Nine UFA’s. Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

It was probably somewhere around the end of the first period of the Habs-Leafs game when I became finally convinced that the Canadiens need to be blown up and started almost from scratch again. It was such a pathetic sight. They actually made the Leafs look like one of the greatest teams in the history of hockey. How bad is that?

So with that in mind, the following is the list of Montreal’s nine unrestricted free agents for 2009. What will Bob Gainey do with this bunch? Of course, if another team opens up the vault for any of these guys, let ‘em go, no problem. These thoughts are only about keeping someone if it makes fiscal sense. None of them deserve a raise anyway.

The big nine are Francis Bouillon, Mathieu Dandenault, Saku Koivu, Mike Komisarek, Tom Kostopoulos, Alex Kovalev, Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider, and Alex Tanguay.

Francis Bouillon is a fairly steady rearguard, but nothing more than that. Often, you won’t hear his name mentioned, but he’s out there. Just a tad small, that’s all. I suppose I’d keep him, although I’m not overly excited about it.

I’ve always thought Mathieu Dandenault was a little underappreciated by the coaches. He sits out often, sometimes when healthy, sometimes when hurt, but he can play both defence and forward. But he’s slow, has seen better days, and the team needs to make room for young guys like PK Subban. I think Mathieu is gonzo.

Saku Koivu is having a lousy year, like most of his teammates. He’s also seen better days. But I think they should hold on to him. I’m not even sure why. Maybe because he’s captain, or something like that.

Mike Komisarek is in my bad books. If Gainey can keep him without giving him some kind of big fat raise, then fine. This is one guy who doesn’t deserve a raise. He deserves a cut in pay. He’s lucky he wasn’t delegated to the press box a bunch of times. If he goes, I’m not feeling bad.

Tom Kostopoulos works hard every night, and even shows admirable leadership qualities. He’s just a grinder, that’s all. But I like grinders, so I think he should stay. I just wish he had the tools to pick it up a notch the way Maxim Lapierre did this year.

Robert Lang was doing the job in fine fashion until he got hurt. In fact, the Habs began sinking like a stone shortly after he was hurt, which is no coincidence. Gotta try and keep this guy.

Mathieu Schneider could be really effective if he could hit the net. But he can’t, he’s old, and he should probably just go.

Alex Tanguay could’ve had a good season this year if he wasn’t on the shelf for half of it. But he’s got some good years left, he’s basically a good player, and Montreal needs him. I think he should stay.

And then there’s Alex Kovalev. ‘Pacca’ is Russian for ‘bye bye.’ So pacca, Alex. And before you close the door, could you give back some of the salary you stole please?

12 thoughts on “Nine UFA’s. Should They Stay Or Should They Go?”

  1. I hope you have someone in mind other than Subban to replace these guys.

    It’s a sad fact that our young players have been as bad if not worse than these 9 on many nights. D’Agostini apart form his tease is not an NHL player on a contender. Sergei Kostitsyn has yet to show he’s any better than that. O’Byrne is a disaster. The goalies may not be as good a base to build on as we thought.

    The free agent pool is rich, but we are very very poor at attracting the people that are right for us. You will not we have Hamrlik not Rafalski or Timonen, Lang not Hossa. Brisebois not an NHL defender…

    I think we’re in a bit of a bind here. The best guys we’re likely to be able to sign are those that you listed (talent-wise). If there are personality issues, then those must be dealt with also, but we can’t just jettison Kovalev in favour of someone just as mercurial but with less potential. It would placate some fans baying for blood, but it would be a set-back in terms of total talent.

    This is the pain I’m feeling. It runs a little deeper than the realisation that this team might not be the one this year. It is that the blocks we have in place may never have been right in the first place (Higgins, I’m looking at you).

    Of course, my hope is that we finish in a flourish and put all this doom talk to bed…

  2. Topham- how could you justify keeping Kovalev? He’s shown, throughout his entire career, that he can’t be relied upon on a regular basis. He’s 35 years old, agonizingly slow, visibly on the decline, and refuses to adjust his game. To top if off, he’s damn laze on the ice.
    For as long as he’s here, we have this illusion that the Habs have an All-Star forward, which is totally untrue. No need to replace him with another overpaid underachiever. Kovalev gone = addition by subtraction for the team.
    Besides, Alex Tanguay has just as much talent if not more, is a consistent producer (has been for his entire career), is 7 years younger, and can be retained for a similar price. Not to mention he doesn’t need ‘vacations’ or water-side walk to temporarily resolve his inner issues.

