Canadiens GM Bob Gainey dipped his toe into the free agent waters yesterday and pulled out a pair of signings; one of which many observers thought just wouldn’t happen.
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon Bob Gainey announced that Montreal native Georges Laraque, signed a three-year contract with the Canadiens, worth $4.5 million ($1.5 million per) and that the deal includes a partial no-trade clause.
This came as a surprise to media and fans alike as George has stated publicly in 2003 that he wouldn’t like to play for the Canadiens pointing directly at the Montreal media as the reason. Apparently things have changed for big Georges and he looks forward to the challenge and giving his teammates more space on the ice.
“How much better can they be if they’re not intimidated?” he asked. “That’s why when you look at the free agents; all the tough guys were signed quickly.”
The Canadiens also announced the signing of goaltender Marc Denis to a one-year, two-way contract. While Gainey said Denis will have a chance to push young goalies Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak for an NHL job, the plan is to have Denis start in the AHL rebuilding his game and confidence while mentoring Cedrick Desjardins along the way.
Other notes from Thursday’s press conference.
Gainey said he will leave room to maneuver under the salary cap in case an enticing free agent is available, but don’t expect that to involve Jaromir Jagr. As Gainey addressed the situation on Thursday his plan is to wait and see.
“I don’t know what will happen with him (Jagr),” Gainey said. “I believe he’s received offers from two teams. We really like our top six players. Jagr’s not a priority for us.”
Gainey also acknowledged his interest in Marian Hossa, who recently signed with the Detroit Red Wings.
“We had some discussions with his agent, But, I don’t believe that we were really in the race.” he explained.
So after all the rumors and speculation what does the immediate future hold for the Habs regarding the remaining free agents?
“For now, we’re done,” Gainey told the media Thursday afternoon. “Certainly, if Mats Sundin changes his mind in the coming weeks and he’s interested in joining us, we’ll listen. Our door is always open to the possibility of adding another player. We have space under the salary cap and if we can find another player that can help our team, we’ll enter into those discussions then.”
The Sundin story has unfolded for two weeks now and Gainey addressed the issue and pointed to a break from discussing Sundin with the media any further.
“What Mats said (Wednesday) was, ‘I need some space. Thank you, but I’m not ready,’ so why don’t we all just exhale and we’ll see what happens in two or three weeks? Speculation and on-going chitchat will only fill up talk shows. It won’t do us much good.”
The Canadiens still need to sign restricted free agents Jaroslav Halak, Ryan O’Byrne and Josh Gorges but Canadiens management doesn’t expect the signings to be an issue for the team.