While Canadiens’ general manager Pierre Gauthier still has a few dollars to spend and some holes to fill up front, it would appear that the team is set along the blue line following some rather significant comings’ and goings’ on defence since the end of the season.
First and foremost, in this off-season of change: the decision not to offer Roman Hamrlik more than a one-year deal, and his decision not to accept it. I’m sorry to see Hamrlik go. However, you certainly can’t blame the guy for grabbing a two-year, $7 million offer, from the Washington Capitals; not when he’s in the twilight of his career.
Which brings us to the decision to let go of James Wisniewski, Brent Sopel and Paul Mara. The Wiz will be living the long-term, good life in Columbus after signing with the Blue Jackets. I’m not the least bit surprised that he didn’t figure in Montreal’s future plans. Same story for Sopel and Mara, who were brought in last season when the injury bug continued to take huge bites out of Montreal defenders.
Which brings us to the seven defencemen that, at this point, look like the seven defencemen that the Canadiens will start the season with.
Andrei Markov? A three-year deal after two seasons of fighting through knee injuries and surgery. Did Gauthier make the right move when he got Markov to put his signature on a long-term deal? We won’t know the answer to that question until the three years are up.
Josh Gorges? Let’s set aside Gorges’ decision to file for arbitration, shall we? If anything, Gorges’ July 26th arbitration date looming should hasten discussions between the two sides. Habs’ fans should be more concerned with the fact that Gorges had to go through season-ending knee surgery. So if you’re holding your breath over Gorges’ scheduled arbitration hearing, you might want to keep holding your breath until we see how that right knee of his, holds up after surgery.
Hall Gill? Here’s a guy who wanted to come back and was willing to take the one-year deal offered by the Habs. Good on Gill. Good on the Habs.
Jaroslav Spacek? In the Twitterverse, few players have been “traded” as often at Jaroslav Spacek since the end of the season. But he’s in good company. It would appear that many Canadiens’ fans would like to see the Habs find a way to send Scott Gomez and Andrei Kostitsyn packing, too. It ain’t gonna happen. Gomez is staying right where he is. Kostitsyn is also staying right where he is. And Spacek, for better or for worse. is staying right where he is. In Spacek’s case, he was better as the season progressed. He was worse through the first half of the season. The Canadiens need a more consistent effort from the veteran.
P.K. Subban? He’s a superstar in the making; an incredible talent who still has a habit of trying to do it all on his own. It’s a habit he needs to break. He was terrific last season, particularly when he had to step up following Gorges’ injury. And he will be even better this season.
Yannick Weber? With a new two-year contract under his belt, Weber must prove that he has all the tools necessary to play at the NHL level. He’s not a big man, but neither is Francis Boullion. Great wheels, great shot. But Weber needs to play bigger when he doesn’t have the puck. Too much standing around in his own zone last season.
Which brings us the wild-card in this group of seven: Alexi Yemelin, who signed a one-year contract in May. Yes, it’s a two-way deal. But the Canadiens didn’t bring Yemelin over from Russia to send him down to Hamilton. Yemelin will make this team. And he won’t make it as a fresh-faced rookie straight out of junior hockey. He will make it as a 25-year-old with three seasons of playing at a high level in the KHL.
The defence rests. No further questions.