This is my guest article for All Habs allhabs.blogspot.com. You can go check it out on their site as well! My thanks to them for the opportunity!
Montreal has been a sea of rumors these days...
From Vincent Lecavalier, to Brad Richards & Matt Niskanen, from Olli Jokinen to Jay Bouwmeester, it seems the possibilities (or rather impossibilities), are endless.
I still maintain the fact that a trade is not the answer, that the key to our success lies within Kovalev and the fact that Carbonneau needs to be a coach and find some way to motivate him. When Kovalev excels, the rest of the team follows suit, and as seen by their poor performance in the last 30 minutes versus the Sabres Friday night, they are clearly in dire need of some jump to their game.
But what has been concerning me lately (and the rest of the Montrealers who have come to know and love the players on the Habs roster) is the fact that almost half of them will no longer be under contract next year. While Bob Gainey doesn't seem worried, I get the feeling that many of our beloved Habs won't be back in the 2009-2010 season unless the team somehow pulls a Stanley cup out of their sleeve... which is unlikely to happen if they continue playing keep-away with the puck, and skating as if they didn't want to get a ticket for speeding. Personally, I think they have what it takes, but with their overall confidence level slowly approaching zero, it's going to take a miracle (I'm suggesting the return of the 2007-2008 Kovalev or a dual-instantaneous healing of Robert Lang and Alex Tanguay).
That being said, some of the major problems we have are whether or not we have TIME to sign all 10 of our free agents before the deadline, if they'd actually be willing to stay, and how much money they'll be asking for. Case in point: Mike Komisarek.
Komisarek's play has not been great the past few games (the whole season actually, if you ask me). Last season, he was at the top of his game. He was very reliable, he blocked shots, gave out a huge amount of body checks, sacrificed himself... basically had all the workings of an excellent stay-at-home defenseman. The problem is that although he still does most of those things this year, his reliability is a little iffy. Whether you attribute this to his injury, to some innate reliance on Markov, or even find a way for Kovalev to be at fault (he seems to get the blame for everything around here), he isn't playing as well as he can.
The thing is... I love Komisarek. It would be a huge loss if he weren't re-signed at the end of the season. But when I hear numbers like 5 million and 6 million being thrown around... to be honest, it makes me feel a little queasy. Markov is making $5.75 million a season, and he is the best defenseman, if not the best player, on our team. BY FAR. Komisarek is not putting up his amount of points, and is also not as reliable (this year anyway). If he can be signed for 3 million... maybe even 3.5, I'd keep him... but above that, it would not only make no sense, but we also wouldn't be able to afford it, unless somehow miraculously Koivu, Higgins, Plekanec, Kovalev, Lang and the rest of the free agents are willing to agree to pay cuts. Out of all the potential free agents, Koivu is be the number one priority in my mind... but maybe Gainey sees things differently.
I just hope that come July 1st, we aren't a broken team, reduced to the "re-building" stage, which I finally thought we had escaped after so many years. We have all the needed young guns now, and it's the veterans that we'll need to fight to keep if we hope to have any chance of seeing Lord Stanley come home to Montreal in the near future.
Leafs tonight. We can only hope for a miracle. Preferably Sergei Kostitsyn–Mikhail Grabovski related.