UFA Options: Montreal Canadiens

Jonathan Willis
June 14 2009 02:20PM

koivu

UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Montreal Canadiens.

Now is really not the time to envy Bob Gainey.

This past season (much-hyped as the team’s centennial year) was a disaster in Montreal; Carey Price took a step back, off-ice issues haunted the team, and veterans underperformed. And this summer, no fewer than ten players will reach unrestricted free agency, including four high-profile forwards in Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev, alex Tanguay and Robert Lang.

Compounding matters, eight different players in Hamilton will be unrestricted free agents, and nine players in the system are eligible for restricted free agency.

Alex Tanguay

Tanguay had a middling year on the powerplay, and he saw a sharp decrease in the difficulty of his minutes at even strength. That said, he did well against softer opponents, scoring at a great pace for his ice-time (2.39 PTS/60) – but it should really be noted that his totals were inflated by a pair of very fortuitous numbers (.936 on-ice SV%, 14.5% on-ice SH%). He’s a very good offensive LW, but more of a setup man than a goal-scorer (he’s never hit 30) and while he’s quite decent positionally he’s not really at his best in physical situations and his effort isn’t consistent.

He’s a very legitimate option for some team’s first line.

Saku Koivu

Koivu’s a creative offensive player, and after a brittle stretch (between 1996 and 2000 he missed a total of 148 games with virtually every conceivable ailment, before missing all but three games of 2001-02 with cancer) he’s played a safer, more cautious game. He’s a good player with the man advantage, but his even-strength performance this season was disappointing given who he played against; he scored well enough but gave up plenty the other way too.

Alexei Kovalev

It was an ugly year for Kovalev, who was pilloried in the media and saw his point totals drop off precipitously. Matt at Battle of Alberta did a fantastic post on Kovalev back in February, and it tells a lot of the story. His numbers came along a little bit to close out the season, and the fact of the matter is that he remains a brilliant option on the powerplay and an effective scorer in a slightly sheltered role at even-strength.

Robert Lang

Lang had a very nice year offensively before injuring his achilles tendon. He’s always been underrated as a skill player and although he isn’t overly physical he certainly has excellent size (6’3”, 220lbs). He was one of the few bright spots in a difficult season for the Canadiens and is an excellent fit on almost any team because of his versatility. He’s probably best cast as a second-line centre but in the right situation could play more.

Tom Kostopoulos

Kostopoulos is cheap and defensively responsible, but he simply doesn’t have enough of a scoring touch to rise far above the third or fourth line . He’s probably best suited to the latter role. That said, he plays a physical game and is a willing hitter.

Mathieu Schneider

Schneider had a nice season, particularly after joining Montreal at the trade deadline. He’s forty years old but can still contribute at even-strength as a third-pairing defenseman, and on the first unit of the powerplay. He still blocks shots and while he’s not really a physical player he doesn’t shy away from contact.

Francis Bouillon

I’ve always been a big fan of Francis Bouillon. There aren’t a lot of 5’8” defensemen out there who have extended NHL careers, and ones without a bigtime offensive game are rarer still. He’s a spark plug on the ice, always willing to throw a hit, and despite an ugly plus-minus he wasn’t outshot much at even-strength. With all of that said, he’s still not likely to ever be much more than a third-pairing defenseman; he gets everything he can out of his skillset and he’s already an overachiever to be where he’s at.

Mathieu Dandeneault

A utility player who alternates between playing forward and defense, Dandeneault was mostly used as a forward this year. He’s got a middling offensive game, plays smart positional defense and adds size, but doesn’t bring much to the table other than that.

Mike Komisarek

Rumour has it that Komisarek’s contract demands are very high, and his agent has repeatedly stated that he won’t even negotiate with the Canadiens until July 1st. Komisarek is a great defensive defenseman who plays with a physical edge; this year he led the Canadiens in hits (191), blocked shots (207), and started a ton of draws in his own end (406 defnesive zone draws as opposed to 263 offensive zone draws) all while playing the toughest possible competition.

