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What fans worldwide want to know is, who on the current roster will still be here next season. What will Gainey do?


The majority of question marks regarding next year’s team are among the forwards. During the playoffs, the lines looked like



Zednik – Koivu – Kovalev
Perreault – Ribeiro – Ryder
Bulis – Dowd – Begin
Langdon – Juneau – Sundstrom



Obviously the team must shed a free lunch or two in order to take the next step. Andreas Dackell, Joe Juneau’s on-ice other half, must be packing his lunch-pail. With Juneau now retired, there is nothing left for Dackell in Montreal. The Canadians would have been a minimum of six points better this year had Dackell hit half his open net chances. Losing him won’t hurt the on-ice product. I see him in Europe next season, especially with the lockout on the horizon.


With a contract approaching 2 million it is highly unlikely that Nicklas Sundstrom is back either. Scotty Bowman made noises about Sundstrom’s (mis)use a few times this season. In a lock-out scenario the Wings are staring at the retirement of at minimum three forwards. I’m certain Bowman expressed interest in Sundstrom when he was in town a few weeks ago.


Yanic Perreault’s future largely depends on Bob Gainey’s ability to resign Alex Kovalev. If Kovalev can be had for the right price, Perreault will be gone. It’s nice to have a goal scorer around, and a skilled face-off guy. But, this team needs to get tougher and faster. Perreault has the wrong holes in his skill set to help the team to the next level.


Which brings us to Kovalev. The Habs need someone of his calibre, especially now that Gainey has given fans a taste of the good life. Is Kovalev willing to get risky and play the free agent waters? With a lockout looming, it does diminish Kovalev’s bargaining power.


I don’t believe Gainey will let the situation digress so far.


Most pundits are saying Kovalev will be signed for between 4 and 5 million. Put Kovalev’s numbers beside Richard Zednik’s, or Glen Murray’s, and draw this conclusion. Kovalev will take a substantial pay cut no matter where he goes.


How much will he make? Ask a magician. To my thinking they can both be had for the grand total of 7 million, give or take a half. Pay for top talent, sure. But a top line making 12 million sounds about right to me, especially with Ryder and Ribeiro preparing for raises of their own.  


Will Jim Dowd be back? He wants to be here and he is affordable. I think the Canadians will look elsewhere. Dowd has done what was asked of him. He played with fire, enthusiasm, and was a good example for his team-mates. There are plenty of role-players out there though.


Stephane Quintal is a proud player who refused to see the writing on the wall this season. He doesn’t believe he is ready for retirement. Truth be told, he couldn’t skate at the onset of his career and it will only going to get worse from here on in. I don’t expect to see Quintal next year in the league. Speed is the new key word on the NHL’s google search platform.   


So, the forward differential is minus three with a doubled asterisk. Number one assumes that Kovalev is signed. Number two assumes that Jason Ward learns how to play in the NHL without injuries. The Habs don’t need a part timer seasonal worker, unless his name is Koivu. 


The Hamilton Bulldogs are going to graduate several players next year. That should make up the major difference. Thomas Plekanec can take over for the departed Juneau, or Dowd. Chris Higgins could be moved to the left side to make up for Perrault’s departure. This would be an upgrade in both positions. Higgins is going to be an all-round player and Plekanec is fast, bulky, and skilled.


Will Marcel Hossa ever make it to the NHL?


Some prospects are looking to make some waves next season. Ron Hainsey and Francois Beauchemain are both looking to finally become a third pairing defenseman. Maybe they can also give Craig Rivet a run for his ridiculously huge pile of money. It is hard to tell if they are ready.


With the talent on the farm Mr. Gainey may not need to find a fit in the UFA market this off-season. If he doesn’t sigh Dowd, he needs one fourth line player only. There are some UFA’s who must catch Gaineys eye, to be certain.  Richard Matvichuk, Jon Klemm, Steve Konawalchuk, Jason Wiemar, Sean Avery, and Rob Niedermeyer might all be good fits, but will they fit in with a team looking to get younger? If there is a UFA signing I expect it on defense, where the organization is currently weakest. 


That’s all for now folks. Enjoy the rest of the playoffs.