Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The goalie price tag determines all

As I type this, there are less than 24 hours remaining until the unrestricted free agent market opens its doors wide open.

Pierre Gauthier has quite a day of negotiating ahead of him.

First on the docket is newly acquired goalie Dan Ellis, and one would think Gauthier would have all his focus on this one matter for the bulk of the day.

Ellis appeared on the NHL Network's "NHL Live" show just before 1 p.m. today and said all the right things, about how he dreamed of wearing the Habs jersey as a kid growing up in Northern Ontario, how the tradition of the franchise is appealing to him, how he's looking to play on a winning team and if that means sharing time with Carey Price, then so be it.

But it also sounded like if nothing is done by this time on July 1, then all bets are off.

"Right now Montreal is the most present situation, and like I said, I'm really excited," he said. "I hope something works out, but if not I'll have to move on."

Frankly, Ellis has to realize what the situation is here. The Canadiens are not desperate to sign him before he becomes a free agent, because as soon as that happens there will be about 10 other legitimate goalies that will also become available. That has to play into Ellis' salary demands because this is a buyer's market, and though he's a solid goaltender he is not a top-10 guy in the league.

Coming off a contract that paid him $1.75 million per year, Ellis probably can't expect to get much more than that from Montreal if there is any hope of him signing here.

He did mention on the show that he spoke to both Gauthier and head coach Jacques Martin after the trade on Tuesday, and he sounds sincerely excited about the possibility of signing with Montreal and playing in a hockey hotbed. Will that excitement translate into a bit of a discount to go to a winning situation, which he says is his priority? We'll see.

Otherwise, Gauthier is in no rush to lock up his other free agents, even Dominic Moore. It's a dangerous game, because after watching Moore in the playoffs some GM out there may want to grab him right off the bat. There won't be too many players available who will give you more bang for your buck than Moore did for the Canadiens last season.

Gauthier, however, can't address the Moore situation until his two goaltenders are locked up, whether that's Price and Ellis or Price and someone else like Martin Biron or Antero Niittymaki or whoever. I would have to imagine Gauthier is hoping his total goaltending bill will come in for less that $4 million, or basically how much he would have had to pay Jaroslav Halak alone if he'd decided to keep his playoff hero.

If he manages to do that, and I find it hard to see how he will if he hopes to sign Ellis, then he can afford to give Moore some money to come back as the third line centre and build on that chemistry we saw with Maxim Lapierre. But if the goalie bill comes in closer to $5 million, then I don't see how Moore can return.

Pierre LeBrun of reported that Marc-Andre Bergeron should be hitting the market tomorrow, which is not a shock, but still newsworthy when the agent admits as much. Otherwise, the only other UFA Gauthier needs to concern himself with is Dustin Boyd, who I doubt will be fielding a ton of phone calls tomorrow, but would still be important to lock up to avoid the possibility that Sergei Kostitsyn was traded for nothing. Well, I guess that's not so important, but still.

If Gauthier is a good boy and gets his homework done today by somehow signing Ellis, Boyd, Price and Moore, then there would be a slight chance we could see some movement by the Canadiens on other free agents who are made available tomorrow. 

But until the goaltending situation is settled, I don't think we should expect any Canada Day fireworks coming from the Habs.

UPDATE (1:27 pm) has some more quotes from Ellis' appearance on NHL Live here


Sliver24 said...

I don't see Ellis signing here before testing the market. If the Habs are willing to pay him $1.75 million now, why not tomorrow afternoon?

I guess he has to avoid falling into the same situation Kovalev did last year, when "the dollars that [the Habs] had allotted there for a particular position were grabbed up by another player."

In any case, if I'm Ellis I'm knocking on Paul Holmgren's door tomorrow at noon. I'm definitely not signing a low-dollar contract with a probable bubble team where I could conceivably end up as the backup.

Chad said...

TSN is reporting that the Flyers have re-signed Michael Leighton. With Boucher and Backlund already on board, Ellis can forget about Philly. I still think the Habs are as good a team as he will find to sign with (and that includes San Jose).

I'm curious as to what is going on with Dustin Boyd. Anyone know if he is close to signing with Mtl?

pierre said...

According to St-Louis management Lars Eller is ready to play in the NHL next season and he is a perfect fit with us as a third line center.

As such we dont need Moore any more but my hope is that Gauthier can get Dustin Boyd signed.... this youngster still as upside while being faster and tougher than Moore thus a good candidate as a winger as well.

Anonymous said...

Boyd is the same height and weight as Moore. But he ain't faster and he ain't tougher than Moore. Simple as that. Sure, give the kid a chance. And I'll be waiting for the day when he can give us what Moore did in the play-offs when you see what a valuable player is really made of..grit, heart and smarts.

Andy J Smith illustration said...

Latendre$$e!! 2.5 m???

HABBY31 said...

I was born in Montreal and have been a Habs fan since the 60's. Here's a little tidbit at how impatient and flat out stupid some Habs fans and media can be. Guy Lafleur was a sub average player his first 3 years and fans & media alike were bashing him and screaming to unload this bust...he'll never be anything. Good thing the fans and media didn't run the team then...LOL. Price is a thoroughbred, he has excelled at every level, if the Habs were to give up on him he's most likely be a superstar elsewhere.

Price had a very good year stats wise last season but didn't get goal support and played mostly top team. He also handled being relegated to back up with class and supported Halak not complaining once. He was always quickly over to Jaro to congratulate or console after a game and was always seen talking strategy at breaks. In my opinion it was a critical growth year for Price. Yet short sighted fans are baffled that we traded a goalie who did nothing but complain about his ice time. It amazes me that these fans were fine with throwing huge amounts of money to keep Halak merely because he had one hot streak, one he may never replicate again in his career. They conveniently forget how inconsistent Halak was for us overall and the amount of complaining he and his agent did the whole time they were part of the organization.

Stop looking for a goaltending controversy people! You're not even being original here!!! All the Habs star goalies have dealt with this mindless idiocy, Durnan, Plante, Vachon, Worsley, Dryden, Roy and more. SUPPORT WHOEVER IS IN THE NET!