Friday, July 2, 2010

Gauthier's got a short alphabet

Back when he traded Jaroslav Halak to the Blues, Habs GM Pierre Gauthier said he not only had a Plan B, but had a plan for every letter of the alphabet.

I'm wondering where on that alphabetical chart the signing of Alex Auld fit in? Clearly, Plan A was signing Dan Ellis to play alongside Carey Price and challenge him for ice time. But when that didn't work, what was the next option? Auld? Really?

Martin Biron, according to people who know these things, inquired with the Canadiens whether or not they would be interested in his services. He was given a "no" answer, and promptly signed with the Rangers for two years at $875,000 per to sit and watch Hanrik Lundqvist.

Shortly thereafter, Gauthier came to terms with Auld on a one-year, $1 million contract. Baffling, really, when you consider what the goalie market was shaping up to be.

I understand Gauthier had his hands tied in terms of the salary cap, and the unknown commodity of Price's next contract (though by this point you would hope Gauthier has at least a ballpark figure on how much that will cost). But once it became clear that he wasn't going to give Ellis the extra year and $500,000 per season it would take to match the offer he ultimately accepted with Tampa Bay (though he likely would have had to pay more to compensate for Quebec's income taxes), Gauthier should have just sat back and let the dust settle a little bit to see what was left.

It was a game of musical chairs for the goalies, with far fewer jobs than there were players. At the end of the day, Evgeni Nabokov, Marty Turco and Jose Theodore remain available. Johan Hedberg may have jumped at the chance to actually play more than once a month before deciding to go back up Martin Brodeur in New Jersey for $500,000 more than Auld received from Gauthier.

Again, going back to when he traded Halak, Gauthier said he would go out and get another good goalie to complement Price. But Auld will not compete with Price for ice time, he will play a very traditional back-up role. And whether or not he's a good goalie is barely even debatable.

Of Auld's 19 starts with a pretty bad Dallas Stars team last season, he gave up three or more goals 13 times. He had what was probably the best season of his career a year prior with Ottawa, when he went 16-18-7 with a 2.47 GAA and .911 save percentage. But just when it looked like Auld was going to be the man in Ottawa, he fell apart.

After starting the season 9-6-3, Auld went 7-12-4 from Dec. 8 to the end of the season. Of course, we all know (or at least we should) that a won-loss record is not a good reflection of a goaltender because it's more of a team stat. So, in compiling that 9-6-3 record, Auld had a stellar 1.98 GAA with a .925 save percentage, but from Dec. 8 on he went to a 2.86 GAA and a .902 save percentage.

The season before that Auld played extremely well for the Bruins, going 9-7-5 with a 2.32 GAA and .919 save percentage. 

But aside from the numbers, this is Auld's eighth team since 2006. That's about two teams a year. Does that fill you with confidence?

Perhaps I'm wrong about Auld. Maybe he'll become a revelation this season and be able to log 30 starts without costing the Habs a playoff spot. But if not, if I'm right, Price had better be ready to fulfill his potential right now.

Of course, that's assuming Price will come to terms on a new contract, because he remains unsigned as a restricted free agent with no arbitration rights. If ever there was a situation where a holdout would be in order, I would imagine this would be it. If I'm Price's agent Gerry Johansson, I'm shooting for the moon with this contract. The Canadiens were negotiating from a position of strength before trading Halak and signing Auld, but they aren't anymore. Johansson knows very well the Habs have no recourse if his client isn't taken care of, and he can use that to his advantage.

I'm sure he doesn't want to holdout and will likely sign prior to training camp, but the way Gauthier has handled this situation - or at least the order in which he's gone about his business - has empowered Price a great deal. He has to know Gauthier won't want to start the season with a tandem of Auld and Curtis Sanford, who was also re-signed Thursday. Will Price use that to his advantage? Only time will tell.

Aside from the goaltending, Gauthier was able to lock up Dustin Boyd to a $650,000 a year contract. That makes the Sergei Kostitsyn trade worth it, even though Ellis got away. Boyd is not a game-breaker and has nowhere near as high a ceiling as Kostitsyn does. But he won't make headlines, and that's what the Canadiens want out of their fourth-liners, which was also a big reason Georges Laraque was asked to leave.

Boyd may turn into another Pyatt type with more offence, and that's just fine.