    Dennis- I agree with most of your assessment. I’d like to keep Dandenault but for some reason neither Carbo nor Gainey seem to trust him. With the treatment he’s received the past 2-3 seasons there’s no way he re-signs here, even if we offered him a contract.
    Robert Lang is done. At 41 years old, coming off a major injury like this, he’s not worth the risk of a contract. We’ll again have to go with Koivu – Pleks – Laps as our top 3 centers next year, unless BG pulls a miracle out of the UFA market this summer – unlikely.

    Matt Schneider potentially still has 1-2 good years in front of him – it depends on the price. On that count Topham was right, most likely the best talent we can have is through the guys that are already here. Schneider would love to wrap-up that career in Montreal, if he’s willing to sign for under 2M per he should stay. We still need his shot for a few years until Weber is ready, and if he’s given less than 18 minutes a night, he’s a decent defenseman. If he goes it’s priority #1 to replace that shot from the point through the UFA pool.

    Komisarek is having a terrible year, no doubt. But that doesn’t mean he’s a bad player. I’d keep him, so long as the price is not too much – max 3.5M on a multi-year deal.
    This guy used to be one of the most feared rearguards in the league – opponents talked about him in the same sentences as Chara, Phaneuf and Pronger, for his physical game. That game didn’t just ‘go away’ in a sudden. He’s hurt, and when he’s fixed he’ll be Pierre McGuire’s MONSTER once again.

    I guess that sums it up… I hope it’s a busy summer if only because this dressing room needs fresh air and fresh blood. The same old same old can’t continue anymore…

  3. I’d definately try to keep Komisarek if the price is right.

    Obviously, someone might try to overpay him… which makes it hard to keep some guys.

    I think I’d part ways with a few guys. Kovalev… I love his talent, been a big fan of his since he’s been in Montreal. But at 35 and seeing how the team’s main characters have been responding during and after the “Carbo fiasco”… I’d part ways. Time for fresh faces.

    Koivu, I’ve been a huge fan of as well. But for the same reason as Kovalev, I’d part ways. Koivu is getting slower and is also part of the core players who haven’t been responding since the team’s nose dive.

    Schneider, it would really depend on the price. I agree that he could have another good year left.

    I would try to keep Tanguay. I’d also keep Bouillon… despite being small, he’ll go to war for his team mates.

    Tom Kostopoulos…. give this guy a contract already. One of the keywords I keep hearing is “character” and many question the Hab’s character… he is a guy who will work and battle with and for his teammates.

    Lang, I would certainly consider. He always looked intense on the bench…. he wants to win. My only concern in his case would be his age coupled with his injury.

    I would probably let Dandenault walk, despite the fact that I agree with Dennis that he has been undervalued by coaching.

    This summer, I would really hope to see some major action.

    Some things that I’ve heard for some years now… “Habs need that big forward”, “They’re small up front”…. “character” (coming up more often recently)….

    Time to fill those holes and find a way to really tighten up the team’s defensive play.

  4. No brainers: Komisarek and Tanguay – they have the talent and will bounce back, maybe in time to turn things around this year.

    ?s: Bouillon & Kostopoulos – are young bloods ready to step up here?

    Goners: Dandenault & Schneider – they can only disimprove and there are young players who can replace them.

    Keepers: 1) Lang, IF he completely recovers from his injury – he did make a difference and we did start to sink when he went down although other factors were also at work.

    2) Koivu: I like the dood, not as much as Topham who’s in luuuuv, but he brings much more to the team than his somewhat diminished skills and he can still be a very effective 2nd/3rd line presence, even morph into a top-notch pk specialist.

    3) Kovalev: I still do not see why people – fans, players, management – refuse to accept that Kovalev is not and will never be the player they want him to be. The to-do over him reminds me of how people, especially that mega-twinkie Punch Imlach, ragged on the Big M rather than figuring out how best to use him. He was a great player and, like Kovalev, he could and often did break a game wide open with a superb display of hockey skills but, like Kovalev, he was not/could not be the lynchpin of a team – he was a great complement to the team but, like Kovalev, he was not a leader.

    And I don’t get why people keep on about Kovalev being, like Mahovlich, lazy? UH? The impressive skill set of Kovalev was not acquired by some mysterious magical natural endowment but through hard hard hard work over a lifetime and the habits that are developed in doing so do not suddenly short-out in any given game. Like the Big M, Kovalev does work hard only, like the Big M, sometimes the appearance belies the reality of the effort.

    The wayside of the road to the NHL is littered with highly skilled and very talented players who simply couldn’t put their game together at the NHL level let alone become a star in the league – Kovalev is a star, not a super star, and as such we should keep him, reduce the misplaced pressure on him by de-emphasizing his importance to the team and concommitently work on getting him to be more selective when he plays out of position which he can do less and less effectively and from which bad habit most, if not all, of his on-ice sins originate. Yeah, the `Kovalev problem’ is quite simple really: stop making him think he should be who he isn’t and therefore impelling him to always be trying to do more than he can/that we should legitimately expect from him. He’s confused, but then, less so than us, eh?

