With Montreal's biggest post-elimination question being, "What to do about Scott Gomez?" here is one theory, brought to you by someone much smarter than me: The Canadiens will give him another season before seeing what the new collective bargaining agreement brings.
It might end up being as credible a theory as "the world is flat," but it makes a lot of sense. Three seasons remain on the seven-year, $51.5 million US contract he signed in 2007 and, unless general manager Pierre Gauthier finds a trading partner, the costs are quite prohibitive.
Gomez said all the right things upon going home for the summer, how embarrassed he was about this season and how he was determined to be better. While he was clearly frustrated and unhappy, I found one comment from David Desharnais to be pretty interesting. I asked the rookie who was helpful to him upon being called up, and he said Gomez.
"My first practice, he was throwing me bad passes on purpose. He said if I wanted to stay in the NHL, I had to be able to control them and do something," he said. "I really appreciated it."
That's important, because it shows he was trying to be positive and helpful in the middle of his own personal purgatory. Gomez has one of those deals where his actual cash payout decreases. His cap hit is almost $7.36 million, but he's owed $17.5 million between now and the end of his contract. So, there is the (outside) possibility that a team needing to get to the floor takes an interest. Other than that, it's probably one of those, "You take my problem, I'll take yours" kind of deals. There's a reason teams tend to avoid those like radioactive plutonium.
If Montreal can't trade him, the costs of removal are pretty ugly. There's the AHL option, but paying someone $7.5 million to be a Bulldog (or whatever) would be a new record for that league. Even a wealthy team wouldn't like that.
A buyout doesn't make a ton of sense, either. Under the current structure, the formula would be double the time at two-thirds the price. Gomez would stay on Montreal's cap until the summer of 2017 with a hit of almost $2 million - although there are is one season (2012-13) where it would go up to almost $4 million and another (2013-14) where it gets close to $5 million.
With the next CBA being one year away, would it make more sense for Montreal to see if there will be different options? It is believed the ownership side of the equation will ask for some less-onerous buyout possibilities. If Gomez can't reclaim his previous form, the smarter long-term decision may be to wait.
Gauthier rarely gives anything away, but did provide a sense of that thinking in his end-of-season availability, saying, "Our job is to try to give him the help he needs to be better."
Unlike many other teams, the Canadiens do have some flexibility this summer, with $25 million free. It's not like keeping him will prevent them from doing business. If a determined Gomez does come back a better player, then it's good for Montreal. If it doesn't work out next season, but the buyout options improve for the team, that's still a better financial outcome for Montreal (although it will be an ugly winter for him).
I can see why someone would think this. Of course, now that I've written it, it will end up being completely wrong.
1) Had a couple of people say that Kevin Bieksa deserves much more credit than he's received for the big Roberto Luongo save off Patrick Sharp in overtime of Game 7. Bieksa's slide cuts off Jonathan Toews' access to the front of the net, meaning the goalie doesn't have to worry as much about a score from there. Knowing that, Luongo can get over to Sharp faster. Little play, but a big play.
2) Take the under: Jim Hughson points out that in the last six Canucks/Predators games, Pekka Rinne's been a star. Luongo: five of six.
3) By the way, Luongo's (and Cory Schneider's) old goalie coach, Ian Clark, will be in the mix for an NHL job this year. Clark didn't want a full-time position in seasons past, but now understands that's a requirement across the league.
4) Two years ago, Paul Holmgren refused to include Claude Giroux in a proposed Jay Bouwmeester deal with Florida. Three months ago, he wouldn't send James Van Riemsdyk to Toronto as part of a Kris Versteeg package. Man knows who not to trade.
5) Taylor Hall tweets that he voted Conservative and gets roasted. If fans want athlete interaction, that's the wrong way to go about it. Guy's allowed to vote for whoever he wants.
6) Had an interesting conversation with an NHL front-office type about Max Pacioretty. He said other teams were disappointed the Canadiens showed so much patience. They were hoping Montreal would get upset with some of his earlier comments and want to trade him. There was a lot of interest.
7) Weirdest story of the playoffs: Michael Leighton. His nameplate and equipment was gone from the Flyers' main dressing room last weekend, just days after his Game 6 removal against Buffalo. Anthony SanFilippo of The Delaware County Times reported the goalie failed to show for the Game 7 morning skate - without explanation. Philadelphia replied by putting Leighton the injured list, and stating, "He is still a member of the organization" when asked about his status. Then, I saw him walking around after the 7-3 defeat to Boston in Game 1. Total strangeness.
8) One other thing I'd bet that didn't go over well: His quote following Tyler Ennis' Game 5 overtime winner. "The defenceman has to go out and block the puck, and it kind of puts a little bit of a screen on me...the defence has to do that and it was just kind of a lucky bounce right on the guy's tape." Don't blame the defence, especially on that team.
9) One scout on San Jose/Detroit: "In the first round, Detroit dominated Phoenix because, with Derek Morris out, the Coyotes didn't have enough mobile defencemen." Darren Helm was particularly effective in driving them crazy. The Sharks are better equipped to deal with that, especially now that Dan Boyle is returning to his high level of play.
10) The big complaint about Joe Thornton was that he didn't have a "higher gear" in the playoffs. He hates that, but is really battling Pavel Datsyuk so far. It's noticeable. If you don't compete hard against Datsyuk, he'll eat you alive.
