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In this week's HW Recap: Wrapping up the Bulldogs' season with their final stats and team awards. Hamilton also has quite a few free agents (though not as many as last year), who are unsigned and who may be moving elsewhere? On that note, the Final Thought discusses contract talks and why things aren't always as they seem with respect to negotiating tactics.
As a wrap-up to Hamilton's season, here are my
Bulldog award selections:
MVP: Drew MacIntyre - I honestly feel guilty about giving this to him as it's not as if he was around all that long. But without him, the Bulldogs simply don't make the playoffs, let alone win the division and play 20 playoff games. He started every game after being acquired back in late February and got pulled just once. It will be interesting to see if the Habs ponder using him as a backup next season, he clearly has earned the right to be in the discussion.
Top defenceman: Mathieu Carle - The Bulldogs' defence corps just looked a lot better as a whole whenever Carle was in the lineup. He played the most minutes while logging lots of special teams time, he was Mr. Everything for most of the year (aside from his annual injury woes). As I noted last week, he didn't really do anything to hurt his NHL chances, but he didn't do a whole lot to help them either; he more or less did what was expected of him.
Top forward: Nigel Dawes - As was the case with MacIntyre, I really don't like giving him this considering he spent less than half the year in Hamilton. However, he was the offence in a lot of the games, scoring just under 1.5 points per game during the season and over a point per game in the playoffs despite facing heavy checking and more than a few cheap shots along the way. In terms of the top forward who spent the full year with Hamilton, I would give that award to Palushaj, more on him later.
Rookie of the Year: Brendon Nash - For someone who wasn't expected by some to even crack the opening night lineup, he played himself into a prominent role in a hurry. He was 2nd on the Bulldogs in points, led the team in plus/minus and led all rookie defencemen in that category as well. He was worn out by the end of the year but has shown he is no longer an afterthought.
Unsung Hero: Frederic St. Denis - His nickname is 'Steady Freddy' and for good reason. By the end of the year, he was the go-to defenceman for the penalty kill and late game shutdown duties as he quickly worked up the depth chart. In the postseason, his offensive game went to another level as his 10 points made him the 5th highest point getter on Hamilton.
Most NHL-ready prospect: Andreas Engqvist - Engqvist's best attribute is that he rarely is caught in the wrong position. Now while that doesn't exactly make him tantalizing to fans, it certainly will get the coaching staff in Montreal excited. A centre with good size who is good on the draw and can kill penalties is something the Habs can certainly use and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him penciled in the Habs' lineup on opening night in October.
Most exciting prospect: Aaron Palushaj - At the beginning of the year, I was hoping I'd be typing Alexander Avtsin here but alas he'd be a contender for biggest disappointment if I was giving out that award. Instead, Palushaj didn't do anything fancy but he took his scoring to the next level and showed that he will be in the mix to play in Montreal in the not-too-distant future. He was my pick for Most Underrated at the beginning of the year in our season preview but he no longer is being underrated by anyone now.
Rather than just do the usual which is post the weekly stats (a little moot with only one game played), here is a comparative look at each players' playoff stats compared to the regular season. For those who want to see the Game 7 stats, you can do so by clicking here. Note that this will only show players on the Hamilton roster at the end of the season.
|32||Frederic St. Denis||76||5||18||23||20||1||9||10|
Bulldogs Free Agency
Since we're wrapping up Hamilton's year, here
is a quick look at their pending free agents:
RFA: Dustin Boyd, Mathieu Carle, Nigel Dawes, Kyle Klubertanz, Ryan Russell, Frederic St. Denis, Ryan White
UFA: Drew MacIntyre, Curtis Sanford, J.T. Wyman
Obviously, at least one of the two UFA goalies will not be back next year though there's an interesting case to be made for both. Money wise, it will probably be easier to bring Sanford back with him being older, coming off an injury, and the fact he was on a two-way deal unlike MacIntyre. As I noted earlier, I honestly feel MacIntyre has earned some NHL consideration and failing that, I think he may take the overseas route since it's unlikely he'll get another half a million to play in the minors (which Atlanta of all teams gave him previously). I wouldn't mind seeing Wyman brought back but I think there's a good chance he'll move on.
As for the RFA's, I think we could see as few as two of the seven return next season (Russell and St. Denis). White is all but assured a roster spot with Montreal while there are rumblings that Boyd and Dawes may be going overseas. Even if they don't, the Habs may be nice and let them try to get an NHL deal somewhere else. As for Carle, I think he's at a career crossroads. He has done really all he can in Hamilton but it's probably not enough to make the Habs or any other NHL team. He too may be looking for a change of scenery; I wouldn't be too surprised if he pulls a Brock Trotter and suddenly goes overseas in the hopes that it will help him take the next step to an NHL gig down the road. With regards to Klubertanz, he'll be back if he wants to be but having played in the Swedish league before, if he realizes his NHL chances are basically zero, he too may head back across the Atlantic. I would expect both d-men to be qualified at the very least though.
As the Habs have been signing some youngsters
in recent weeks, I've noticed a lot comments discussing why the Habs aren't
signing some of their more prominent free agents instead. In those
musings, the blame seems to always fall 100% on management. I'm not sure
that's entirely fair. Yes, Bob Gainey had a penchant for waiting a little
too long but we've already seen reports that the Habs have touched base with
James Wisniewski and will do so with Andrei Markov next week. For most
pending UFA's though, there isn't much of a point to signing this close to free
agency, they're mere weeks away from being able to (officially) talk with other
teams. There are lots of instances from years past, be it with the Habs or
other teams, where the team wants to get a deal done with a player but the
player instead wants to go to free agency. Guess what? The same will
happen this year, with Montreal and every other team. The catch is, we
don't always hear about it beforehand. So before we pile on Pierre
Gauthier for being incompetent for failing to sign ___ before July 1st, remember
this. It takes two to tango and we don't always know which side it is that
wants to deal at this point in the game while agents have more than just Hab
clients to deal with at this time. Don't always assume it's the Habs not
being willing to talk as it quite often isn't the case.
And with that, this concludes 'Season 6' of the HW Recap. Over the next few weeks, we'll be continuing our free agency series as well as getting ready for the upcoming draft. And of course, we'll have info on any news and notes that breaks on the site as well as our Twitter and Facebook pages.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.