Compliance Cap-italizing Canadiens: Buyout Bait Montreal Bound?

As the post-season dwindles down, fewer teams are able to consider the cup and more teams are looking towards making the moves necessary so as to not be singing the summertime blues.  In years previous from 2006 onwards, the NHL’s salary cap became less of an obstacle as it increased in size but this year the challenge grows as the cap becomes less of a friend and more of a foe.

 

The Canadiens have already considered their compliance buyout options and there wasn’t a great deal of deliberation required.  Scott Gomez and former squad mate in their New York Rangers days Wade Redden were bought out by their respective teams without a second’s hesitation and it opened up opportunities galore for the Canadiens as they utilized an extra spot on the roster to bring in highly talented youth, Gomez’s duties seemingly being what Alex Galchenyuk was handed for the most part.

 

With only one buyout remaining and having seen what an opening it could bring about for any team that should so opt to utilize their compliance buyout to nullify past mistakes, a gander shall now be taken at those that are considered buyout bait and how, if they should so sign in the off season with the bleu, blanc et rouge, it could potentially impact the team.  To create more hypothetical cap room, considerations will be made in regards to potential draft day moves as well as the highly likely impending buyout of Tomas Kaberle as the options are weighed out.

 

Starting with teams out west, we begin with the Anaheim Ducks and Bryan Allen.

 

Allen played 41 games this year and notched 6 assists whilst sitting at a cap hit of 3.5 million dollars and had a less than stellar plus/minus to be greatly generous.  There’s no plus to be had for Les Canadiens with Allen as he could only realistically be signed to a two-way deal and this team is plentiful, perhaps too much so, in extra defensive options and Allen, best case scenario, would only end up occupying a spot in Hamilton that their defensive unit does not have to spare.

 

Verdict: A resounding no.

 

The Calgary Flames and Alex Tanguay.

 

Photo: Hannah Foslien, Getty Images

Photo: Hannah Foslien, Getty Images

Marc Bergevin gained a quick and perhaps unfair reputation of being one to recycle former Canadiens crew members back into the fold with the acquirement of Michael Ryder but that trade was a win all around, in spite of how a number of Montreal fans might be missing Erik Cole.  Bergevin, also looking to add a further presence from Quebec to the team would be considered –at face value– liable to signing the 33 year old Sainte-Justine native left winger but his age works significantly against him as Bergevin wants to make this team better through younger players and to continue to draft well.  While Tanguay managed to notch 41 points in 50 games in his season with this team, his contributions in terms of point totals have been solid but he seems to have slowed down by a step or two.

 

The minus factor here being that the aging Tanguay would not address the physical needs of a team that will continue to benefit from point production of players already on the roster, many younger and some more affordable but bearing in mind that his supply and demand would not be in his favor, Tanguay could potentially accept a more reasonable deal than he currently has at 3.5 million per year, extending into 2016 and such a number may be far less appealing a few more years into the future.  These numbers, however, are not so overbearing that it would prevent Calgary from possibly trading Alex but if they are accepting going into a rebuild, they could potentially just eat his contract or perhaps even buy him out next year.

 

Verdict: If it happens, for the right price at a considerably short term deal, it’s a go for a veteran presence in the room but unlikely to be a move that Canadiens fans will call in favor of.

 

The Chicago Blackhawks featuring Rostislav Olesz and Steve Montador

 

Rostislav Olesz is an unabashed draft bomb, having gone 7th overall in the 2004 draft and struggling to play a significant number of games at the NHL level for a variety of reasons, making 3.125 million for his cap hit to chill in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs and the story does not go any farther beyond that.

 

Verdict: A simple “no” would not be sufficient to express how bad he would be for this team or any other that he goes to in the NHL.  The only thing awaiting him at the end of this journey is a one-way ticket back to the Czech Extraliga.

 

Steve Montador, for a cap hit at 2.75 million does not fit the bill of what’s needed on a team that not only has defensive depth and options as far as the eye can see but as a team that needs every piece of cap space it can get in hopes of not being forced to take compensation for the likes of the up-and-coming Nick Leddy, a steal in the disposal of Cam Barker and a much more wisely selected draft pick than the latter.  Enough talent, likely including and maybe not limited to such desirable names as Viktor Stalberg, will be packing their bags and hitching a ride out of the windy city this summer as it is that they cannot afford to lose promising youngsters at the cost of keeping the likes of Montador.