With the Boyd and Auld signings, Gauthier has a little under $5.3 million left in cap space if the bonus overage allowance is not used. If Max Pacioretty is included on next year's team, that cap space drops to $4.4 million to take care of Price, Maxim Lapierre and perhaps one other forward like Dominic Moore, who I still think Gauthier should bring back.

So Gauthier is probably done in the free agent pool. And right now, I can't say he was a very strong swimmer.


Dean said...

It ticks me off when I read something like this. Let's go through the goalies you mentioned:

Biron: Really, what do you think would happen if Price has 1 bad game and he is backed up by a veteran French Canadian goalie? You know as well as I do the fans would go crazy. Gauthier was smart not doing this deal.

Ellis: Would have been nice, but he is only 29 and wants to start. He stated he was not really going to go to Montreal because he wants to start.

Come on Arpon, don't be one of these guys that whines about every move or lack of move. Give Gauthier the benefit of the doubt that he may have thought this through better than you.

Arjun said...

I'm not happy with Auld either. And I wouldn't be surprised to see someone like Desjardins get a game or two before season's out. Auld is insurance.

Anonymous said...

This move is very disappointing!

Especially considering the amount of money in question was exactly equal to the raise given to Pouliot as a reward for his stellar season!

Auld has played for, and been dumped by, nearly a third of the league already!

There is absolutely no contingency plan covering a Price meltdown during the 2010-2011 season. (Sanford and Desjardins are hardly a viable backup plan).

So,has Goatier been duped by the "new" conventional wisdom in the NHL that good goal tending is no longer a prerequisite for success?

I hope not, for teams who don't have Keith and Seabrook or a very tough, mobile defense corps and forwards who score and are tough at both ends of the ice this notion is a fallacy!

Reeves said...

I fully agree with dean on this one. It is very
clear what the brass is doing, they are giving
price the reins. By not signing a goalie that 
will chalange him they eleviate all kinds of
potential Montreal media based drama! 

 The French Canadian subject which dean 
has already mentioned is a big one. Also
if they signed some one capiable of being 
a starter, once price had a couple of bad 
games all those "GM'S" in Montreal would
be screaming for prices head again and
once again we would be in the middle of a
useless goaltending contraversy ,and I fail
to see how that would be consisted any kind
of progression foward. 

Also Auld is on a one year contract which 
leaves room for the growth and arrival of
desjardins who is looking more than capiable
him self. 

 So over all Auld may not be a " name". Every
one had hoped for. But in the end he may be
just what the doctor ordered........a back up!

kyleroussel said...

Of course Biron's heritage was a consideration in Gauthier (rightly) saying no. What a mess that would have created. On the flip side, it would have handed lazy media types (no, not you Arpon) tons of free material. The Canadiens don't need that.

The chance to sign Ellis was just that - a chance. The real trade was Kostitsyn for Boyd, and for $650,000, I'll take Boyd, so let's not even talk about Ellis.

I won't debate that Price had better get his act together immediately. I don't think he was bad last year, but he'll have to be great this year to get the Habs to the playoffs. He has no room for error. I wouldn't want to be him right now.

I disagree with you on 2 fronts: First, that Gauthier wasn't a strong swimmer in the free agent pool. Sure, he was no Phelps, but what was he supposed to do? He got Plekenec back at a reasonable dollar figure, and *maybe* a year too long. He got just what the organization wanted in Auld. And he signed Boyd who had gone UFA. I don't understand what he was supposed to do. Why isn't the media highlighting the fact that Gainey is the one who left Gauthier with this cap situation? I guess it really is more fun to pick on non-legendary ex-Habs.

Secondly, you'd have to be out of your mind to suggest that Price hold out. More than half the fans are already sharpening their knives to carve him up the instant he gives up a bad goal. He not only has to play well, he has to display maturity and a team-first mentality if he wants to be re-welcomed by everyone in Habsland. A holdout would seal his fate and sink the season before it even begins. I'm sure you aren't actually thinking that he should hold out, and that his agent has probably dreamt of that, but for him to do it would be tatamount to career suicide in Montreal.

TK said...

Have they signed Cedrick "the entertainer" Desjardins yet? I think the smart money is on him to win a job over Alex Auld. Then we will see a Quebec-nationalist fueled goalie war (even though Desjardins is from New Brunswick and Price is clearly a better goalie).

