Pierre Gauthier met with the media Tuesday to say very little, but the one revelation he did provide was that the team will not be extending a contract offer to Dominic Moore and that, for all intents and purposes, his team is set going into next season.
Of course, Carey Price and Maxim Lapierre still need to be signed, but once that is done Gauthier wants to make sure there will be spots remaining for some young (read: cheap) players to fill out the bottom six forwards.
The Canadiens, not including the potential bonus overage for Lars Eller's contract, have just about $5.2 million in salary cap space with Price and Lapierre still to sign, and with the contracts of one or two Hamilton players to add.
That really shouldn't be too big of a squeeze for Gauthier to manage, but what might this team look like, and are you comfortable with it? Because it appears Gauthier is.
Here's how I see a healthy Habs team lining up in the fall (or early winter, if you will, when Andrei Markov is ready to play).
Line 1A - Benoit Pouliot - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Line 1B - Michael Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Andrei Kostitsyn
Line 3 - Maxim Lapierre - Lars Eller - Travis Moen
Line 4 - Tom Pyatt - Dustin Boyd - Mathieu Darche
Knocking on the door: Max Pacioretty, Ryan White, David Desharnais, Brock Trotter
Defence pairing 1 - Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban
Defence pairing 2 - Roman Hamrlik - Jaroslav Spacek
Defence pairing 3 - Hal Gill - Josh Gorges
Odd man out - Ryan O'Byrne
I don't know about you, but considering the injury-riddled season the Canadiens just went through, and the maddeningly inconsistent season both Kostitsyn and Pouliot had, would you not rather have Moore on board to serve as some measure of insurance and depth? To at least know that the third line is set? That it can build on what happened in the playoffs? I would.
Gauthier said the realities of the cap and youngsters pushing for lineup spots made signing Moore and the team's other UFA's impossible. Sorry, don't buy it. If Gauthier wanted to have Moore back he could have, unless his salary demands are completely outrageous.
But how can they be? Moore is not an idiot. He saw himself skating at his alma mater Harvard when the season began last year. He knows he's never scored more than 13 goals in a season. He knows there's not a whole lot of money available out there when even Ilya Kovalchuk's contract demands can't be met.
So Gauthier could have negotiated with Moore if he chose to do so, but he didn't. Unless, of course, today's news that he wouldn't be signed is simply another part of the negotiation. But I doubt that.
So Moore is gone and I feel that's a mistake, though I can admit it's probably not a critical one.
Meanwhile, with Tuesday's signing of Sergei Kostitsyn by the Nashville Predators, it looks as though no compensatory draft picks will be changing hands between the Habs and Preds. This article on the Predators website spells out the conditions attached to that trade, and it appears as though draft picks would only be tacked on if any of the three players involved failed to sign an NHL contract with any NHL team.
So, because Dan Ellis, Boyd and Kostitsyn all signed NHL contracts, the conditional picks are washed away. Except there was never any doubt that Ellis and Boyd would sign somewhere. The only doubt here surrounded Kostitsyn, so I wonder why Gauthier agreed to the conditions seeing as Kostitsyn was also probably the player with the most upside in the trade.
And finally, Jaroslav Halak signed a four-year, $15 million deal with the Blues on Tuesday, thereby confirming he was out the Canadiens price range. The contract was actually a very good deal for the Blues, who purchased Halak's first two years of unrestricted free agency at a reasonable cap hit of $3.75 million annually.
But having that hit instead of whatever Price will sign for may have prevented Montreal from signing Tomas Plekanec, and who knows if Gauthier would have been able to get an NHL-ready prospect like Eller for Price on the trade market. So while I think the Blues got a bargain, I still believe Halak was too pricey for the Habs, and that was only confirmed on Tuesday.
But as I said right after the trade, this Eller kid had better be good.