For Bob Gainey, this is probably the biggest day of his professional life.
I know he had a lot of big games as a player, he coached in a Cup final with the North Stars and he won a Stanley Cup as GM with the (South) Stars, and on and on and on. But I would venture that his reputation as a hockey mind was never more on the line as it is today.
Should Gainey fail to attract another top line forward and/or a top pair defenceman when free agency starts less than an hour from now, a lot of people around the hockey world may start to wonder whether or not he's lost it.
Gainey does not have much selection when it comes to defencemen, unless he gets Mike Komisarek to re-sign once he sees what's out there, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that one. Francois Beauchemin will be a highly sought after asset, with Brian Burke in Toronto supposedly getting ready to go after both him and Komisarek.
The nature of free agency makes it so teams generally have to overpay to sign a player, and that is doubly true for Gainey considering the tax situation in Quebec and the perception among players that this is a tough city for them to have any peace.
With the Sedins re-signing in Vancouver today, Gainey is left with little option other than to overpay for injury risks like Martin Havlat or Marian Gaborik. It is far from ideal, but it's something Gainey is going to need to do if he wants to justify yesterday's Scott Gomez deal because by itself that trade does not significantly improve the team, let alone re-define it.
I'm curious to see if any of the Habs free agents will get a nibble today from other teams. Does Saku Koivu jump ship to Minnesota or Anaheim? Will Alex Tanguay wait on the Canadiens so he can stay close to home? What kind of interest will Mathieu Schneider get considering he's 40 and looking for a two-year deal? Same goes for Robert Lang, coming off a devastating injury? How about the role players like Tom Kostopoulos, or Francis Bouillon, or Mathieu Dandenault?
It should make for an interesting day, one that could potentially cement Gainey in the GMs role in Montreal or spell the end of his era with the Canadiens.