 

Verdict: The undrafted Montador may have gone above and beyond expectations but when undrafted NHL successes come to mind, one would think to the likes of –for instance– Alex Burrows or ideally Adam Oates.  The 6’0 and 211 pound Vancouver native would only further add to Montreal’s defensive quantity and less to their quality.

 

The Colorado Avalanche and David Jones

 

A 6’2 and 210 pound right winger that in three season prior to the one past that played 172 games and scored 98 points doesn’t sound as bad as some of the previously mentioned deals, including that he once tied Matt Duchene with the team lead in goals scored at twenty-seven, a mere two years ago.  What does sound bad is that he’s a cap hit of an even $4,000,000 until 2016, he scored a less than impressive 9 points in 33 games this year and perhaps the worst of all, he is extremely injury prone.  For an Avalanche crew headed in a different direction, this one is a no brainer.

 

Verdict: While possessing somewhat of a size factor and a point production rate that for a few years was far more imposing than his most recent outing, Jones could be a potential investment but only for a bargain so clear cut that even he would have to know that this team was getting a steal of a deal.  His size is somewhat nullified by his injury marred past which would make this deal, if ever signed, one that might likely leave the people scratching their heads for a 29 year old that’s likely already seen his best days come and go with only a small window for a bounce back season.

 

The Columbus Blue Jackets and RJ Umberger and James Wisniewski

 

RJ Umberger is a name currently frowned upon within the Columbus corps due to being a cap hit of 4.6 million until 2017, a number that’s considered overwhelming for a player that notched 18 points in 48 games.  The bright side in lieu of the failures on paper with this contract for a team that nearly made the playoffs after finishing at the bottom of last year’s totem pole is that Umberger amassed his point total in spite of being used in a largely defensive role and perhaps being made the silent victim of a coach’s leash and limiting his offensive output.

 

Verdict: Umberger isn’t the more likely candidate to be bought out by a team with plenty of cap space to kill once deals with Artem Anisimov and Sergei Bobrovsky are reached, that being if Bobsy doesn’t take off to the KHL, but if it came to fruition with promises of more offensive allowance under Michel Therrien, the 16th overall 2001 draft pick isn’t undersized and could fill a second line void if required to do so.  RJ could very well be a welcome addition to Bergevin’s regime but for likely a touch less than he is currently making.

 

James Wisniewski came to Montreal as a kid that was flourishing even with a dismal Islanders squad and continued to do well, particularly as a supplementary power play two-way defenceman for the Canadiens and caught many unaware of his abilities by surprise.  When he arrived at only the expense of a 4th round draft pick, he would be considered a steal of a deal but petered out at the very end of the stretch and all but disappeared during the playoffs in what may well have been the deciding factor against signing him back to the team and ultimately resulting in losing a 4th round pick to acquire his services and gaining only a 7th round pick in return for his negotiating rights.

 

Verdict: When he was signed for a cap hit at 5.5 million in a deal extending just as long as that of RJ Umberger, most of Montreal stopped missing him quite so much but considering that the replacement is the likes of Rafael Diaz (aka player #61 according to a man whose off season job consists of barking and clapping at Sea World), reacquiring his services for something to the tune of a 2-something to 3.5 million dollar (at a slightly generous maximum) cap hit could be considered welcome as a player the likes of Diaz, at only a one year remaining 1.250 million dollar cap hit to bolster a team lacking in power play blue line presence could draw a return that might be more generous than usual heading into a season where teams around the league are tightening their belts with a considerably smaller cap roof.

 

Columbus appears to have the best options for off season acquirement thus far of all teams in the west (as to not count them as an eastern team just yet).

 

The Edmonton Oilers with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky

 

Upon the news of compliance buyouts making the news in the hockey world, Oilers fans everywhere were licking their chops at the thought of disposing resident third liner and team captain Shawn Horcoff.  Les Canadiens can relate to Edmonton’s woes and then some when they realize that their third line center was being paid 5.5 million in a deal that would stick with them through to the year 2015 but they have yet to act on it just yet.  The Oilers are rich in cap space but have plenty of RFA deals and highly touted prospects to continue paying and to strike up new deals with in coming years, Sam Gagner being on the first and foremost agenda.  With the promise of having time and opportunity to fill such an impending void in roles such as team captain and a third line center spot, Horcoff seems to be the only truly obvious and forthright option for a buyout as he’s into the smaller money years of his deal, any other option approaching the final years of their deals now and being of nominal fees.

 

Verdict: Another center? Thanks but no thanks.  Other teams should be happy to have him for somewhere around the two million dollar mark, though.  Best of luck, Horc.

