It's nice that restricted free agents don't always become restrictive salaries like Thomas Vanek, Mike Richards and Mike Green.
If I had to pick one skill of Bob Gainey's (or the Habs management) that I would rate A+, it would be getting current players onto new contracts.
It may be naive not to worry about losing an RFA, but that's the way Bob Gainey makes us feel here. And, it is his dealing with the restricted free agents, and the pieces that fit into his plan that set a standard for the rest of the league. Obviously Bob must be doing something very very well as he keeps signing the important pieces at very very reasonable rates. Somehow, he seems to convince these players that to be part of the Montreal Canadiens means something. That to be a part of this edition of the Montreal Canadiens is something they wouldn't want to miss out on.
Yesterday, it was Josh Gorges. Days before, Halak. And, before that Andrei Kostitsyn. Back to last year and we have Komisarek, Higgins, Plekanec and indeed, Andrei Markov.
This summer, we entered with some fear of losing an RFA, possibly receiving offers for Kostitsyn. The guys with expired contracts were now part of that critical young core. one only has to review their seasons to see that (2007-2008 reviews)
In making him a priority, Gainey was able to sign Andrei and send him the message that he was important. Andrei repaid the favour by not asking for the moon and taking a very healthy, but not ridiculous, raise to $3.25M a year.
Halak, one of the most capable back-up goalies around these days (witness Detroit scrambling for Conklin), was signed for under a million. I imagine that once again there was some discussion about roles in the future and the chance to be part of this young budding powerhouse.
And, finally, the young Josh Gorges. A young defenceman who really came into his own in the second half of the regular season. Given the number of teams with absolutely pathetic looking depth on their back lines, this signing is even more impressive. $1.1M a year for a player that will be the 4th best defenceman on the team by year's end is great value. Philadelphia could learn from this kind of signing...
The only RFA left to sign now from the big club is Ryan O'Byrne. Left until last, he is the least experienced of the group. Nonetheless, he still has the potential to grab a bigger role on the team this year. Inking him to a similarly affordable contract would be icing on the cake, so to speak. If Corey Locke has one more effort to make it in him, I would be happy if he were inked too. but his contract will be league minimum stuff anyway.
So do players dislike Montreal?
Evidently not once they have lived and played here. If these contract speak to anything, they surely speak to that. So why are the unrestricted free agents staying away?
My thinking is that players who let the contract slide into UFA time are thinking of money, and pretty much money alone. There will be exceptions, of course, but I have a feeling that money rules. Unfortunately what Montreal has to with offers to overcome the tax often ends up making places like Detroit and New York look a whole lot nicer.
At least once we get them in, they want to stay. It's half the battle (one that Edmonton would be happy to make to with).
And how about players on the outs?
This represents my one disappointment with the Canadiens, who are meant to have concern for class all around. We shouldn't be hearing things like Mark Streit said about being given the cold shoulder. Souray said similar things. This is so unnecessary.
It takes so little to be up front and honest. One chat. Tell Mark the truth – you're pursuing other options, but would love to have him back if nothing happens for either party in the signing extravaganza.
Oh well, can't have it all. Still really pleased that we have Halak, Kostitsyn and Gorges in the fold for the next while – exciting times ahead...