Whenever you first hear of a trade your head
starts swimming with thoughts. There is the shock that a trade has been
completed. You know that the team has been changed. But as you search on the net
for reaction of "the experts" you’re left wondering;
Does this trade make our team better?
Did we get more than we gave away?
Are we happy to acquire these new players?
And then after the initial wave of enthusiasm, doubt begins to creep in to your
Did we give up too much?
Are we getting anything good in return?
Are we going to wish down the road that the trade had never been done in the
Most trades have a feel. When Patrick Roy was traded there was a feeling of
dread, that the Canadiens were going down a path where the future was unknown
and full of question marks.
When Guy Carbonneau was traded there was a feeling of anger. Anger at the loss
of our long time captain, but also a sense that "we’d just given him away".
The trade of Sergei Samsonov has a definite feel. In fact it’s an overriding
feel. The feeling of relief. The relief that the Samsonov circus has finally
come to an end. But to this relief we must add surprise. And the surprise is
that the price of getting rid of him wasn’t as high as it should have been.
The signing of Sergei Samsonov seemed all wrong from the very start. It reeked
of desperation. After General Manager Bob Gainey had vowed to be active in the
free agent market there was a strong silence emanating from his office at the
Bell Centre. It wasn’t that Gainey wasn’t trying to lure fee agents to Montreal,
it’s that he wasn’t succeeding.
And then after a couple of weeks of inactivity the signing of Sergei Samsonov
was announced. The signing was not met with universal acclaim. Most pegged this
signing for what it was, an attempt to sign a free agent in the hope that he
could be better than advertised.
Unfortunately for all parties involved Samsonov was worse than advertised. To
say he had a terrible season would be kind. Even the biggest detractors of the
Samsonov signing couldn’t have imagined that it would go this bad. And so
Samsonov became a permanent healthy scratch during the Canadiens playoff push,
in essence a 3.5 million dollar a year spectator.
There was no question that Samsonov wouldn’t be back in Montreal to finish his
contract. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Gainey would buy out his
contract and the Canadiens would be stuck with a salary cap hit of $1.175
million over the next two years. Sadly, nobody seemed to even think about trying
the other option, actually having Samsonov play out his contract.
That’s what makes today’s deal so surprising. The surprise isn’t that the Habs
got rid of Samsonov, the surprise is that they actually found somebody who
Say what you want about Gainey’s tenure as Habs G.M. (and it has been a mixed
bag) but, he sure knows how to dump contracts off on other teams. And that’s the
real wonder of this deal, why do the Blackhawks want Sergei Samsonov?, and even
more puzzling why do they want him at $3.5 million next season? Surely, they
knew that he would be on the open market in the very near future and definitely
available for cheaper than $3.5 million.
And as for the Habs?
Firstly, and most importantly they save money in not having to buy out Samsonov.
Which in today’s salary cap NHL is critical. According to reports Cullimore will
be bought out by the Canadiens for $633,333 over the next two seasons. That’s a
savings of a little over $500,000 against the cap over the next two seasons. It
doesn’t seem like much but it does give Gainey a little more wiggle room.
Secondly, Gainey gets rid of the Samsonov headache that has been hanging over
the team for far too long. The fact that he was able to solve this problem
without having to buy him out has to be considered a major positive.
That leaves us with the third player in the deal, Tony Salmelainen. At the time
of this writing is unclear what the Canadiens’ plans are for him. At this point
he could be put back in the trade mix or sent down to Hamilton for the season.
It seems unlikely that he will play for the Canadiens, at least this year.
In the final analysis one must look as this trade as addition by subtraction.
And maybe, and it’s a slight maybe, Samsonov works out well in Chicago. That
wasn’t going to happen in Montreal. The fact that Montreal was able to salvage
something from this failed experiment is more than anyone could have expected at