will wonder why. WHY ? Bob is out of his league and needs to move up or out. POINTE FINALE !

Arjun said...

This trade gave me a coma. I can't believe this trade. Why not just keep Saku and give him basically the same amount and you've saved three million a year? And why give up a stud prospect? Oh, no, TWO stud prospects! WTF is Bob smoking. I mean, I've seen him smoking, in the back corner at O'Reagan's. On the patio at the Opus. But he was just smoking ciggies. But now I have to wonder what he puts into those ciggies. This trade is just horrendous. Did I mention the coma? I'm in a coma. RIGHT NOW!!!

pierre said...

Good post Arpon.... very entertaining despite the crisis.

Now, I never was sold to the idea that replacing Andre Savard by Gainey 6 years ago would be a good thing for my love of hockey or my love of the Habs.

I must say his first year with us had almost turned me into a fan but the lost of Beauchemin though waiver in the following summer brought me back to earth in a hurry..... in my book Gainey has proved me
to be an average GM going throught a bad period that lasted 6 years.... with Gillett spending to the limit, the newCBA and all the free agents made availlable during the lock-out the CH was favorably poised to hit the road never to look back at the difficult time left behind...... Gainey blowed it allright.

Could Gainey fixed all the dammage done in the course of one summer and then retired this fall ?

Could Gomez helped attracting the Sedins in Montreal ? Financially it can still be done.

Sedin, Sedin, Kovalev
A.K, Gomez, S.K.
Agostini, Metropolit, Pacioretti
Steward, Lapierre, Latendresse

Markov, Hamrlik, Schneider, Dandenault,
Gorges, O'byrne.

Price, Halak,

Something around that scenario would almost concinced me that Gainey should stik around another year or two.... but it wont happened.

Ted said...

I think I see the plan taking shape. Now we sign Gionta and Madden and we do NJ North.

Does TRAP mean anything to you.

Oh well, you can't say Bob didn't land a big fish this time.

pmk said...

I'd take gomez and his two ring over marleau and his loser stink any day. Mcdonagh is the only part of the deal that really stings a bit but the jury is still ot on him. Higgins could not handle it here and Valenteko will never play in the nhl...

gainey's not done - lets see how July 1st unfolds...

Andrew said...

It took me a while to digest it, but I'm not as outraged as some may be. I think that this was probably the best solution for Gainey considering the circumstances. Before we judge the trade on its own, we have to consider the alternatives. And Gainey HAD to do something at the centre position, so doing nothing is out of the question.

There are only three quality UFA centres (Sedin, Koivu and Antropov). And as history has shown, it's hard for the Habs to rely on the UFA market and it's not for a lack of effort.

Arpon said: If Gainey had gone out and acquired a big bruising centre who could go mano-a-mano with Zdeno Chara and Chris Pronger at that price, I would be the first to say "bravo".

But is there such thing? Who knows who is available. I don't think Marleau or Lecavalier were available, otherwise Gainey would have made a push for them and be willing to pay even more. Can you think of any other centre being available? The only name that comes to my mind is Daniel Briere. Who do you prefer?...

Basically, it comes down to Gomez, Briere or Koivu. I don't want Koivu (hasn't worked in the last 10 years), and Briere has an even bigger contract, a no-movement clause and a worrisome injury last year.

Did we give overpay? McDonagh was dispensable because of our depth in the young defensemen department (Weber and Subban). I don't know if he's gonna be an all-star, Timmins admitted that he didn't develop as expected. Higgins is a winger and easier to replace. As for Janik and Valentenko, I consider them to be throw-ins rather than valuable assets. They are marginal additons to the price we paid and we shouldn't be outraged by these names being included in the trade.

Considering what the Flyers paid for Pronger, which established the pricing on the trade market, I don't think the price we paid was outrageous.

pfhabs said...

amazing to me that people still slag Koivu...are you people awake look at his stats for the last decade. oh btw where were the elite wingers he played with ? Jerome Iginla has won what ? guess Calgary should trade him also...what has Koivu done in 10 years ?---made a talent poor team competitive, won you a series against Boston coming back from cancer, gave you everything he had on the ice every night and for those of you in Montreal a community leader through his foundation...wake up please and draw your own conclusions not those of certain media outlets

McDonaugh is expendable ? all scouting projections have him at a #2 pairing..he didn't develop as fast as expected BID DEAL its where he ends up that counts and why give sather any assets ?...you just put him in the running for all UFAs and in competition with you.