  5. As much as I like Bouillon, I think that with all the defenseman coming up through the system, there isn’t any space unless we let Komisarek walk. Even though Bouillon is obviously cheaper, that wouldn’t be a smart decision.
    Schneider hasn’t done much since his initial flurry of powerplay production,
    With Lang it gets a little more complicated. The Habs should be set next year with Plekanec and Lapierre as the second and third line centers. Where does that leave Lang and Koivu? Obviously, at this point in their careers, neither one is able to be a first line center, and one could say it’s high time the Canadiens upgraded at the position. As much heart as those two guys display, it’s not worth keeping them around, especially Koivu, who’s lack of leadership skills are finally coming out. As for the rest, keep Komisarek if we could do it for about a three million dollar cap hit. Anything more than that, let another team overpay. We have other holes that that are going to be hard to be filled even without overpaying for a guy like Komisarek.
    I would keep Tanguay if I could get him for under $2.5M per year. As far as Kovalev goes, I hope the leafs overpay for him. It wouldn’t quite make up for this year, but at least it would leave us smiling at the end of it all.
    I’m all for signing Kostopoulos. He is one of the few players who gives it his all every game and he must be rewarded with a new deal. Schneider hasn’t done much since his first few games and at the age of 39 isn’t worth resigning (besides for the fact that we have to give Atlanta a second round pick if we resign him). Dandenault would be worth resigning, but not if the coach (whoever it is next year) only plans on playing him every second or third game.
    Have you noticed that the Canadiens lack of passion is highly contagious? D’agostini, Pacioretty, Schneider, Price. This is a a partial list of players who initially played great for the Habs this year, but lost strength couldn’t keep on treading water in the deep end that is this year’s Canadiens.

  6. I pray to anything that’s Holy that George Gillet sells the team, and loses a huge amount of money doing so. That greedy scumbag cost us a very promising coach and in the end that’ll also cost us a very competent GM.

  7. DK; I totally agree with James . It’s also time as Jim said you pay a visit to Sandy !!

  8. Im enjoying all of this negative kovalev talk around here, but if you guys would like to trace some of my past remarks on him I think I have earned the right to say this……..I told you so. Jim and Dennis, I agree with keeping Koivu, the guy has been there for a long time and bleeds your teams colors, hes on the downside of his career and wont produce as much as far as points go but I think he can still be useful in alot of other ways.

    James, how do you figure Tanguay has been consistent his whole career? Look at his stats , hes had 70 point seasons followed up by 40 point seasons and 80 point seasons followed up by 50 point seasons. Im not saying hes a bad hockey player but hes not going to take any team to the promise land, Hes a good first liner on a bad team or a good second liner on a good team at best. Decent player yes, consistent player no.

    Mike Komisarek is an “all star” he deserves his raise………

    Tom Kostopoulos: hes a work horse, lacks talent but its as clear as day he’d do anything for the good of the team, you need guys like this on a team to be successful.

    Robert Lang: thats a tuff call, Hes also getting towards the end of his career, but can sometimes show flashes that he can still put up some points. Keep him if the price is right.

    Mathew Schneider: Bringing him in didnt hurt the habs at all but hes not the player he used to be obviously. He is still able to put up points and the habs are lacking that on the blue line, father time is against him but as long as he can still put up points and the price is right, why not keep him?

  9. Jordy- I think for someone who doesn’t follow the team you’re very knowledgeable regarding these players – your post makes a lot of sense.

    I understand your point regarding Tanguay, but I have a hard time considering this as inconsistency. He had 1 bad season in Colorado (48 pts in 70 games) and 1 bad season in Calgary (58 in 78) but that’s under Keenan and it was clear Alex wasn’t a player for Mike’s coaching style. This year he was on a PPG pace until he got hurt and has 4 points in his last 5 games, even though the team’s been dismal…
    My point is, the are really very few players in the league that, in 9 seasons have not had 1 or 2 off years – and in his case one of them was due to a coaching conflict.
    He averages .88 ppg (more than Kovalev) over his career – that’s pretty solid for a winger. I’m not claiming he’s a superstar and will lead the team to the Cup. But keeping Kovalev instead of Tanguay would be an atrocious move any way you look at it.

  10. James,

    I can deffiinately see where your coming from with Tanguay, I have seen him play a ton against the canucks over the years, I just feel hes capable of more. I was a little bit extreme on him not being a consistent player. I enjoy are debates, your clearly a knowledgeable hockey fan also.

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