Now that individual trophies have been handed out, and that a few hundred young men’s dreams have come true on Draft day, it’s time to look ahead to next week, as the free agency market opens on July 1st. For some teams, free agency is an exclamation point, for others, it’s a question mark.
What do we need ? Who’s available ? Can we afford it ? At this time of year, most fans become capologists, agents and GMs. And why not ? Broadcasters do it too. With Brad Richards confirming he won’t waive his NMC and will hit the market next Friday, expect hours ( if not days ) of Sundinlike coverage and speculation. Fun times ahead.
I got a feel for what Habs fans are hoping for on July 1st from a very unscientific poll on Twitter. I do that a lot — I like to get input from fans. I asked them to name one forward, and one back-up goalie they would like to see join the roster via free agency. I opted to leave out defensemen, as I had an overdose of them on Draft day. Within minutes, I saw a huge trend. This year’s chosen one is: Brooks Laich. Honorable mentions go to Ville Leino and Zenon Konopka.
Laich is a 6’2” 200 pound Canadian born center. He scored 16 goals and registered 32 assists in regular season last year. Granted, he would bring size down the middle for Habs, if in fact they play him at center. Many Montreal centermen have masqueraded as wingers in the past few years. Laich could always beef up our wing. His NHL salary for 2010-2011 was $2.4 M. You can expect he’ll be looking for a raise if he indeed hits the market.
Ville Leino stands at 6’1”, 190 lbs. At 27 years old and cashing in $825,000 last year, he may get a few phone calls on Friday. I wouldn’t mind having him around. As for Konopka, his most impressive stat has to be his 307 PIM last season, which is exactly why he’s on some fans short list. Habs do lack character. And grit. And size. I’m sceptical this type of player would work well with Jacques Martin, but you never know. I thought I would get many Simon Gagné and Maxime Talbot votes, but no. Everyone agrees Gagné is injury-prone, not to mention expensive, and again, Talbot doesn’t seem to be the right fit for Martin. I wouldn’t rule anyone out though.
As for goalies, votes were all over the place. A true testament to Carey Price’s success last year. The back-up goalie position doesn’t seem as important all of a sudden. Top vote-getters were Dwayne Roloson, Mathieu Garon, Alex Auld and Peter Budaj. Other mentions included Ty Conklin, J-S Giguère, Josh Harding, Tomas Vokoun, Brian Boucher and Curtis Sanford. Also getting one vote was “it doesn’t matter”. I really don’t have a preference. I thought Auld did just fine last year and would gladly keep him on the roster. I doubt management would hire a francophone back-up, for obvious reasons. I don’t think this position is of much concern to the Habs, and it might get filled later in the summer.
Now, there are many others teams that will be hunting for talent starting next week. Here are a few thoughts on what I think should be a priority for some of them.
- Forget the arena, what the New York Islanders really need is a new goal song.
- The New York Rangers should fine tune their postgame presser “bleep” button. Ditto for Washington Capitals.
- A fresh case of shoe polish for Capital’s owner Ted Leonsis’ hair.
- A properly functioning fire alarm ( that currently tends to go off at all times for no reason ) for the Florida Panthers’ arena. Seriously.
- I would love to see a brand new set of facial expressions for the entire Sutter family.
- As for our beloved Habs, I only hope Mr. Gauthier can pick up a bit of killer instinct, and not pick up Mr. Jagr’s phone calls…
About the Author (Author Profile)Born and raised in Quebec City, Chantal fell in love with hockey when she discovered the Nordiques. As you can tell by her twitter handle, times have changed. Her love for the game is still going strong and during hockey season, you can usually find her in front of a tv cursing Chris Lee. Managing editor for All Habs Hockey Magazine, Chantal is a passionate, witty, sarcastic woman, having a hot and heavy affair with the LA Kings. She contributes articles in English and en Français. Her motto : Gimme some Drew Doughty.
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