MONTREAL, QC — As the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins battle it out in the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup finals, the Montreal Canadiens are already looking towards next season. The first half of their development camp got underway this Sunday.
Pierre Gauthier is certainly a busy man, and he will have little rest this summer as the following items, amongst others, appear on his BlackBerry calendar:
- June 05: You are here.
- June 05-09: Development Camp #1
- June 24-25: Draft
- June 29: Deadline to make offers to RFAs.
- July 01: Beginning of free agent signing. (UFA’s become free to accept offers from any team)
- July 05-09: Development Camp #2
To say that he will be a busy man is not exactly fair in his regards, he’s already began his work with the signing of two promising defensemen (Rafael Diaz & Alexei Yemelin), the resigning of defenseman and locker room leader, Hal Gill, and the signing of a Joonas Nattinen, a Finnish centerman.
Although nothing is certain, it seems that many believe Yemelin has a serious chance of starting the season with the big club in Montreal. It should be noted that his contract has a clause, giving him the choice to go back to the KHL, should the Canadiens choose to not keep him in their lineup, to start the season. As a side note, I’ve nicknamed Yemelin, “The Gremlin from the Kremlin”, let’s keep it alive.
With many players without a contract as of July 1st, next season’s lineup is nothing certain for the Canadiens, but let’s take a look at the current players who are under a contract, to try to give us an idea of how much cap space the Canadiens are working with in this offseason. For the purpose of the exercise, I will assume Yemelin will start the season in Montreal.
- Scott Gomez: $7,357,143
- Mike Cammalleri: $6,000,000
- Tomas Plekanec: $5,000,000
- Brian Gionta: $5,000,000
- Travis Moen: $1,500,000
- Lars Eller: $1,270,833
- Jaroslav Spacek: $3,833,333
- Hal Gill: $2,250,000
- P.K. Subban: $875,000
- Alexei Yemelin: $984,200
- Carey Price: $2,750,000
- Georges Laraque: $500,000
Total Salary (to date): $37,320,509
Salary Cap: $59,400,000
Cap Space: $22,079,491
Before you go out screaming that the Canadiens should go sign Brad Richards, consider this. The Canadiens already have over $37,000,000 of their salary cap for next season comitted to eleven players, again, assuming Yemelin makes the team. Should the Gauthier and Martin duo elect to start the season with a 23-player roster, that would mean that the Canadiens only have a little over $22,000,000 left to spread over twelve potential players to sign.
Should Gauthier throw $8,000,000 at one player alone, which I believe is very unlikely, that would leave him with only $14,000,000, to use up over eleven players, not leaving him any margin to play around with, other than throwing $500,000 to $1,000,000 salaries at free agents (forget about a big bonus Mathieu Darche.)
This doesn’t mean he won’t go after players in the $3,000,000 to $4,000,000 range, but it remains to be seen what players he can find in that price range.
Popular names that have been thrown around as potential players Gauthier could go after in this offseason are forward Brooks Laich, who made a little over $2,000,000 with the Washington Capitals last season. Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa has also been on the lips of many people, he who made $3,750,000 this season and who will surely command a higher salary with the playoffs he is having. One of our own Rick Stephens was one of the first to advocate that Gauthier should target Philadelphia Flyer’s forward Ville Leino, much to the chagrin of fellow All Habs staffer Amy, and her competing dual team loyalties.
Who exactly will Gauthier resign remains to be seen. Will he elect to resign RFA Andrei Kostitsyn, or give up on him like he has done on others? Will he resign Andrei Markov to mentor Yemelin, the Gremlin from the Kremlin? Will he decide to let Markov go and elect to resign James Wisniewski instead? Who on the free agent market will he decide to go after? It’s all still a little foggy to me.
Look forward to my next article where we will look at a few players that will be hitting the free agent market this offseason, and how they would fit into the big picture, of the Montreal Canadiens.
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; Salary Information: CapGeek.com)