11) People are starting to talk about the Sedins like they talked about Thornton.
12) Looked like Todd Bertuzzi barely escaped a serious cut when caught by a skate on his left wrist in Game 1. He wears those short gloves and I couldn't believe there wasn't blood. Shots on bench showed he tapes his wrists. Old viz of him, however, doesn't indicate that. I think it's new, and he's pretty lucky.
13) A lot of concerns about linesmen refusing to drop the puck on faceoffs. In the Canadiens/Bruins series, both complained about the other one cheating. In that case, I'd defend the officials. If each team wants a crackdown, they're going to get a crackdown.
14) After interviewing Zdeno Chara following Boston's elimination of Montreal, many of you asked (by Twitter) about his decision to sip a Coke on the bench in that game. Chara - who is as ripped as any athlete anywhere - barely touches the stuff, but if he needs some sugar during a game, that's his choice over Gatorade. That didn't exactly thrill the latter's parent company (Pepsi, an NHL sponsor), but TD Garden is a Coca-Cola building, so they're dancing down Boylston Street.
15) Best story I've heard about Chara's athletic ability: he's a big-time cyclist. While in Ottawa, Daniel Alfredsson asked to go on a ride with him. Next day, Bryan Murray saw Chara and wondered how the captain did. The reply: "He's a wuss. He quit after four hours."
16) Don't understand the NHL's decision to remove linesman Steve Miller from playoff duty after the ESPN feature on the disappearance of last years Stanley Cup-winning puck. The league gets copies of all of our "melt tapes," so the replay showed on Hotstove isn't new to them. The video looks damning, but if you believe Andrew Ference had a glove malfunction, you'll believe anything. Anyways, the NHL claims it believes him, so why act? Now, it's created an environment where Miller looks guilty.
17) A couple of different opinions on Miller from anonymous officials: "Even if he did take it off the ice, there is always someone who asks immediately for the puck. I don't think he'd be allowed to take it from the building." Another said he'd be astonished if Miller would jeopardize his job, severance and pension over it.
18) Interesting ownership dichotomy in Tampa/Washington series. Ted Leonsis: big Twitter user, answers emails, very visible. Jeff Vinik: prefers to be out of the way, doesn't stay in same hotel as his team, rarely integrates with players. Different, but successful.
19) With Tampa basically playing five defencemen at even strength in the third period of Game 2 against Washington, the Capitals wanted to get it deep and punish those guys. Watched closely, but that really didn't happen. Do they have enough players with the speed and strength to do that? That makes a big difference in a seven-game series.
20) Like John Tortorella, Guy Boucher is big on signage. On the Stanley Cup poster in Tampa's room, there is an icon in the bottom-right corner similar to John Travolta's famous Saturday Night Fever pose.Why? Because the playoffs are all about Staying Alive. Awesome.
21) Now that Ryan Miller's admitted he had a concussion (and Ron MacLean deserves credit for seeing that before anyone else), will he wear a goalie mask with more protection? For $6.25 million per year, he owes it to the Sabres.
22) I've never seen a more relieved-looking coaching staff than Boston's after it won Game 7 over Montreal. They didn't celebrate, just exhaled. Under a lot of pressure.
23) An NHL coach on the Matt Cooke suspension: "That really hurt (Pittsburgh). He's a good player for them."
24) Milan Lucic's hard hit on Jaroslav Spacek was the third time this season Spacek suffered fearsome-looking head trauma. Brian Boyle of the Rangers drilled him on February 5 and there was an accidental collision with Nashville's Patrick Hornqvist on November 10. Asked Spacek afterward if he ever worries about the damage. "If I'm afraid, I should retire...You can't play at this level with fear."
25) Oh, and Jeff Halpern's near-instantaneous return after the Game 7 Ference headshot shows The Quiet Room to be a joke. Originally thought it was a good idea.
26) The last Canadien on the ice during most skates/practices: PK Subban. Garry Galley made a great point: there is no way he can score the goal that sent Game 7 into overtime without taking all of those extra passes from Kirk Muller. Subban is going to be a superstar.
27) Game 6, Boston/Montreal: Interviewed Paul Mara after the first period. A number if you tweeted how much he looked like Zach Galafianakis. Mentioned it to Mara, and he told this great story about how he saw the actor sitting alone in a Philadelphia restaurant during last year's Eastern Conference Final. So he went up to him and started a conversation. "What was he like?" Mara: "Exactly as he is on screen."
28) A lot of angry Coyote/Duck fans after Keith Yandle and Lubomir Visnovsky weren't nominated for the Norris. Real good players who had terrific years, but honestly: would you take either of them over Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Lidstrom or Shea Weber?
29) Charity for great causes: The Flyers are auctioning off the four ties Peter Laviolette wore in the first-round victories against Buffalo (see auctions.nhl.com). Meanwhile, several Lightning players cut off their hair to help raise $250,000 for the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at Tampa's All Children's Hospital. They're at $185,000 and counting. Both will help children who are cancer victims.
30) One year after 9/11, did a big feature for The Score about Katherine Bailey (Ace's widow) and Mike Bavis (Mark's twin brother). Thought about them Sunday night as we walked around the White House. You can never 100 per cent heal. But, I hope they felt some kind of comfort.
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