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Breaking news in Habsland, our diminutive captain signed for $14 250 000 over three years. It amounts to 4.75 million per season which is more than Alex Kovalev’s pay check (both contracts will end at the same time.)

I can hear the cries of fury coming from everywhere, fans shocked by yet another big contract signed by Bob Gainey. However, realistically speaking there are a couple of questions we must ask before jumping all over the place and wanting to hang Gainey down “La Gauchetière”.

1. Can we afford to lose Saku Koivu?

I don’t know about you, but personally, I don’t see a better center than Saku Koivu on our team. So organizationally, we cannot afford to lose him, we have no replacement for him in the system.

2. Could we get a better guy on the Free Agent market?

This offseason, there are two first line centers on the free agent market: Doug Weight (who will soon 36 years old) and Olli Jokinen (who is Florida’s captain. Both parties allegedly want to agree to a contract.)

3. What about a trade for a better center?

Yeah! What about trades? I personally don’t see a trade for a 1st line center possible. Of course it’s fun to fantasize about trading Mike Ribeiro and Richard Zednik for Vincent Lecavalier… but such a trade wouldn’t even be allowed in EASports NHL’s video games! These are virtually valueless assets and no General Manager would likely want these guys in exchange for a good centerman.

When thinking about a trade, you have to put yourself in the other General Manager’s shorts. Doing so, you’d notice that Ryder, Markov and (one Perezhogin, Kostystyn or Chipchura) would be a good return for your 1st line center… Why would you want less? You’re talking about your 1st line center who is most likely one of the best 10 centers in the league!

Could the Habs afford to give one of their best prospects in addition to their best defenseman (Markov) and their 2nd best winger (Ryder)? I don’t think so. Particularly when you think that they ALREADY have a pretty decent first line center.

4. What about trading Koivu himself?

He was to become unrestricted free agent this summer; players in this condition usually don’t have so much value on the trade market. You could expect a maximum return of maybe a 2nd rate prospect and a 1st round draft pick, none of which would fill the void left by Koivu’s departure. Trading Koivu is a big step back… the only upside I can see is that we could have a shot at a top 10 draft pick in the 2006 entry draft!

5. Ok, then I understand that we had to keep Saku, but 4.75 million dollars is a bit steep, don’t you think?

Saku Koivu is our captain. He is one of our most consistent players. He is our leading scorer. He is in my opinion more valuable to us than either of Kovalev or Theodore, both of whom were paid $4 500 000 for the 2005-2006 season. However, he’s less valuable than Lecavalier or Joe Thornton, both of whom signed contracts in the 7 million dollars range. Fans are whining about the amount we’ll be paying Koivu, but honestly, we didn’t really have a choice. Koivu surely wouldn’t have agreed to a 2 million dollar contract. Also, the cap will surely increase to approximately $45 million for next season (TSN reported it a month or so ago), which gives more bargaining power to the players’ agents. All of this which leads to the conclusion that Koivu wouldn’t sign for peanuts.

When all is said and done, this move is only a way to assure us that we have a 1st line center for the next 3 years, something we wouldn’t be so sure of if we had let Koivu go. Yes, these are big figures for a small Finn, but this small Finn plays big and we can’t think for a moment that we could afford to lose him or replace him for cheap. While this is a big amount, I must remind some of you passionate fans that this money is not coming out of your wallets and will not change anything in your lives, beside the fact that you will have to ENJOY watching Koivu give it his all for the next 3 years as Montreal Canadiens first line center and Captain!