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 ESPN.com 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) TSN.ca has some more quotes from Ellis' appearance on NHL Live here