 

Ales Hemsky has flagged accusations of being an underachiever for the standards of a cap hit identical to that of his team’s current captain (for now) but has superior numbers with higher position and more ice time.  The easy consideration for keeping Hemsky is that he was just off the mark of being a point per game player by only a small handful of points in the 2010-2011 campaign and that the twenty-nine year old may have enough left in the tank to see the end of his deal before either taking a pay cut or proving himself worthy of his contractual numbers by raising his numbers in the box score once again.

 

Verdict: Undersized though fairly skilled with his hands and a credible skater, Hemsky may just be more of the same criticisms in Montreal if bought out and could not fill a necessary void.

 

The Minnesota Wild and Dany Heatley

 

Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn, Getty Images

Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn, Getty Images

This team likes spending big money for a long term run from their stars and one has to respect their commitment and dedication to winning behind particular names, most recently doing the unlikely in last year’s off season sweepstakes by acquiring both Parise and Suter.  However, the fact that Dany Heatley’s cap hit is 7.5 million dollars seems to have flown over the heads of the general masses and for a guy that’s in a second line role at best with his team now and is putting up numbers comfortably well over the half point per game margin, this is the kind of salary that begs point per game numbers and for a team that’s suddenly running low on cap space with a moderate assortment of players needing new deals that they can’t afford to part with, Dany Heatley is the most obvious option it’s safe to say that other members of the team are justifying their numbers through various contributions.

 

Verdict: A size enriched sniper that could easily play a top six forward role with skating that should match somewhere relative to par with The Flying Frenchmen? A 6’4, 221 pound Heatley could serve this team well and that’s an asset Mr. Bergevin might well be willing to pay a handsome but reasonable sum.  A $4,000,000/year deal could be considered a small bargain for all parties involved and as an added bonus, a potential presence to incense what could be a hostile reaction from his former team and newly discovered Montreal rivals in the nation’s capital.  This opportunity is considered a worthy “yes” across the board and maybe the best option viewed to this point.

 

The San Jose Sharks and Martin Havlat

 

Any team that has approximately $8,000,000 to spend on 7 players cannot afford to continue to retain a 5 million dollar cap hit in the form of the physically broken Martin Havlat, an otherwise able second line presence.  His supplementary numbers are modest but he did manage to total half point per game numbers this season so Havlat is more or less a victim of circumstance with all stockpiled factors considered.

 

Verdict: Assuming Gionta sees the end of his deal and reign as team captain, Martin Havlat doesn’t bring anything much further to the table than Gionta except perhaps less of a leadership role and has, for now, been stuck with the tag of being a San Jose Shark in the playoffs which serves as stigma that will be difficult to shake for most anyone on that team.  Havlat fits neither the team needs nor Bergevin’s vision and won’t be donning our colors at any point in the near future.

 

The Vancouver Canucks featuring David Booth and Keith Ballard

 

David Booth as an acquirement based on being a friend of Ryan Kesler that hasn’t been far short of a human band-aid and proved to be both inexperienced and ineffective in the playoffs.  He’s looking more than likely at one last chance with his current team and so far things don’t bode all too well for him but they’re stuck with a no trade clause that came into effect the year his deal arrived in Canada’s most recent Olympic city.  Panthers GM Dale Tallon seemed to know something was up and was wise to not take a gamble on him with his NTC coming into effect shortly following the deal that saw Florida acquire Marco Sturm and ever wily veteran Mikael Samuelsson.

 

Verdict: There’s nothing on paper nor within the intangibles of his game that says he would be a fit for Montreal until proven otherwise.

 

Keith Ballard was put farther down an already lacking defensive totem pole than the likes of a less than borderline NHL level player in Andrew Alberts, a presence that was exposed by Montreal just a few short seasons ago as his mistakes resulted in both Montreal goals en route to a 2-0 shutout victory over Vancouver and draft bomb Cam Barker, considered fortunate if he’s a third pairing extra.  Perhaps a victim of Alain Vigneault’s doghouse on extended occasions but not one to be considered a shutdown threat in the slightest regard.

 

Verdict: Ballard might add a bit of sandpaper to the defence but is neither superior physically than someone like Jarred Tinordi nor is he a better skater.  Ballard would be looked at as a guy shouldering a huge brunt of a team need that would inevitably crack under the pressure and perhaps unrealistic expectations for his skill level.  There’s no winning with this one or any Canucks buyout options in general for Les Glorieux.