He’s a very good player, and would be a nice fit on any team looking to add some viciousness and size to their top pairing, but he’s also going to be very expensive.

Patrice Brisebois

At this point in his career “Breeze-by” isn’t much more than a powerplay specialist. He has good size but no edge to his game, and he’s never been particularly reliable in his own zone. Unfortunately, he also isn’t much more than a second-unit option on the powerplay either; I wonder if he’ll even get a contract this summer.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 speeds
June 14 2009, 03:04PM
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I would like to see the Oilers sign Tanguay, but am not sure it's terribly likely he'd sign with EDM. Maybe if the contract is right.

JW: In your OHL draft post you mention that Holland had a bad +/-. In fact, his +/- was 3rd on the team at +10, tied for the highest among F's. At least, according to this link:

http://www.ontariohockeyleague.com/stats/statdisplay.php?type=skaters&subType=4&season_id=35&leagueId=1&lastActive=&singleSeason=&confId=0

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#2 West Coast Oil
June 14 2009, 03:52PM
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Bob Gainey is really going to earn his pay this year. Im not sure who's in a worse situation Gainey with no one under contract or Tambellini with a ton of bad contracts

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#3 mattmarcin
June 14 2009, 04:07PM
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I wish he would accept a third line role on the team. Dare to dream.

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#4 Antony Ta
June 14 2009, 04:30PM
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Depending on what Mikael Samuelsson and Saku Koivu are asking for I might actually like Koivu better as a potential UFA signing - this is assuming he could play that empty 2nd line RW role.

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#5 Antony Ta
June 14 2009, 04:33PM
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West Coast Oil wrote:

Bob Gainey is really going to earn his pay this year. Im not sure who’s in a worse situation Gainey with no one under contract or Tambellini with a ton of bad contracts

The Canucks have a bunch of free agents themselves as well

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#6 Cam
June 14 2009, 05:14PM
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West Coast Oil wrote:

Bob Gainey is really going to earn his pay this year. Im not sure who’s in a worse situation Gainey with no one under contract or Tambellini with a ton of bad contracts

I think Gainey is in much worse shapes. The overpays that are on the Oilers are only like that due to underacheiving. There is some hope that when the season starts those players will live up to their contracts with a new coach etc.

Gainey just has work work work and all the UFA's will want to get their due... not a good situation.

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#7 RossCreek
June 14 2009, 06:09PM
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Can't quite believe I'm gonna say this, but IF the Flames end up needing cap space, could Saku Koivu help replace Daymond Langkow at 2/3 the cost? Can he be an effective 2nd line center or is he out of gas? I see him in Minnesota or Anaheim, but with a couple of Finns on the Flames roster, could they have interest?

The Flames don't have much to move to create cap space if they're not touching the core (Iginla, Phaneuf, Regher, Kiprusoff). They just got Olli Jokinen on advice from former Panther employee Duane Sutter, so I can't see him moving. That leaves Daymond Langkow (4.5), Corey Sarich (3.6) and Jim Vandermeer (2.3, wtf?) as the only other guys above 2 mil.

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#8 Archaeologuy
June 14 2009, 08:21PM
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Komisarek would be a great addition to the already extremely expensive back end. He would add a lot more nastiness to the back end than JBo ever would. But if the rumours that the Oil would try to court JBo or try to land Heatley have anything to them then Komisarek's agent likely wont bet getting a call from Tambellini until after Komi's 1st round of offers have come in. Chances are he'll know where he's playing by July 3rd.

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#9 speeds
June 14 2009, 08:34PM
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I would really like to see the Oilers sign Tanguay (price dependant, of course), but am not sure it’s terribly likely he’d sign with EDM. Maybe if the contract is right.

