Gainey speaks: Halak and Plekanec situations
Last night, before the Montreal Canadiens fell 4-2 to the Washington Capitals (more on that tomorrow), General Manager Bob Gainey met with the media in his ''State of the Union'' type address.
The most important topic of the discussion was the situation surrounding impending UFA and mid-season MVP for the Habs, Tomas Plekanec, as well as Jaroslav Halak's status with the club since Gainey admitted that he had asked for a trade.
In pure Gainey form, he kept his cards close to his chest and downplayed the situation, but admitted that Plekanec was an important piece to the puzzle.
"We would like to keep all our good players and I think you have to mark Tomas Plekanec down on the list of players we would like to keep," he told reporters prior to the Habs' game in Washington. "There isn't only one player that we want to keep. There are a lot of different pieces to the puzzle. We'll work to fit them together before July 1."
The Canadiens leading assist and point getter (as well as leading penalty killer) has already surpassed his 2008-09 point totals by 7 points, and is on pace for at least a point per game as well as his best offensive season to date. There have been rumblings of Selke nominations already, and he would certainly deserve it.
But, as stated, he is an impending UFA and it would be a big hit to the Canadiens if they weren't able to sign him. But with several big contracts amongst Gionta, Gomez and Cammalleri locked up for another 4 years after this one, as well as the status of the team's goaltending (both Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak are RFAs on July 1st), Plekanec may unfortunately be the odd-man out this summer if he chooses to cash in market value for the season he's currently having.
Not a single Canadiens fan wants to see Plekanec go, and it is certain that Bob Gainey is in the same boat. If I were in his shoes, I'd work on getting him signed long term now, in January, before he plays in the Olympics, before he has his career year, before he potentially could get nominated for the Selke and receive offers on the market. How Gainey will react, however, remains to be seen.
On the other side of the ice is Jaroslav Halak, who has been highly discussed amongst Habs fans online and in the media. Halak made headlines a few weeks ago when it was revealed that he had asked for a trade, rumors corroborated by Gainey last night.
"I heard it as: 'I'm at a point in my career where I need to test myself. I need to have an opportunity where I have more access to the No. 1 position,'" said Gainey.
"I can't really blame him for having that sense. When it comes to a player's career, his livelihood, I think I have to be attuned to that. It's not that everybody will be traded or nobody will be traded. It's part of the way we do business."
"At this point, I think that Jaro has helped our team on the ice," said Gainey. "He's helped himself individually by garnering attention for himself from other teams and, should the right situation arise, both parties will be happy to consider it."
Lost in the talk of Halak's breakout stretch in December, which led him to receiving Habs Player of the Month honors earlier this week, is the fact that Carey Price, the annointed #1 goaltender for the team, is also a pending restricted free agent. Considering his pedigree as a thoroughbred, he will certainly be in line for a raise from the $2.2 million he is currently making on his entry-level contract (including bonuses). Halak will be eligible for arbitration, and if he keeps playing like he did in during several stretches earlier in the season, he will also cash out on a good contract.
It's almost impossible for the Canadiens to fit all these players under the cap, and it's clear that a goaltender has to go. Gainey's quote certainly implies that the goalie to go will be Halak.
The question remains, will he be traded before the deadline, or will gainey let it go to free agency, like he's done so many times in the past?
In both the goaltending and Plekanec cases, Gainey faces a major chose... go about it, business as usual, or force a change in your manner of managing and get these deals done? The quicker Plekanec is signed... the quicker the goaltending situation is taken care of... the quicker Montreal fans could breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Back tomorrow with a Habs/Panthers game preview,
*Quotes taken from TSN.
Click here for Gainey audio in both English and French.