Are the Habs going to be a better team when they start the season next October? It certainly looks like it and that’s pretty amazing news for a squad that made it to the Final Four in the recent playoffs.
The Montreal Canadiens signed seasoned centre Manny Malhotra to a dirt-cheap one-year $850,000 deal on Tuesday and I definitely like that one. He’s one of the best face-off men in the game, has grit and brings bags of experience to share with his younger team-mates. He’s, in theory, your fourth-line centreman, and looks just fine there. Good move.
Marc Bergevin also inked Florida defenceman Tom Gilbert to a two-year $2.8-million-per-year deal and this is also a good pick-up. You can look at Gilbert as Josh Gorges’s replacement and you get him for less dough and less years. (The Habs were on the hook for four more years at $3.9 million per annum for Gorges, under that dumb dumb deal signed by Pierre ‘Who Gave Me the Keys To This Place?’ Gauthier.)
Arpon Basu on nhl.com suggests Gilbert will be a natural quarter-back for the Habs’ second power-play unit, maybe playing alongside Nathan Beaulieu on the blueline. (Obviously the first unit with remain backed by P.K. ‘Superstar’ Subban and Andrei ‘I Don’t Want To Be Captain’ Markov.) Everything I’ve heard today is very positive about Gilbert.
The even better news is that the team has also signed Mike ‘Dream’ Weaver to a one-year deal that will give him a raise from $1.1 million to $1.75 million. Money well spent considering how solid Weaver was down the stretch in the regular season and in the playoffs. That means both of Bergevin’s surprisingly strong mid-season pick-ups – Weaver and Dale Weise – are returning to the club.
Also a couple of big departures, two of them to Buffalo. A day after turning down a trade to the Maple Leafs, Gorges was shipped off to the Sabres, in return for a second-round pick in 2016. At first glance, it’s a little odd that Gorges would rather play in Buffalo than Toronto but I liked his reasons, as reported on the Gazette’s Hockey Inside/Out. He told the Gaz hockey site: “Nothing against that organization or that team. But when you build a rivalry it’s hard mentally, emotionally to think, ‘Wow, I’ve grown to hate this team, to play against them, how could I ever really go and put my heart and soul into it?’ And so I just wanted to take some time before I made a decision.”
Pretty cool eh? Still, like I said in my previous post, this is just business. Gorges has too many years left at too high a price. As simple as that. And all of this talk of him being the next captain was just that. Talk. A few of us thought Gorges had kind of being auditioning for the role anyways, which was a little off-putting.
Speaking of captains, the Habs need one. Brian Gionta has also left for Buffalo, signing for three years at $4.25 million per season. Hey I wish our former captain all the best but there’s no way Montreal was going to make that kind of deal for him. He gave a lot to the organization but his best years are well behind him, as was underlined in this year’s playoff run.
So who’s the next captain of Nos Glorieux? Hey that’s a theme for another day’s column. (I can’t really think of an obvious candidate. I love P.K. but his head wouldn’t fit through the dressing-room door if they gave him the C.)
One bittersweet move. Ryan White is no longer with us. They let him go to unrestricted free agency. Hey he is maybe not the most talented guy in the league – or on the team – but I loved his attitude. Oh and Thomas Vanek has snuck off to Minnesota, as expected. The nice thing is the deal is a lot less sweet than everyone expected, just getting $19.5 million over three years. He’d been offered $50 million for seven years with the New York Islanders during the past season, but that was before he proved himself to have absolutely no heart as a playoff performer. I like the notion that my old joke turned out to be true – that he was losing a million bucks a night during the Habs run by sucking so bad.
And Tuesday’s deals come on the heels of the Parenteau-Briere trade (the subject of my previous post), also a positive move for the Good Guys.
All in all, a good week in Habsland.