Arpon Basu said...

Fair points by all, except for this prevailing wisdom that a French-Canadian goalie was to be avoided at all costs. Call me naive, but these guys are actually pretty insulated from media pressure. And if Price plays badly this season, he's still going to feel it, even though there's an Anglo as a back-up. I really don't feel it was a factor in Gauthier's decision, but I may be wrong.

@Dean - I don't whine about every move, if you read my archive's you'll see I was one of the only ones to defend the Halak trade and I commended Gauthier for getting Plekanec signed to what I feel is a cap-friendly contract.

@Kyle - No, I don't think Price should holdout, I just feel his contract perhaps should have been signed before Halak was traded, or at least before it became painfully obvious that Price was going to be the unquestioned man. He had little leverage before, he has tons now. That's all I was trying to reflect. A holdout would obviously be a PR nightmare

Anonymous said...

there was no way biron or any francophone goalie was going to be backup to the CHOSEN ONE of gainey gauthier 2 complete incompetant and stubborn olde men who refuse to admit that they were wrong that Price is or ever was of the quality of a #5 overall pick in the draft. they already know that the fans will be on price from the word go this fall on his first blunder, but to have a francophone on the bench that they and the french media will be clamoring for to replace him- BIRON had no chance of ever coming here. Notice how the Penguins with ALL those expensive players on their roster always make big acquisitions at every trade deadline and free agency. Flyers too who never use the NO CAP SPACE LIE that gainey and gauthier use because they THEMSELVES dont have a clue about running a team in this MODERN cap era and on their own put the Habs in this current cap hell. 7 years here gainey and gauthier do next to nothing at every trade deadline and free agency(EXCEPT last year when MOLSONS BROS FORCED THEM TO ALTER ROSTER GAINEY SAID MONTHS EARLLIER AFTER TRADE DEADLINE HE WAS PLEASED WITH). These are the 2 worst GMs in the NHL.

Kevin Smith said...

It's a bit illogical to suggest that Price has a major position of strength and might hold out.

If he were to hold out, the Habs could just tell him "fine, we'll go call Nabokov and Turco". There's a couple other goalies still available who could be starters, and if Price made the weird decision to not sign, that would free up most of the cap space needed for such a goalie.

Pierre Gauthier does need to set a firm position though. Price has not played great, and has not earned more than 4mil per year. In fact, I think he deserves around 2.5, maybe with preformance bonuses to bring it up to 3.5 or 4.
If they give him a 2 year contract, it gives him time to prove himself, while the cap situation will clear up a lot after the Dmen have to be re-signed during this season.

Anonymous said...

Crazy that you believe Boyd has a smaller ceiling than Sergei. hockey is not baseball. talent ad stats don't always tell the toll. I think Auld is on a one year deal for a reason.

why no attempt at Torres?? that's what bothers me.

Dean said...

Sorry Arpon, didn't mean to imply that you whine about everything. I love reading your columns. I just get tired of reading from both commenters and bloggers about "Why didn't we sign this guy" when the fact could very well be that they did try but the player may just not have been interested.

Scott said...

Arpon, you're usually pretty sensible but this isn't one of those times I'm afraid. You're totally right about Auld, no question about that, but they wanted a true backup and that's what they got. They didn't trade Halak to see Carey wonder if the job was his still. Like it or not, they gave it to Carey. That happened 3 weeks ago so I would think you would be prepared for a move like this. To be honest, the Ellis deal surprised me. Why spend any of that non-existent cap space on another possible goaltending controversy. How STUPID would PG have to be to put a goalie in there so some of these booing rejects who aren't real fans can start calling for Carey's head before the season even starts? Now it's official. "We're going with Carey, 100%. So get behind him or get out." Auld is decent. He's not great but he's decent. So what? He's out in a year anyway.

pfhabs said...


-do you think as the Chief of Pro Scouting and Assistant GM last July that Gauthier doesn't wear any of the blame of the current cap stupidity ?

-want proof. what was he smoking when he decided to give Pouliot a $500K raise on a $850K salary...was it for his 2 assists in the postseason ? or perhaps his 1 goal in the last 26 regular season games?