Schneider is 40+ years old and cannot play 2nd pairing minutes he'll breakdown by Christmas. if Komisarek is not signed this defence is lauaghable a bunch of 4s, 5s and 6s playing in the #2 and #3 slots.

Happy Canada Day, in Bob I do not trust

Andrew said...


The issue with Koivu is more about what is left in the tank and looking forward rather than what he did or didn't do in the past.

OK, I did mention the "hasn't worked in the last 10 years" (I did NOT say that he hasn't done anything, so I am not taking away his own personal accomplishments or his community involvement). But I'll still take it back and say that my comment wasn't fair. I just think it's time for new blood and new leadership. I still believe the solution going forward is not with Koivu. Gomez has a much higher ceiling than Koivu and is still in his prime years.

Was McDonagh expendable? I really think so. We had a depth of assets in the young D department with Weber and Subban. A straight Higgins-Gomez (or any other available center) trade wouldn't have made the cut. The trade market price got set with the Pronger deal. Considering our needs at the centre position and excess assets in young D, sacrificing McDonagh along with Higgins is OK with me. I have no idea what kind of talent McDonagh would have given us, but I think Subban, Weber and McDonagh are somewhat interchangeable and the organization decided that McDonagh was less valuable than Subban and Weber, who are closer to the NHL than McDonagh.

The question I have for you is what would you have done at the centre position? We have Lapierre, Metropolit and Plekanec. It's a bit scary. I know you talked about our problems on defense and I agree with you. But we also had a problem at the center position and they are even scarcier than defensemen and we don't have as much depth at center in the farm system.

If you think Koivu is the best alternative, we just have to agree to disagree.

My biggest negative on this trade is the cap hit that Gomez has on our salary structure. But considering the alternatives and our need for a center, we didn't have many options. I think Briere is available because of the cap situation with the Flyers and because he has fallen behind Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, but you get the same cap hit problem with him and for a longer time.

Yes, giving the Rangers some cap cushion is a negative. But we would have given cap space to any other team that was willing to trade a center away, unless we re-sign Koivu. And regardless of the Rangers' cap space, I think we would have challenges signing UFA anyway.

Considering the circumstances and available information or circumstantial evidence, I'm not outraged by the deal and the Habs still have some cap space to make a fair run at the UFAs.

Anonymous said...

If this trade could have happened without including McDonagh, don't you think that's what we would have done?

He's part of the trade because our GM thought he had to be to get it done - end of story. We need front line centres now.

What ever Bob saw when he stepped in to coach at the end of the year told him we were not going to get it done with the same veteren core and style of play. I trust his assessment because he has first hand experience and proven success as a player, coach and GM in the NHL and intimate knowledge of the situation in and out of the dressing room.

Under the circumstances, this trade is fine.

Anonymous said...

One other thing Arpon. I read your site every day and enjoy it very much. It stands out because it is has been so even-handed. You seem to get the immense challenges our team faces in getting better and accept that it won't always go the way we want it to.

And lately it feels like some cynicism (especially aimed at Bob) is sneaking in here that I had not noticed before. Maybe I am hyper-sensitive because of all the crap so many people are raining down on the team and maybe you have begun to succumb to the negative aura many are creating.

I hope that is not the case because the team needs as much balanced and intelligent analysis and support it can get for it's success. In my work (as a team coach) I see the impact that negativity and cynisism has on performance - it always brings it down - and I believe being a fan is about contributing to the positivity a team needs for success. That does not mean you can't question what is done - you just do it in a way that continues to contribute to positive discourse and atmosphere.

pfhabs said...

Positive Anon:

-your coaching of a team (not in the NHL) bears no semblance of running a professional team..the Canadiens and their management is a business, you I presume are trying to develop good citizens through a sport that your players love and play for free. objectives are light years away and criticism of the professionals is fully warranted. it is not a PTA meeting, nor milk and cookies its pro sports run by people who are paid to be the best in the league. you are no doubt a volunteer...no comparison

as for Bob's and Pierre Gauthier's track record it speaks for itself. it is not my role as a fan for 50+ years to close my eyes and sing Kum-by-ya. their record on the pro side is dismal and last year was replete with on and off ice "activity" that was in Bob's control and he failed...this team went from a 1st place finisher to a country club bubble team.

