HabsWorld.net -- 

Out of all the signings Bob Gainey made last summer, no one would have
guessed that Tomas Plekanec’s would’ve been the best one. And what a bargain
too, at $2.75 million, the feisty centre is on pace for an 80+ point season.

He’s been the Habs’ best player since the beginning of the season and it’s in
great part thanks to him that the team is still in the playoff hunt. However,
the question marks that were at end of his name last season are still there. But
today the questions do not concern so much his performance, but rather his next

Under this NHL salary cap era, there is no way the Canadiens can afford Tomas
Plekanec. The team already has $45.732 mil. cap hit for next season with only 15
players out of a normal 23 active NHL roster. (That includes Ryan White and
Yannick Weber but neither of Halak or Price). So that leaves around $10 million
available for 7 to 10 players.

And with the year that he’s having, Plekanec is going to want a long and
lucrative contract. Long enough for the cap hit to be under $4 million because
that’s pretty much what there is room for next season. And if you’ve seen the
kind of contracts Bob Gainey hands out, it’s all but sure that Tomas Plekanec
will be playing somewhere else next year. Call him old school, but when you give
someone big money long term, there has to be no doubt in your mind that he is a
franchise player. Other than Crosby or Ovechkin, there’s not a lot of players we
can say that about. For a team that has been lacking a big skilled center for
years if not decades, committing long term to both Gomez and Plekanec is a big
risk. Can we really build a contending team around those two centremen?

So what are the options?

Obviously trading him is what Bob Gainey should be looking at. The Boston Bruins
who couldn’t afford Phil Kessel traded him for 2 first round picks and a second
rounder. In June 2008, the Habs got their hands on Alex Tanguay for a first
round pick. But to get a high draft choice, the trade needs to happen before the
trade deadline. No team is willing to give anything up a few days away from free
agency. Florida had to settle for a 3rd rounder and the rights to Jordan Leopold
when they traded Jay Bouwmeester to Calgary 3 days before free agency began.

So who would be interested in Tomas Plekanec?

The New Jersey Devils’ 2nd center is Dainius Zubrus. He is currently sidelined
indefinitely and Patrik Elias has been more or less effective filling in at
center. They have room under the cap next year and Plekanec would be a nice fit
playing alongside his fellow countryman. Good luck getting a first rounder out
of Lou Lamoriello though!

It is unlikely the Calgary Flames offer Olli Jokinen a contract extension. He’s
been underachieving putting up only 30 points so far this season. Bob Gainey has
dealt with Darryl Sutter before, so it’s a possibility.

The surprising Nashville Predators who already have 23 wins this season have A
LOT of room under the cap. However they might be looking more for a sniper which
Plekanec may not necessarily be.

Washington who seems to be getting better every year will certainly be a buyer
at the trade deadline. We all know they don’t have any problems scoring goals
but they could certainly use some help on the penalty kill. Plus having depth
down the middle is a key to success.

On second thought, the Habs will probably be battling through the final game for
a playoff spot; trading away Plekanec will pretty much put an end to any playoff
hopes. Unless, Bob Gainey frees up some space by trading away a big contract.
No, Scott Gomez isn’t going anywhere, but there might be some takers for Roman
Hamrlik. Who knows how it’ll all end. Let’s wait and see.