JW: In your OHL draft post you mention that Holland had a bad +/-. In fact, his +/- was 3rd on the team at +10, tied for the highest among F’s. At least, according to the OHL's site.

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#10 toprightcorner
June 14 2009, 09:46PM
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speeds wrote:

I would really like to see the Oilers sign Tanguay (price dependant, of course), but am not sure it’s terribly likely he’d sign with EDM. Maybe if the contract is right. blockquote> I would rather have MacT back than Tanguay!! He's a passer; we need a scorer, he's soft; we need toughness and grit. Tanguay is everything we DON'T want and would completely go against what the Oil are trying to do. I would much rather have the guy the Flames got when they traded him, Camalleri. He too does not fit the bill the Oil need but is twice as good as Tanguy!
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#11 speeds
June 14 2009, 10:41PM
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Yeah, who needs good players!!!

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#12 Marion Flowers
June 14 2009, 10:45PM
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Tanguay and Komisarek to Edmonton for Robert Nilsson, Dustin Penner and Lubomir Visnovsky.

This addresses all the Oilers concerns if the two sign in Edmonton.

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#13 speeds
June 14 2009, 10:48PM
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All joking/sarcasm aside, I agree that he's an unlikely option given what it sounds like Tambellini would like to do with the club.

I think he's a great option because he's seems like a guy who might be undervalued in the UFA market this summer, and if you can get a deal, then great. On paper he's not the shoot first player some would like to see with Hemsky, but he doesn't have to play with Hemsky to make the team better.

He's a great ES player, would fit in very well on the 2nd line with Gagner. His playing style doesn't fit EDM's apparent plans, but he doesn't have to be the only move this summer. If Cogliano and Nilsson, for example, were moved in other deals, I don't think it's much of a problem to add Tanguay's player type, if it's a problem at all.

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#14 ScubaSteve
June 14 2009, 10:50PM
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Marion Flowers wrote:

Tanguay and Komisarek to Edmonton for Robert Nilsson, Dustin Penner and Lubomir Visnovsky. This addresses all the Oilers concerns if the two sign in Edmonton.

Or, we just sign those 2 guys and not give up any assets, what part of UFA is tough to understand?

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#15 mjsh
June 14 2009, 10:53PM
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Marion Flowers wrote:

Tanguay and Komisarek to Edmonton for Robert Nilsson, Dustin Penner and Lubomir Visnovsky. This addresses all the Oilers concerns if the two sign in Edmonton.

No way in a million years do I do that deal

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#16 speeds
June 14 2009, 10:54PM
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To add, on paper Tanguay-Horcoff-Hemsky might not work for some, without a natural shooter, but that isn't to say it definitely wouldn't work on the ice. No harm trying it out in camp were Tanguay signed.

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#17 misfit
June 14 2009, 11:19PM
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There are a lot of nice players in there, but none of them are worth what the market will surely give them.

Komisarek is a very good defensive defenseman, but that's also all you get with him. Paying big money for a purely defensive defenseman is never wise. Paying big money for anyone who's purely one-dimensional is never wise, but you can usually find defense-only guys for a lot less than the money Komisarek is sure to command.

Lang's career could very well be over. He's been a useful player for a while, but that's a tough injury to recover from for anyone, let alone a 38 year old. I don't think he's a good fit for anyone.

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#18 Jonathan Willis
June 14 2009, 11:29PM
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speeds wrote:

JW: In your OHL draft post you mention that Holland had a bad +/-. In fact, his +/- was 3rd on the team at +10, tied for the highest among F’s. At least, according to the OHL’s site.

Quite right. I looked at his playoff +/- and accidentally used that when I made the comment, rather than his regular season numbers.

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#19 Wainwright Dan
June 15 2009, 07:17AM
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ScubaSteve wrote:

Marion Flowers wrote: Tanguay and Komisarek to Edmonton for Robert Nilsson, Dustin Penner and Lubomir Visnovsky. This addresses all the Oilers concerns if the two sign in Edmonton. Or, we just sign those 2 guys and not give up any assets, what part of UFA is tough to understand?

