Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Looking for the Next Gros Bill

The Habs biggest need come July 1 -and really for most of my lifetime, if not since Jean Beliveau retired IN 1971(!) - is a big, physical, talented first line center. Ideally, Koivu is a #2 centerman. Ideally, as in on a Stanley Cup contender.

So who’s out there for free this summer? Is there someone who a) has size and plays like it; b) is affordable and is willing sign in Montreal; and c) can play with Kovalev. (C) might be the biggest consideration, otherwise we’re wasting about $4.5 mill again this year. And if he has a decent set up man, AK27 can be a gunner again. So in theory one signing = 2 players. Unlike the Sammy signing which = (-23 combined).

Today FHF takes a look at potential UFA’s out of the Eastern Conference.

C Daniel Briere
And somewhere Yvon Pednault just had an orgasm. But makes sense to start at the top: obviously the “great” French Canadian talent most fans are clamouring for. But I don't think it's a good hockey fit. Didn't we have an albeit much crappier French Canadien Koivu clone recently? We need size and toughness. Sure he’s tough, but not physical. Plus we're talking huge cash, making it risky cap-wise . And I think if Briere is as smart in his contract choices as he is on the ice, he will avoid Montreal like Jacques Parizeau does a bath.

Scott Gomez
Soon to be former NJD = big talent, little body, big bucks. He’ll be out of our price range – and for that money, we need a player who’d be doing the throwing in a midget-tossing contest. .

Chris Drury
Hee-YUGE heart and a proven winner. Again, unlikely at best. Someone else is going to offer him max-cap type money, and it won't be Double G (George Gillette). Unless he can play soccer, too.

Alexei Yashin
I know I'm supposed to say emphatically no. I'm sure he wants to play in Montreal. And I’m sure he's really, really sorry and promises to work hard this time. And I’m sure he means it this time, not like last time. And the time before that. And the time before that.

He's a certain type of player: a skilled, puck-hogging, unmotivated, often self centred, usually heartless, essentially mercenary player - and don't we have one just like that model? Then again, maybe that means he’ll click with AK27. But isn’t that what was said about Miro Satan (he of the all time best NHL name), and that lasted half a season. Of course Satan in no Kovalev (chuckle).

But there's a chance, right? I mean, what if he really is a good guy off the ice? What if the contract weighed him down? He did put up points early in the season before he got hurt, so he's still got some left in the tank. And he says he'll play in Montreal, which unfortunately is now a consideration - just like the Expos had to deal with. (Slowly shakes his head at the thought of comparing the Expos and Canadiens.) It comes down to two things: options and money – obviously, it’s Kash-in' Yashin' we’re taking about! If the Habs can't land any kind of big name UFA, then Yashin looks more attractive, and if the price is right (around $2M or less)...

C Viktor Kozlov
I really liked this guy last summer, but no one seemed to listen to me. He's not a physical presence, but he's big, and he's got the skill to have played between AK27 and Sammy (yeah yeah, hindsight!). And then he went out and put up 25 goals and 51 points for the Isles. Remind me again who beat us out for the last playoff spot. Ohhh, The Islanders.

Wait. Seriously? They were in the playoffs?

The lesson, as always: why don't they ever listen to me when I'm right?

Mikael Nylander
Spent the last couple of seasons as Jaromir Jagr’s set up man, which has lead some to believe he’s overrated. And the stats support this: 10 more assists the last two years with Jags on his wing that his previous career high. Could he possibly recreate such productivity with Kovalev on his wing? Well, to paraphrase a certain 1988 Democratic VP candidate, “Sir, I know Jaromir Jagr, I’ve played with Jaromir Jagr. Mr. Kovalev, you are no Jaromir Jagr.” Will NY offer more cash to keep him feeding Jagr? I would bet yes. But they may go after Gomez or Briere, in which case Nyls may be available. Supposedly Calgary and Philly have interest if he doesn’t re-up. Still, doesn’t seem like a great fit. He’s not big or physical and he’ll be 35 in October. And he was a Whalers draft pick. And the Whalers still suck (even if they won a Cup).

Dainius Zubrus
Big, talented. 2nd Liner at best, though. Interesting, but again unlikely if only because this regime has already deemed him expendable, and I somehow doubt that Gainey’s mindset will have changed. Just like his expressions.

Mike Comrie
Talented but small, questionable heart - Kashin' Yashin syndrome as well.

Yanic Perreault
HF29 : "Next!"

Keith Tkachuk
Shift him to centre you say? He's a talented, big body presence (ohh, my first Maguire-ism) with a mean streak, you say? Big mouth and ego to go with it? Pass. Plus he’s established American hockey star and American teams will pay a premium to get him and his mouth. Bottom line: Not in Montreal, thank you very much. He looks like he enjoys the nightlife. And as cool as it would be to run into him at Club Downtown, his head would explode five separate times between Peel and Stanley alone.

Jozef Stumpel
An interesting option, although not much talk about him. Upside: 6’3”, 225 Lbs., 23 goalscorer last year and at least 50 points in the last four years he’s played 70 games. Downside: He’ll be 35 in training camp, and he’s not exactly known as a physical player. Still, I think it could work if there price were right. He might even fit with AK27.

NEXT UP: Western Conference UFA’s

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