Friday, July 10, 2009

Boxing Day

When asked why he didn't address the team's dire lack of size on the opening day of free agency, Bob Gainey said that July 1 was a day you shopped for skill.

In that sense, perhaps July 10 was like Boxing Day, when you grab some valuable pieces at discount prices.

After announcing the signing of 6-foot-4, 212-pound defenceman Paul Mara earlier in the day, the Canadiens added a prime checking forward in 6-foot-2, 216-pound winger Travis Moen.

And just like that, the Habs don't seem that small anymore.

OK, maybe that's going a little too far, because five of the top six forwards will still be 6-feet or under. But addng Mara on the back end and Moen up front will make the Canadiens far more difficult to play against than they were a day ago.

Both contracts appear to be good value on the dollar. No firm contract details have come out for Mara's one year deal, but he told La Presse Canadienne that he took a slight pay cut from his $1.95 million salary last season. For a 29-year-old who's still in the prime of his career, that's not too bad.

ESPN reported that Moen's deal is for three years and $4.5 million, or the same contract Georges Laraque received last summer. Considering there's already questions about the same disc problem in Laraque's back that plagued him last year, and that Gainey had said he was only looking to add another defenceman in free agency, perhaps Moen's addition is the precursor to a buyout of Laraque's remaining two years on his contract. If so, then this move makes perfect sense. If not, the Canadiens will not be a team that is pushed around next season.

Moen is not afraid to drop the gloves, and he does it against some pretty tough customers. He had nine fighting majors last year, incidentally the same number as Laraque did, and he took on the likes of Todd Fedoruk, Erik Reitz (that Isles giant who tossed Laraque around like a rag doll), and Jared Boll (here's a video of the Boll fight). Moen didn't win too many of those fights, at least according to his fight card at hockeyfights.com, but at least he brings more to the table than just fighting.

Moen was 21st in the league last year in hits among forwards with 171, just ahead of the 167 of the departed Tom Kostopoulos, who is basically the guy Moen is being brought in to replace. Moen's also a go-to guy on the penalty kill and, really, I'd rather my top grinder be from Saskatchewan than Mississauga, so I consider Moen a really big upgrade on Tom the Bomb.

Mara also appears to have found his fighting legs in the last year, posting a career high six fights last season. That's the same number as his previous three seasons combined, and maybe it's what convinced Gainey that Mara was a guy he wanted on his blueline because none of Andrei Markov, Jaro Spacek, Roman Hamrlik, Josh Gorges or even Hal Gill are very frequent fighters.


Having already admitted I didn't know a whole about Mara, I thought I'd scour some of the Rangers fan blogs to see what they thought of losing him and for the most part, it appears he was an appreciated player in New York. But I get the impression it was more for his playoff beard than anything else.

Anyhow, here's a sampling of reaction from the Rangers blogosphere:

Puckcentral.net
"I'm sort of disappointed that the Rangers opted to not re-sign Mara, as I thought he had a solid season last year, had completely transformed his game to fit into the Rangers team by becoming much more physical and a stand up teammate."

NYRangerscast.com
"Personally, I’m disappointed to see him go, even though I knew it was coming. He’s a guy whose usefulness extended off the ice. He was a leader of this team and a guy who went all out every game. Mara was never the most talented defensive player on the Rangers, but he worked as hard, or harder, than any other player on the team and it showed. Montreal is getting a very nice player. And one hell of a playoff beard."

rangerstribune.com
"Mara was a cheap, but solid player on the Ranger blueline while he played here, and was a great leader on the team. Good luck to Paulie, and the fans of Montreal must learn to respect the beard."

Scotty Hockey
"Mara never lived up to expectations but proved himself a capable, consistent defenseman during his time in New York. While he wasted a ton of power play time - much like every other defenseman on the roster - Mara was good at getting the puck out of the zone, always willing to stand up for teammates and had one legendary beard."

The New York Rangers Blog
"Mara really turned into a solid defenseman for the Rangers the last two years and became one of the few players on the team that would actually stick-up for teammate."

So what are the cap implications here? Gainey spent under $3.5 million of his $8.8 million in availavable cap space today, leaving him just over $5 million to spend in re-signing RFA's Tomas Plekanec, Guillaume Latendresse, Matt D'Agostini and Gregory Stewart. That number would be increased by $750,000 if Laraque is indeed bought out.

I'm going to assume that despite his horrid season Plekanec will still get a raise from his $1.8 million salary, so let's say he gets $2.25 million, just like his fellow underachiever from last season Chris Higgins did with the Rangers. Latendresse should make at least $1 million, but I'll give him $1.25 million just to be on the safe side, while D'Agostini and Stewart should combine to make about $1.5 million.

That makes $5 million for those four players, so unless Laraque is bought out or there's some salary that will be shed in a trade, Gainey will enter training cap right up against the cap.

Personally, while it may not be the most prudent course of action, I say it's better to go into training camp with the team you envision having rather than saving money for a deadline day move. Those deadline moves rarely work, unless they're made by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Gainey's usually unwilling to overpay on that day as we saw in the Marian Hossa auction.