1. in the last 5 years Gomez has score 29 more points than Koivu but will cost $3.25 more than Saku in salary and perhaps $3-$3.5 more on cap....not much of an upgrade by a guy that is 6 years younger than the disposable captain

2. just because Holland has Lindstrom you do not see Detroit saying we do not need Rafalski, Kronwell, Stuart and Ericcisson. they pile on the talent at ridiculous cap friendly prices and have not been out of the top 5 teams in 15 years ! below via Hockeysfuture.com is that website's analysis of McDonagh

"McDonagh has it all and is expected to play a key role in the Canadiens' fortunes for the next decade. If not a number-one blueliner, he would be considered a 1A, with the talent to easily stake a long-term claim on the first defensive pairing. "

juxtaposed to Detroit we throw away assets for nothing..should we revisit what we got for Souray, Streit, Ryder, now Komisarek and McDonagh

about to lose Komisarek, lost McDonagh you're depending on a rookie Weber and a 40 year old Schneider (if signed) to fill in the gap ?

Bob was outstanding on the ice but I do not let that cloud my view of his performance in the board room. if you do we will repectfully agree to disagree

if I offended your sensitivities I'm sorry but I've seen the best this team has offered since the 1950's...we are closer to Reggie Houle days than you can imagine...learn about Taylor Hall in Windsor because at day's end we may be in that lottery next year

pfhabs said...


-you are correct re centre. Pleks, Lapierre and Metro are more top AHL calibre than top NHL...so we need centres now. I just think they overpaid by throwing in McDonagh and as I stated to Positive Anon..you can never have too many good-great D men

I believe someone smarter than me in sports said defense wins championships

apparently Valentenko is ready to come back to North America, McDonagh will be in your top 2 pairings we get an ECHL guy and an AHL guy not sure if that equates

so if not Gomez (who is only a #2 centreman) who then as they still need a #1. I believe Hudler and Fillpula are RFAs and although not #1s yet are better than our 3 centres. is there a fit with Detroit ?...could send them McDonagh for ....oooh wait that's not possible now is it..my bad

Andrew said...

Hi pfhabs,

You are making the assumption that Hudler and/or Filipula are available and that Detroit is willing to dance with Montreal. Are you so sure? I'm willing to bet that they are not even close to the being on the trading market.

As a matter of fact, Filipula is signed until 2013. So that's a non-starter. Hudler is a RFA, but the Wings just let Hossa sign with another team (hence the original one year contract to Hossa last year) to have enough cap space to sign their RFAs.

So the question still stands, besides Gomez who was/is available? What were the alternatives? It's too easy to throw around names and speculating that they might be available. I'm sure Gainey and Sather knew that, through elimination process around the league, Gomez was the only centerman left that made some sense.

The obvious conclusion was that Gainey needed a center now. A straight Higgins to Gomez trade wouldn't have been enough to seal the deal. Maybe Sather asked for McDonagh specifically and no one else. Maybe Sather saw exactly what you see in McDonagh. So what do you do in that specific case? Nix the deal, keep McDonagh and keep the centers you currently have (yikes!)? Given the assets we have in the farm system, a young D was the most logical tradable asset to give. We don't have as much depth in the forward lines as they are all in the NHL (Pacioretty and D'Agostini) and I'm sure Sather didn't want an NHL roster player to keep some cap space.

Of course you can never have too many good-great D men. But being short a quality NHL centerman would be even worse.

As for Valentenko... I don't know where you got the source that he was coming back to N.A. We heard the same thing about Emelin and he re-signed in Russia shortly after those rumors came up... Valentenko, Janik, Busto and Pyatt are not significant factors to determine whether this deal made sense or not. The trade is not about those players.



pfhabs said...

hey Andrew;

Hudler is a RFA and all he needs is an offer sheet. using Detroit as example it's a team with 4 good centres and both Hulder & Filpula will play behind Datsyuk & Zetterberg or on the wing..Detroit is up against the cap much like NYR who also have Drury and Dubinsky and 1 other who can play centre...so dealing with Detroit or NY you have teams that can deal a good centre...Ottawa with only Spezza (not that CH wants Spezza) as a #1 or #2 is not a place to look...so are Hulder and Filpula available neither you nor I know but as available as was Gomez before the trade and until traded neither you nor I knew he was. so yes Hudler may be available as may Filpula.

I said apparently Valentenko was coming back and that's from TSN discussing the Gomez deal in that Sather would only have taken him knowing it was possible to get him back.