 

The Boston Bruins and Marc Savard

 

Having likely had his career ended by concussion problems, Montreal’s greatest American rival needs all of the cap space they can get with some key names going up into bigger numbers in their bankbooks and the money years have already passed on the Savard deal.  Best to just fork up his money and thank him for his services.

 

Verdict: Assuming retirement, this is irrelevant but shouldn’t be a consideration as a result of being yet another depth centerman.

 

The Buffalo Sabres with Ville Leino, Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff.

 

A team that’s said to be in profit purgatory, straddling the line between money in the black and money in the red seems to be well equipped for cap space as they generally stay middle of the road for their payroll.  As they seem to be stuck in neutral across the board, that’s the only place this team is headed as they preach the evident mantra of “mediocrity is excellence” and possess and evident inability to spend what money they do actually spend wisely.

 

Ville Leino has what’s quietly considered one of the worst contracts in the NHL today.  The Sabres watched Ville bolster a season of 53 points in just one game shy of a full season but didn’t seem to account for the less than minor fact that he was lined with now Flyers team captain Claude Giroux before swiping him away from the Broad Street Bullies.  On top of the signing bonuses that the Sabres have become seemingly so known for, Leino hasn’t come anywhere close to repeating the success he had with Philadelphia and with a cap hit of 4.5 million dollars that will extend into 2016, this is an ugly situation for the Buffalo Sabres that won’t be handled any other way.

 

Verdict: In fairness to the Sabres, they made a mistake that was somewhat easy to make but now that general managers the league over know better, not a chance does Montreal touch this one.

 

Tyler Myers just seems to lack defensive responsibility despite possessing physical gifts and considerable amounts of potential.  Watching his post-game interview upon realizing the Sabres were out of playoff contention were incredibly difficult to bear as witnesses watched an emotional kid do his best to keep himself together, seemingly shouldering a considerable portion of blame.  This young man needs a change of scenery and a change of coaching and he needs it sooner rather than later while he can still develop.

 

Verdict: Dangerous but for about $3,000,000 or so less in cap hit than this current hit of $5,500,000, worth the risk.  He might not quite be Tinordi tough but his size on defence, if given proper direction, could be considered a gift worth unwrapping.  The kid deserves a chance but it remains to be seen if Montreal would be the city that grants it to him.  Buffalo may just keep him in the hopes of turning him around within their franchise before the clock can work against them.

 

Christian Ehrhoff claimed not long after a failed trip to the finals with the Vancouver Canucks that he felt that his best chances to win a Stanley Cup lied with him as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.  The only lie involved was that he was actually saying “$40,000,000 for 10 years sounds pretty freaking sweet to me!” and who wouldn’t accept such a contract? The catch being that he was exposed and quickly became considered overrated and in turn considered overpaid.  The 4.0 cap hit playing second fiddle to being a ten year deal, the length of the term is considered to be the short end of the stick for the Sabres if they were to attempt to deal the German blue liner.  If he’s not bought out this season, he could very well go next year.

 

Verdict: Montreal has seen its share of overpaid underachievers and Marc Bergevin has made it clear that they are no longer welcome.  He won’t go back on his word by acquiring this guy.

 

The Florida Panthers featuring Scottie Upshall and Brian Campbell

 

Scottie Upshall isn’t likely to be what Dale Tallon had in mind for offensive contribution but a guy that possesses a cap hit of 3.5 million dollars should be notching a lot more than he has.  Florida may be a franchise that pays their talent a tad extra but this seems just a bit excessive even for their liking.

 

Verdict: Not the size Montreal is looking for in regards to a checking line talent going forwards and simply not worth the investment.  Upshall is best off in a minor market location before being exposed.

 

Brian Campbell is another case of a guy making a few extra million but relatively safe from widespread criticism for such a case in a place like Sunrise.  This just seems, as is the case with Upshall, that it might be a bit much for what he contributes.  Campbell either puts up considerably high points and lets his plus/minus suffer or he stifles his production a bit in favor of bringing his plus/minus up to more desirable numbers.  This isn’t becoming, to the extent that he does so, of a player that’s being paid over $7,000,000 and the length his deal shouldn’t be considered as it doesn’t expire as soon as this year.

 

Verdict: There are better options available for a secondary power play defenceman and other teams would be willing to offer him more, even if their chances of success are less than that of Montreal’s.

 

The New York Islanders and Rick DiPietro

 

It’s a story that’s been told time and again between these two parties.  Rick DiPietro’s number of surgeries give those of Tammy Faye and Michael Jackson a run for their money, albeit for very different reasons.  At 4.5 million through 2020, this may well be the most brutal contract in the NHL today.