The depth in the organization was greatly improved today, so most injuries can be accomodated from within with youngsters who should be on a pretty darn good team in Hamilton.

So now, for the second time in a day, here are my projected lines for this team that has added seven new players in the past 10 days, taking for granted that Laraque will be either bought out or placed on long-term injured reserve. I've never been a proponent of building a team through free agency, but on paper, this lineup looks pretty good:

Pacioretty - Gomez - Gionta (still an All-American line)
A. Kostitsyn - Plekanec - Cammalleri
Moen - Lapierre - Latendresse (suddenly a pretty great crash-and-bang line)
Metropolit centring some combination of Stewart/S. Kostitsyn/D'Agostini

Markov - Spacek
Hamrlik - Mara
Gill - Gorges

Extras (either in Hamilton or the press box): Chipchura, O'Byrne, Weber, Subban, one of Stewart, S. Kostitsyn or D'Agostini.

9 comments:

Sacha said...

Always a pleasure reading your blog. Just got one point to mention here. For your lines, Cammalleri is a C/LW... I don't believe he has ever played on the right. I also doubt MaxPac is ready for the first line. I would see more the following:

Cammalleri-Gomez-Gionta (Martin and Gainey pretty much already stated that)
Pleks centering A. Kostitsyn and MaxPac (or Sergei if that works better)
Love your 3rd and 4th lines with no objections to your D projections.

rei said...

Hey what's wrong with Mississauga!?

Anonymous said...

Why buy out Laraque - if he has the same disc problems as last year, wouldn't putting him on long term IR give 1.5 M in cap relief ?

Arpon Basu said...

It just seems like too comfortable a place to produce grinders. Nothing personal, but a guy from Swift Current just sounds tougher.

Paul said...

While Cammaleri has not been on the right wing for any appreciable time in his career, there is a fair amount of evidence that he will be tried there for a bit by Martin. Martin has already strongly indicated in his most recent press conferences/interviews that all three newcomers will likely NOT be together (he's concerned about size). Gomez/Gionta is a given, until at least December/January. Martin spoke of "duos" and clearly indicated that spots on LW are "up for grabs". I think Martin sees Cammeleri (who said he was told by Gainey he was NOT expected to be a centre except for maybe some spot duty there) as primarily a shooter and believes the left-hand shot from the right to be quite potent in the hands of a legitimate shooter. So, given the new additions, I see the following lines.

AK--Gomez--Gionta
Gui/Pacs--Plekanec--Cammaleri
Moen--Lapierre--Gui/Pacs
Stewart--Metro--SK

Extras: D'Agostini, Laraque (if not bought out or on IR)

On D

Markov--Mara/Spacek
Hamrlik--Spacek/Mara (Spacek and Hamrlik have good chemistry from international play)
Gill--Gorges

Extra: O'Byrne (Weber if Laraque is on IR or bought out)

G

Price
Halak

That's a 23 man roster that has a bit of flexibility if Laraque is not around as Weber can do spot duty upfront.

pfhabs said...

Arpon:

-according to this article by Brian Larose at Habsworld.net
http://www.habsworld.net/article.php?id=1811

CH is $230,000 under the cap without accounting for Weber, S Kostitsyn and Pacioretty...I smell a trade or two (for picks only )coming and George on long term injury reserve. they have too many left wingers and centremen.trader Bob is not done yet.

interesting that D men picked up Spacek, Gill & Mara are all described as sort of useful journeymen and all older and slower than Komisarek.

if you consider no one in their right mind would have given Gionta $5/5 yrs they could have signed him for $4.5 and had the $2.5 left over to match in a 5 yr deal the leaf offer. they would have had their captain and a better Dman with grit than the 3 they got and still retained their 5'7" mighty mouse.

-yep its my hindsight but Bob is paid for foresight and vision. quantity doesn't surpass quality.

as for Martin I watched his teams in Ottawa...forget exciting up tempo hockey...as for sticking Cammelleri on right wing that would only be another experiment with results yet to be proven...no sense in keeping him on left where he wants to be and excelled last year lets experiment again

get the sense that October will be a losing month of line changes (hello Guy Carbonneau)

Anonymous said...

I think O'Byrne's 900k salary will be hidden in the AHL. Add 500k for today's signing of Chipchura. That signing may lead to Metropolit being shipped elsewhere, maybe.

Kostitsyn Gomez Gionta
Cammalleri Plekanec Latendresse
Pacioretty Lapierre Moen
Stewart Chipchura D'Agostini

Markov Gorges
Hamrlik Spacek
Gill Mara

Anonymous said...

I would be surprised to see Metropolit go before the season is a third done unless he has to for Cap reasons. You know how conservative Bob is when it comes to relying to heavily on rookie/sophomore players. Chipchura will have to prove he can do it and then some before Bob lets Metropolit go I think.

srs said...

Metropolit is crafty. One of the standout performers for the habs in playoffs. Does the little things well. Good vision and hockey sense. Chipchura has yet to impress.
SRS