After a last place finish in the 2011-12 season, new GM Marc Bergevin has
a lot of work cut out for him. Not only does he have to prepare for the
upcoming draft but the club has to make decisions on the 28 players whose
contracts expire on July 1st. This is the second article of our series
discussing some of the pending unrestricted free agents.
The 2011-12 season saw bad starts for many players but pending free agent
Travis Moen wasn’t one of them. He was on pace to set career highs in all
offensive categories until, like many others, the injury bug struck. What
effect, if any, will that have on his value as we approach July 1st?
Inside the Numbers
Playing in just 48 games (the second lowest of his career) didn’t negatively
affect Moen’s scoring numbers as he tallied the second most goals of his career
with nine while equalling his 2010-11 point output in 31 fewer contests.
He sat second among forwards in hits per game (Michael Blunden was first) while
logging over two minutes per game shorthanded which also ranked second, this
Tomas Plekanec. His offence tailed off toward the end of the season though
as he collected points in just four games after the month of November (a span of
Argument to keep him
Moen has brought some important elements to the table over the past three
years. He is one of the few physical forwards the team has, he plays a
quality defensive game, can play a scoring role in a pinch (he certainly is used
to that), and has a knack for scoring some timely goals. At 29 years old,
he’s not at the age where he’ll be playing one year at a time with retirement on
his mind while still having the valuable playoff experience that every team
covets (68 GP including a Cup championship with Anaheim). If Montreal
gravitates towards playing a bit more of a pugilistic style, Moen can also hold
his own against the NHL’s middleweights.
Argument to let him go
With the Habs looking as if they’ll once again be right up near the cap next
season, can they afford to keep Moen around especially if he slots in as a 4th
liner/PK specialist? Economically speaking, they may be better off letting
Ryan White take on more of a physical role while plucking one of the cheaper
defensive forwards out there to cover the penalty kill duties. Contract
term could also be a deterrent. Three years ago as a first time UFA, there
wasn’t much hesitancy to give him a multi-year pact but should the Habs be
willing to go three years again given his style of play and where his age would
be at the end of the deal (33)?
Having paid close attention to the cap and player salaries since the lockout,
I usually have a bit of a feel towards a general sense of what a players’ market
value may be. With Moen, I’m stumped. The free agent class is
extremely thin particularly when it comes to players who have Moen’s
credentials. On the surface, statistically speaking, he should be due for
a contract around what he was getting this season ($1.5 million). As we’ve
seen for the past three years though, he brings a lot to the table that the
stats don’t show. We’ve seen in past years that teams will overpay
significantly for the player who brings the right ‘intangibles’ to the table (Sami
Pahlsson, Manny Malhotra, and Joel Ward come to mind). In that case, I
wouldn’t be surprised if a team paid well over what most would perceive to be
his market value.
With the cap going up and the thin UFA class, Travis Moen is well set to cash
in. As much as fans hope he’ll sign for around the $1.5 million he made
the past three seasons, it doesn’t seem to be realistic. I don’t think he’ll get Ward
money (4 years, $12 million) but a contract similar to that of Pahlsson (3
years, $7.95 million) isn’t completely nuts in my opinion. I think his
contract will ultimately
come in a bit below that but that will still be an amount that Marc Bergevin
will more than likely not want to match. As much as the Habs will want to
keep him, I think he will price himself into another uniform for 2012-13.