Valentenko will be an another NHLer probably in the 3rd pairing..Pyatt and Busto will never play in the nhl...

so as much as Higgins + whomever NY gets with that freed up cap space ($5 million) is enough for Gomez, Bob also got fleeced on the backend

cut it anyway you want Bob overpaid and still no #1 centreman and looks like less possibilities of wingers to play with Scott...btw he skates too fast for Kovalev to keep up with him so Kovy (if signed) would be a poor winger choice

you think its a good or great deal and McDonagh is no loss and the others were all minor leaguers that's fine...for me Bob got taken to the cleaners and Gauthier led him down the path on this one

Andrew said...

Hi pfhabs,

I never said it was a good deal. I said I wasn't outraged and I think it was the best solution considering the circumstances. I can't say I'm super excited about the deal (because of cap hit) and my initial reaction to the deal was a disappointment. But after a night's sleep and pondering the alternatives, I can see how Gainey didn't have much choice.

I never said that McDonagh was no loss. I just think that it was part of the price to pay so that we are not stuck with Pleks, Lapierre, Metropolit and Maxwell/Chipchura at the center position.

Whether it's McDonagh, Valentenko, Pacioretty or anybody other NHL prospect included in the deal is of course a loss. But that's the reality of the NHL.

With regards to Filipula and Hudler, the most reasonable assumption to make is that they are not available. Even if they were, they're not necessarily closer to being in the Habs uniform as it takes two to dance. Based on Gomez's trade and knowing that Gainey isn't stupid, he probably didn't have much alternative, otherwise he would have made that deal instead. Unless you are mean enough to think that Gainey is really stupid.

so as much as Higgins + whomever NY gets with that freed up cap space ($5 million) is enough for Gomez, Bob also got fleeced on the backend

So you agree that Higgins + prospect is enough for Gomez, then Gainey only (not also) got fleeced on the backend? Like I said, the so called backend doesn't mean much. It's not worth arguing over those players. You could say that the trade was about Higgins + McDonagh + Valentenko for Gomez and the Habs got Busto and Pyatt for nothing. Yeah, we win the backend of the deal. Again, that's unimportant. Valentenko, with a 75% chance of playing in Russia (he's already there) is not worth as much to the Habs.

Unfortunately, the trade market was set by the Flyers and raised the bar for a lot of teams. Pronger (1-year left on contract) got traded for Luppul (signed for 4-years), Sbisa (2008 1st round pick with 39 games played in the NHL) and 2 first-round picks. Now that's a VERY expensive trade for the Flyers considering that Pronger could walk away next year and the fact that the Flyers will probably need to shed a high salary player adds to the cost of the deal.

That was the reality that Gainey had to deal with. Again, considering the circumstances, Gainey didn't have much options and didn't have leverage. Doing nothing was not an option. Losing McDonagh is unfortunate, but keeping McDonagh and nixing the Gomez trade was not a better option.



pfhabs said...


-as a RFA the only person Bob had to dance with is Hudler's agent...is he better than Gomez would then be the question and whether next year's draft choices to give as compensation to Detroit are the equivalent of McDonagh

for me with Hulder you set the cap and salary with Gomez you absorb it

Gainey isn't stupid but has reached his level of competence. ..rebuilt the farm and on ice product from the darkness of Houle & Corey.. great job...time to hand over the fine tuning to someone more aggressive more nibble and someone to jetison Gauthier

lets leave it at that...do you like hall Gill over Komisarek ?

Andrew said...

Hi pfhabs,

I hate to lose Komisarek, but realistically, I don't think he ever had intentions to sign with us.

Hal Gill, is ok. But will never match Komisarek. At least, it's not a big and long cap hit. He'll compensate somewhat for Komo's toughness. He's a 5th or 6th D.

I like Spacek. Salary aside, that's an improvement over Breezer.

I like Cammelleri, if he can keep up with last year's performance, I think he's a great addition. $6M is not bad for a 39 goal scorer. Hmmm, he's listed as a center... I thought he was a winger. Does 39 goals fit your definition of number one center? ;-)

I know, I know. We've been signing players on the small side... That may be the negative.

I guess we'll have to see until the end of the day and see how we've improved with all the ins and outs. The day is not over. Habs still have $15.5M to spend if my quick calculation is correct.

What's your take so far?

pfhabs said...


-2 weeks ago he was 70-30 to leave on monday he was 50-50 to stay and that's from the agent Matt Keator

-he'll love crushing Gomez and Cammalleri as a Leaf...he will simply kill Kovalev, Kostitsyn and all those other posers we have up front

-bubble team at best