Over the past few days, it has become apparent that many Canadiens fans are itching to see the team sign an unrestricted free agent. And why not, considering that several other teams have improved their squads. Because there hasn’t been a signing through the first week of free agency, some fans appear to be getting worried. There’s no real need to worry though, it’s not like there’s a rule stating that teams must sign players in the first week of free agency – that’s why it lasts roughly 10 weeks (until training camp starts.)
Many Habs fans, myself included, are wondering what’s going to happen to winger Alexei Kovalev. Will he re-up with the Canadiens, or go elsewhere. Only time will tell the answer, but there is something Habs fans can take solace in here. Over the past week, there have been plenty of rumours about big name free agents signing with other teams; amongst these being Paul Kariya, Pavol Demitra, Zigmund Palffy, Glen Murray, to name a few. You’ll notice that Kovalev isn’t in this list, and the truth is, his name hasn’t popped up in too many rumours. At last check, 2 teams are in the unofficial “Kovy” sweepstakes: Montreal and Pittsburgh. If it comes down to money, I think the Habs have a leg up on the Pens here. Kovalev says he wants to see how the market goes, and I say let him. If these are the only 2 teams truly interested in his services, he’ll make the right choice.
It has also been reported that Bob Gainey has been on a “mini-vacation,” shall we say, over the first few days of July. Reports even say that he learned of ex-Hab winger Darren Langdon signing with New Jersey through Sports 30. Whether these reports are true or not is irrelevant. The fact is that now Gainey has said it’s time to get down to business, and will work on signing free agents, for sure his restricted ones, and possibly some on the open market. He has 9 restricted free agents to deal with, and already has a committed payroll of roughly $23 million for next season, so there may be some wiggle room. Whether he uses it or not remains to be seen, with up-and-coming prospects such as Chris Higgins, Tomas Plekanec, and Andrei Kastsitsyn. One thing is for sure though, if Gainey and Co. can find a way to improve the team, they will.
So to the Habs fans who are worried about the team’s inactivity through the first week of free agency, fear not, things are being done, just behind the surface. Many things have to happen between now and September, including dealing with free agency, rookie and development camps, and preparing for a post-CBA era. Everything will be dealt with fellow Canadiens fans, just wait for the right time, whenever that may be.