 

Verdict: If he’s possibly going to finally be run out of Long Island and he should end up running towards Montreal, he should just keep passing right on through.

 

The Philadelphia Flyers featuring Daniel Briere, Chris Pronger and Ilya Bryzgalov

 

A team famous for the hail Mary of hockey, a few of those have come back to bite them and this year they bit harder than normal.  Danny Briere isn’t getting younger and is through much of the money portions of his deal as is Chris Pronger but the difference being that Danny has laced up a pair of skates sometime this year.  He may be slowing down just a tad through his age but could still have something to offer.

 

Verdict: Briere’s most attractive feature, without hesitation, is being a career point per game player in the playoffs and for a player as purely skilled as he is, he becomes an attractive option for Montreal if he were to be bought out but not for his current deal at 6.5 million.  Besides, that ship may very well have come and gone the way of Vincent Lecavalier if Briere was going to have had an opportunity to play in Montreal.

 

Chris Pronger would be a quick, veteran fix for Montreal’s defensive ailments in spite of a bit of a contrast in style from the rest of the team.  However, would that be what the doctor ordered? That is, if he ever returns to the ice.

 

Verdict: Even if he was to play again, Pronger would be a considerable risk and that’s including even as a one year deal and he is likely not a relevant topic of discussion for any kind of further NHL future anyhow.

 

The Tampa Bay Lightning with Vincent Lecavalier and Mattias Ohlund

 

Ohlund was once among the top defencemen in the league but that was a good ten years or so ago.  A team that’s got a relatively significant amount of cap hits committed to their defence could benefit from an Ohlund retirement but he’s in the last of his real money years so a buyout should not be considered an expensive option if he doesn’t.  More so than age working against Ohlund, this may not be up for debate if his knee would allow him to continue playing at the rate that he should be but he’s even worse off than Andrei Markov in that category.

 

Verdict: One Markov in one sense is not enough, in the sense where Ohlund currently most compares to him, one Markov is more than enough.  Ohlund may well have played the last game of his career.

 

Vincent Lecavalier, if he had come to Montreal when he first had the chance, would have been viewed as nothing short of a modern deity.  His voice is heard in Tampa Bay’s airport, a city that isn’t as recognized as it should be for their touting of their team but simply cannot be compared to that of Montreal and the kind of pedestal he would have been put on.  The only reason he could be considered here is because he’s just not quite a 7 million dollar plus player anymore but perhaps is overshadowed by the likes of league wide all star and snipe show spectacular Steven Stamkos.

 

Verdict: He had his chance and he ever so unfortunately fanned on it.  With all of Montreal’s existing centers, the arrival of Galchenyuk and the emergence of Eller, this is just not an option anymore, despite how much Montreal may hate to admit it.

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Mike Komisarek

 

Komisarek, quick to become unpopular with Montreal and the faithful of Les Habitants, is sitting down with the Toronto Marlies for more money than this team could ever care to pay him to be a blue line slug that never had the ability or potential to go very far or last very long in the NHL.

 

Verdict: Unanimous across Habland, Komisarek is a mistake that is never to be repeated.

 

The Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin

 

Avoiding mentioning many star players that have long term, high paying deals in markets that can’t support such contracts has been avoided until now.  However, the Capitals do fine for money but much of that is credited to merchandise sales from Alex Ovechkin.  At a 9.5 million plus cap hit, Ovechkin seemed to find second life and almost his old form when in the latter portion of this past season he managed to capture the Rocket Richard trophy but in the playoffs showed much of his same old colors and the rekindled praise for Alex The Great died just as quickly as it came back.  Through all of this, he still seems to be Washington’s financial meal ticket and may well be safe with a ridiculous contract anyhow.

 

Verdict: A winner of various awards and trophies, his playoff track record shows that he may never win the Stanley Cup in spite of his expectations but that if such a thing comes to fruition, he may be the next to win an award that should never be handed out to another Canadien: The Alex Kovalev award.

 

In grand review, there really aren’t too many great options but an abundance of opportunity cannot be expected from many if they’re being subjected to a compliance buyout.  However, each to some degree or another…

 

Best options in analysis: Dany Heatley, RJ Umberger, James Wisniewski, Danny Briere and perhaps Alex Tanguay.

 

After a staggering account of perhaps more buyout options than could be surmised with a general overview of teams across the league and their pay sheets, responses, additions, arguments and everything else is welcome and encouraged.

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