On this, the eve of the free agent frenzy that is to begin tomorrow at noon, there are plenty questions running through the minds of not only the fans, but players and general managers alike. Questions like “Who is going to sign where?” and “Will there be any last minute scrambling by teams to lock up their potential UFA’s before the twelve o’clock deadline tomorrow?”
However, I bring to you a new question to ponder as the hours, minutes, and seconds pass on route to the big show tomorrow afternoon: “Who will Habs’ GM Bob Gainey call first?”
There is still question as to whether or not Sheldon Souray will be back next season. One has to suspect, though, that seeing as there has been no news of his status this close to the deadline indicates he’s testing the market and thus, won’t be back. He will, however, most likely receive the last call Gainey makes before the UFA period begins.
With so many stars hitting the open market tomorrow – Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Ryan Smyth, Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, Sheldon Souray, and Scott Hannan just to name a few – who exactly will be the first to have Bob Gainey’s number grace their phone’s screen?
There are plenty of people who are hoping for Daniel Briere to come home, but there is just as much indication that he won’t be making the trip back to Montreal. The asking price complimented by the number of competitive offers will make the talented forward too big a fish for Gainey to catch.
Still, that doesn’t mean that Briere, along with the other top-tier players won’t receive a call from Gainey checking in on their status and thoughts on coming to Montreal. I’m just not convinced that they will be the first to accept calls from the former Canadiens’ Captain.
Logic would suggest that Gainey will call the player whom he most wants in a Montreal uniform next fall. Of course, this brings us to our next question, “Who does Gainey want the most in a Habs’ uniform next season?”
No one really has the answer to these questions other than Bob Gainey himself and the select few close to him who are needed to weigh in on the decision. However, it’s no fun if you can’t speculate.
While most are quick to point out the Habs’ need at center, they have a much bigger problem to solve: the blueline. If the 2007 Entry Draft was any indication, management is very much aware of their short-comings on the backend, especially with the loss of Craig Rivet and nearly certain loss of Sheldon Souray.
While the Habs’ successfully stockpiled a number of defensive prospects for the future, that does nothing to help the present. If you ask me, Gainey has already picked out a few blueliners he’d like to add to the team for next season, and chances are, they’re at the top of his ‘To Call’ list. Once he takes care of his most pressing needs, Bob Gainey will later move onto the more routine calls to gauge the market on the big money players.
On the other hand, there may be a couple of people who make a call to the Gainey and the Canadiens. Players who may be willing to come to Montreal at a somewhat reduced cost, guys like Michel Ouellet who was let free by the Pittsburgh Penguins or Danius Zubrus who still has connections to Montreal from his three year stint with the team between 1998 and 2001.
Feel free to e-mail in with your idea of who Bob Gainey may call first, I’d love to hear what others might see as Gainey’s biggest target and their reasons for it.
Meanwhile, a few names that don’t normally come to mind that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gainey drop a line to, but by no means the on top of his list are: Todd Fedoruk, Bryan Smolinski, Michal Handzus, and Greg de Vries.
Fedoruk would fill the enforcer roll left behind by Aaron Downey, while Smolinksi and Handzus would help down the middle. Furthermore, de Vries would slip well into the Habs’ defense corps as a top-four defenseman.
Happy Canada Day to everyone, enjoy the show!