Maxim Lapierre Re-Signs with the Canadiens

According to various sources, Maxim Lapierre has re-signed with the Montreal Canadiens for the upcoming season. His new, 1-year deal is slated to be worth between $840,000 and $900,000, depending on the source, but which ever number ends up becoming official, it would be a great figure for the 3rd line forward and for the Canadiens.

The deal will only slightly exceed the qualifying offer that Pierre Gauthier and the Canadiens were obliged to offer Lapierre before the start of free agency, at the end of June. As a matter of fact, Richard Labbé at La Presse is reporting that the issue was never the dollar amount for Lapierre, but the term on the contract. The Montreal native wanted to be assured that he would continue to play in Montreal for the foreseeable future. In the end, he has to settle for a 1-year deal and a much shorter leash from the coach and management.

The big, versatile forward has had a love/hate relationship with both fans in Montreal and the management of the Canadiens since his arrival in Montreal. Being a native of the province and especially of the city, Lapierre has always had to deal with the added pressure to perform for the team and be a local hero. This expectation reached its pinnacle during the Canadiens' 2010 playoff run, when Lapierre even received his own commercial as part of the "History Will Be Made" campaign for the NHL, after scoring an important goal, one of only a few that actually found the back of the net this season.

Not only has the pressure been on him, as a player, but also on management. With the well of quality francophone players drying up over the last few years, the Montreal Canadiens have always been pressured by fans and the community to have a certain local flavor on the team. Big name francophone players such as Daniel Brière, Vincent Lecavalier and Simon Gagné have never really wanted to play here. Moreover, players such as Guillaume Latendresse, Lapierre's close friend, have had trouble adapting to the pressure and lifestyle of being a Montreal Canadiens, culminating in the trading of Latendresse early last season

Aside from marginal plug players such as Marc-André Bergeron and David Desharnais, Lapierre was left as the only Francophone player regularly playing on the team, with the pressure of being a successful local player resting solely on his shoulders. This made any dissatisfaction with Lapierre's play difficult to deal with for management over the course of the last few seasons.

This past season, Lapierre had arguably his worst year in a Montreal Canadiens' uniform, tallying 7 goals and 7 assists in 76 games, and adding 61 penalty minutes, half his production from the 2008-09 season, where he scored 15 goals and added 13 assists for 28 points. Lapierre saw his ice time and his role reduced under Jacques Martin, because he was unwilling to do what he needed to do to perform, score goals, and gain the favor of the coaching staff. But thanks to cap troubles and the need for cheaper players to plug the holes along the Canadiens' roster, Lapierre is back for another season with the Canadiens.

However, one can only have the feeling that his leash will be significantly reduced once the Canadiens take to the ice next fall, with plenty of players available for a similar role waiting in the ranks down in Hamilton.

In order to stay with the team and thrive, Lapierre will need to learn how to go to the dirty areas and bury the puck, he will need to be defensively responsible, and he will need to use his 6'2'' 210lbs frame a lot better than he did this past season. If he doesn't, Jacques Martin and Pierre Gauthier will not hesitate to get rid of him, whether he's Quebecois or not. And with free agency looming once again for Lapierre next season, he will need to earn whatever contract he expects to get next July, one game at a time.

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This latest move from Pierre Gauthier leaves but one major restricted free agent for the Canadiens to sign. Carey Price has yet to sign a contract with the Canadiens, but with over $4 million in cap space left for the Habs and only 1 free agent to sign, one would expect the deal to be done soon. Most expect Price's yearly figure to land somewhere between $2 and $3 million, leaving $1 to $2 million of wiggle room for the Canadiens heading into next season.

Beyond that, the Canadiens maneuvering should just about be done for the summer.

We'll certainly have more Canadiens and NHL coverage for you as the summer months roll on, so stay tuned on The Checking Line as well as Hockey Independent for all the coverage!

Prax
TheCheckingLine.com
Twitter.com/GeorgePrax