HabsWorld.net -- 

The first few days of free agency have come and gone with the Habs making a
couple of splashes with the signings of Erik Cole and Peter Budaj. 
Montreal still has some holes to fill and some money to spend though.  Just
how much do they have left to spend and who is out there still that’s worth
spending on?  Let’s look at the forwards that are still on the market.

Cap Space

First, the cap situation as it stands today.  Including bonuses, the
Habs have committed roughly $56 million to 11 forwards, 6 defencemen, and 2
goalies.  With the salary cap at $64.3 million, they’re $8.3 M under. 
They have a pair of RFA’s still to sign in Josh Gorges and Ryan White; for the
sake of estimation, let’s combine them at $3.75 million once they get signed. 
Montreal also went over the cap last year (at least I’m 99% sure they did) which
will come out of their space this season.  Yes, they had LTIR but that
didn’t wipe out the bonuses that Lars Eller and Yannick Weber achieved; bonuses
are added after LTIR.  I don’t think they hit too many (just GP ones), so
let’s put an estimate at $150,000 which admittedly is probably a little high. 
(But not knowing which bonuses are in the deals, it’s really hard to guess.) 

The Habs also will want to keep some space for injuries/recalls during the
year, especially given the adventure that was the 2010-11 campaign.  For
the sake of making the final number easy to work with, I’m going to put this
estimate at $1.15 million.  This leaves the Canadiens with the following

Amount under cap: $8.3 million 
RFA estimate: ($3.75 million)
Overage estimate: ($0.15 million)
IR/recall allowance: ($1.15 million)
UFA money: $3.25 million

So Montreal has give or take $3.25 million left to spend on UFA’s, an amount
that you could probably put a little higher depending on how much the bonuses
put them over last year or by reducing the injury allowance.  Assuming that
one of Alexei Yemelin or Raphael Diaz makes the team and that Josh Gorges
ultimately re-signs, there will be 7 defencemen under contract which means they
may not be looking for a blueliner right away.  So instead, let’s focus on
the forwards and see who’s left with a quick argument for and against signing
them.  (Later this month, I’ll take a look at the defence depending on
what happens between now and then.)

Top-9 forwards

Jason Arnott: The Habs reportedly had interest at the deadline last
season but it wasn’t mutual.  A veteran centre with good size but he is
mediocre at best in the faceoff dot.

J-P Dumont: He wanted to sign in Montreal years ago but the Habs had
no space for him.  He has tailed off a lot in recent years to the point
where Nashville, a cash-strapped team, felt it was best to buy him out.

Jamie Langenbrunner: Brings the intangibles that every team covets. 
His offensive game is starting to slow down so a 3rd line role is probably the
most ideal.

Antti Miettinen: Speedy but diminutive winger that is usually good for
double-digit goals each season.  The question is whether the Habs would be
better using the small Desharnais on the wing instead.

Brendan Morrison: Had a resurgent season on a Calgary team bereft of
offensive consistency.  Two straight seasons of over 40 points followed two
seasons averaging 28 so will he go back to his less productive form?

Vaclav Prospal: On a point-per-game basis, he’s the second most
productive forward left on the market.  Injuries weren’t his friend last
year though, concerns remain about his health.

Sergei Samsonov: Small and speedy, he has scored at least 13 goals
every year since he left Montreal.  The concern is whether he’d revert back
to the ways that got him dealt from the Habs for two bought out players.

Teemu Selanne: Without question the most dominant and productive
forward left on the market.  It is hard to see him leave Anaheim, he’ll
likely re-sign with them or retire.

Cory Stillman: He has been pretty steady offensively in recent years,
averaging 47.5 points in the last four seasons.  At 37, how much is left in
the tank?

Nikolai Zherdev: One of the better pure goal scorers out there and at
27, also one of the youngest.  He is incredibly enigmatic and there had to
be a reason he cleared waivers last season.

4th line depth

Eric Boulton: Primarily a 4th line pugilist although he plays a couple
of shifts more than a typical ‘goon’.  Jacques Martin has frowned upon
fighting specialists in the past which would work against Boulton.

Steve Bernier: Prior to 2010-11, he was good for around 12-16 goals
per season and has good size.  He did go unqualified while there were
concerns about his work ethic with the Panthers.

Mike Grier: He reportedly was on the Habs’ radar last offseason as he
provides some size on the bottom lines.  His physical game has tailed off
in recent years; his 12 PIMS last year were a career low.

J-F Jacques: He isn’t an enforcer by definition but drops the gloves a
few times a season and is more the type of physical player Martin will want. 
Being unqualified by the NHL’s last place team does say something though.

Ryan Johnson: One of the top faceoff specialists out there, he won
over 63% of his faceoffs last season.  His offensive game is virtually
non-existent though, similar to Tom Pyatt in that regard who was just released.

Zenon Konopka: A faceoff whiz who also has no hesitation to drop the
gloves.  The big question is can he be trusted in late game situations as
his overall 5-on-5 play is suspect.

Scott Nichol: Has averaged around 60% on faceoffs over the past two
seasons and can help on the penalty kill.  His size (5’9) is a concern
while his offensive output dropped to just seven points last year.

Jarkko Ruutu: An agitator who knows his role and does it well. 
Quite often he is a PIM machine which isn’t generally the best thing to add to a
team who takes too many penalties as it is.

Fredrik Sjostrom: A speedster who can take a regular shift killing
penalties and is still somewhat young.  What keeps him unsigned is that he
isn’t too far from being a black hole offensively despite being a former first

Brad Winchester: He’s big, isn’t afraid to drop the gloves, and can
chip in offensively.  Unfortunately, though he is often a willing
combatant, he isn’t a winner often enough.