-sorry Gauthier wears as much blame as Gainey for everything that has happened in the last 7 years and that's why making him the new GM was such a sham and will continue what has happened before

Kevin aka "yathehabsrule" said...

Just when I was starting to like Gauthier, he went and did this.

Felt for certain that Ellis would be in a Habs uni this season.

Instead we get Auld.

Jean said...

I'm with Scott here. The last thing any Habs fan should want is a goaltender controversy. I really think that Ellis was a "decoy" to make the fans believe that we'd get another 1a, 1b goalie scenario. When all along the plan was to get a decent backup. Mission accomplished. And, to top it off, they got a team guy. Be nice, it's a team game. Now we got rid of the Kancer and got to see Price take his rightly place and grow into the Habs numero uno! I also think that the Pouliot raise has a purpose. Make him happy, show some confidence he'll have a good year and lets see the light go red. And last, we got something for Kancer. Lets get rid of the last one too.

V said...

First, thanks for writing the most un-sensational Habs blog around. Reasoned, thoughtful and considerate analysis 99% of the time. I really appreciate it.

Now about Auld... don't Martin or Gauthier have previous experience with Auld. Couldn't that have been a big factor. They definitely were looking for a back-up and obviously feel he has the some-what rare temperment for it. Plus he knows the situation here and has readily accepted it at this juncture in his career - nothing wrong with any of that.

And about the cap - except for Halak, we retained the core group of players that got us to the Conference final. It's not a perfect group by any means, but very capable with some intriguing prospects in the wings. If management is happy with this group, (and with a few exceptions they clearly are) shouldn't they be right up against the cap - don't people want management to spend as much as they can (leaving a little space for emergencies). Not spending the money you have available to you is much worse than doing so.

Anonymous said...


And about the cap - except for Halak, we retained the core group of players that got us to the Conference final


You mean to 88 points and 19th best record in the NHL. The playoffs that Halak's superior record over when Price played last season behind the exact same team dragged the team into. Halak who on his own won 2 playoff series something never done once before in Gainey/Gauthier's 7 years here. The obvious team MVP they traded away for a rookie to once again give the #1 goaltending job - to THEIR BRILLIANT #5 OVERALL pick the 2 stubborn old men still refuse to admit was a terrible one. Note- the #4 that year was Pouliot!

Anonymous said...


don't people want management to spend as much as they can (leaving a little space for emergencies). Not spending the money you have available to you is much worse than doing so.


pitsburgh with really top players plural, philly, etc, are always up against the same cap BUT they always find ways to manoever at BOTH the trade deadlines and at the very start of free agency to add and bolster their teams. these 2 gms and gainey is still there with gauthier as they were for 7 years, have acquired a $8 cap hit in gomez, paid hamrlick $5.6 million, forced to buyout a worthless laraque who was a healthy scratch the ENTIRE pitts/det series just before that free agency when they went and overpaid him as well to a 3 year deal no less. a good gm sees beyond the end of his nose! these 2 cannot.

since they traded for kovalev in 2004 before the deadline, the dynamic duo have repeatedly done next to nothing to bolster the team at the trade deadlines and free agency each and every year EXCEPT last year when molsons buying the team must have forced the 2 old out of touch men to completely reverse their methods of 7 years here reverting back this year again to doing little at the trade deadline and the first days of free agency where most of the decent players available are quickly snapped up.

2 worst GMs in the NHL - no one nis close! no other GM has 21,273 at each and every game spending more than any of team makes.

Anonymous said...

It all comes down to pitiful management by Gainey and Gauthier forcing the Habs have no cap space at trade deadlines and free agency periods and never did except last July only because they let half the team go that 2 months earlier Gainey defended himself for doing little at the trade deadline said, "I am happy with the roster of this team." These are 2 of the worst and most out of touch GMs in this new salary cap era. So much so that Gainey had kept claiming Habs won't negotiate with anyone during a season because it has been how they always operated! Well that was before the cap and a real GM must look past the end of his zone into the future in today's game.

Everything works together and huge part of your cap picture is the players you draft and develop and have on entry level contracts but Gainey and Gauthier have been terrible in drafting. Plus they traded away so many first 2 round picks. The two previos years they traded a #1 and a #2 for Taguay, a #2 for Schneider and a #2 for Lang - 4 high picks for 3 players who played only months for the Habs then gone. This year the same gave up a #2 for Moore who it seems is not to be resigned. Plus traded up in the first round by giving this year's #2 away.