Check and mate. Nicely played.

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#20 Hemmertime
June 15 2009, 08:19AM
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With the big name splash Katz wants, I could see us overpaying for Kovalev if Heatley/Hossa/Havlat doesnt pan out. I would rather have Jagr personally. Will be interesting to see what Kovalev gets.

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#21 Mike Krushelnyski
June 15 2009, 10:27AM
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Antony Ta wrote:

Depending on what Mikael Samuelsson and Saku Koivu are asking for I might actually like Koivu better as a potential UFA signing - this is assuming he could play that empty 2nd line RW role.

Yeah I'm wondering what Koivu's asking price has dropped to. I seem to recall reading somewhere that Montreal wasn't interested in having him back this year but I can't remember where.

I've always liked Koivu and I'd love to see him come here. Even if his production has dropped off he's still a really smart positional player and could probably shore up our hurting PK.

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#22 mattmarcin
June 15 2009, 10:33AM
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Trade for Horcoff and sign?

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#23 Antony Ta
June 15 2009, 03:03PM
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@ Mike Krushelnyski:

Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

Yeah I’m wondering what Koivu’s asking price has dropped to. I seem to recall reading somewhere that Montreal wasn’t interested in having him back this year but I can’t remember where. I’ve always liked Koivu and I’d love to see him come here. Even if his production has dropped off he’s still a really smart positional player and could probably shore up our hurting PK.

I totally agree, Mike.

You can never use too many smart, skilled players. The Pens and Wings showed that by acquiring guys like Sykora, Samuelsson, Cleary, Franzen, and Satan. To me, Saku Koivu is kind of like that Vincent Damphousse kind of player going over to San Jose after a lot of years in Montreal and still producing decent numbers. These guys may not be able to play 1st line roles, but in a supporting offensive role on the 2nd line and playing the occasional special teams minutes (PP/PK), their experience makes them perfect pick-ups for teams like ours which have a lot of young players. There's also the leadership bonus when you pick up former captains - guys who have been in the muck and have come out on top.

Hands down, I would take him over Samuelsson. This also depends on whether the Oilers are trying to resign Kotalik, though.

If Nilsson and Cogliano are both on the block, I wouldn't mind a 2nd line of Koivu-Gagner-Kotalik. :-D

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#24 Antony Ta
June 15 2009, 03:04PM
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BTW, Mike Krushelnyski... the Edmonton Oiler?

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#25 Mike Krushelnyski
June 15 2009, 03:35PM
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Antony Ta wrote:

BTW, Mike Krushelnyski… the Edmonton Oiler?

Well it would be pretty irresponsible to use the name if I wasn't, now wouldn't it?

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#26 Antony Ta
June 15 2009, 07:39PM
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Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

Antony Ta wrote: BTW, Mike Krushelnyski… the Edmonton Oiler? Well it would be pretty irresponsible to use the name if I wasn’t, now wouldn’t it?

I wanted to make sure. Lots of people on the internet use fake names. Kind of cool to think Mike Krushelnyski reads OilersNation.

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#27 ScubaSteve
June 15 2009, 11:02PM
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Antony Ta wrote:

ike Krushelnyski wrote: Antony Ta wrote: BTW, Mike Krushelnyski… the Edmonton Oiler? Well it would be pretty irresponsible to use the name if I wasn’t, now wouldn’t it? I wanted to make sure. Lots of people on the internet use fake names. Kind of cool to think Mike Krushelnyski reads OilersNation.

~Yeah, and I think I've seen German Titov on here too, sweet!~

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#28 Antony Ta
June 16 2009, 03:57AM
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ScubaSteve wrote:

~Yeah, and I think I’ve seen German Titov on here too, sweet!~

A ha... German Titov. Armed with a keyboard and considered dangerous.

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