These two GMs also traded away #1 Higgins, #1 Komisarek, #2 Ribeiro, #1 Hainsey lost on a blunder by putting him on waivers, #3 Beauchemin left unprotected and was lost - all of them drafted by the previous regime.

Of their own drafting since 2003 the two GMs traded away #2 Latendresse, will lose #1 Fischer who they never signed and traded away #1 Ryan McDonagh.

Check the lists below:

Players on 2009-2010 Canadiens playoff team drafted by Gainey/Gauthier
Andrei Kostsitsyn
Maxim Lapierre
Ryan O'Byrne*
Jaroslav Halak NOW TRADED
Carey Price*
Sergei Kostitsyn NOW TRADED
P.K. Subban
2008 and 2009

*Did not play in game 5 vs. Philadelphia

2003 NHL Draft
1st Round
10 Andrei Kostitsyn (Right Wing)
11 Jeff Carter (Centre)
14 Brent Seabrook (Defence)
17 Zach Parise (Centre)
19 Ryan Getzlaf (Centre)
24 Mike Richards (Centre)

2nd Round
40 Cory Urquhart (Centre) Canadiens
45 Patrice Bergeron (Centre) Bruins
47 Matt Carle (Defence) Sharks
49 Shea Weber (Defence) Predators

2006 NHL Draft
1st Round
20 Canadiens David Fischer D Apple Valley H.S. (Minn)
22 Flyers Claude Giroux

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"Montreal Canadiens traded up in Friday's NHL draft to select defenceman Jarred Tinordi

with the 22nd pick, dealt the 27th and 57th selections to the Phoenix Coyotes for the

pick they used on Tinordi. Montreal also got the 113th pick as part of the deal."

Using the NFL Draft 7 round trade value chart and moving each of Phoenix and Montreal

BACK ONE PICK in each round from 22 to 23 and from 27 to 28(ex-in the 1st round) as

there are 32 teams in the NFL as opposed to 30 in the NHL.

1st round pick worth 760 points
5th round pick worth 31 points
Total of 791 points

Montreal gave up for this 791 point value
1st round pick worth 660 points
2nd round pick worth 300 points
Total of 960 points

These 2 GMs are total incompetants.

P# Rnd1 Rnd2 Rnd3 Rnd4 Rnd5 Rnd6 Rnd7
01 3000 0580 0265 0112 0043 0027 0014
02 2600 0560 0260 0108 0042 0027 0014
03 2200 0550 0255 0104 0041 0026 0013
04 1800 0540 0250 0100 0040 0026 0013
05 1700 0530 0245 0096 0040 0025 0013
06 1600 0520 0240 0092 0039 0025 0012
07 1500 0510 0235 0088 0039 0025 0012
08 1400 0500 0230 0086 0038 0024 0011
09 1350 0490 0225 0084 0038 0024 0011
10 1300 0480 0220 0082 0037 0023 0011
11 1250 0470 0215 0080 0037 0023 0010
12 1200 0460 0210 0078 0036 0023 0010
13 1150 0450 0205 0076 0036 0022 0009
14 1100 0440 0200 0074 0035 0022 0009
15 1050 0430 0195 0072 0035 0021 0009
16 1000 0420 0190 0070 0034 0021 0008
17 0950 0410 0180 0066 0033 0020 0007
19 0875 0390 0175 0064 0033 0020 0007
20 0850 0380 0170 0062 0032 0019 0007
21 0800 0370 0165 0060 0032 0019 0006
22 0780 0360 0160 0058 0031 0019 0006
23 0760 0350 0155 0056 0031 0018 0005
24 0740 0340 0150 0054 0031 0018 0005
25 0720 0330 0145 0052 0030 0017 0005
26 0700 0320 0140 0050 0020 0017 0004
27 0680 0310 0136 0049 0029 0017 0004
28 0660 0300 0132 0048 0029 0016 0003
29 0640 0292 0128 0047 0029 0016 0003
30 0620 0284 0124 0046 0028 0015 0003
31 0600 0276 0120 0045 0028 0015 0002
32 0590 0270 0116 0044 0027 0015 0002