Habs' Gainey has harsh words for Lightning GM

Montreal Canadiens coach/general manager Bob Gainey stuck by his rattled starting goaltender at his end-of-year press conference on Thursday, leaving no doubt as to who's his man moving forward into next year.

Montreal Canadiens general manager and interim head coach Bob Gainey had some not-so kind words for Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton at his year-end media conference on Thursday.

The Canadiens became the primary destination in mid-season trade rumours involving Lightning captain and Quebec native Vincent Lecavalier, but Gainey said he wished the talks hadn't been leaked.

"I got a call in early January with a list of [Montreal player] names that [Tampa] wanted to talk about," Gainey said. "And those players ended up public because they used those names to take to other teams to see it they could create a different trade for Lecavalier.

"I think it was disgraceful that Josh Gorges, Tomas Plekanec and Chris Higgins had to read that stuff."

Lawton refuted Gainey's claim.

"It's preposterous, it's not true," Lawton told Hockey Night In Canada's Scott Morrison late Thursday.

"The hockey community is a pretty small community. There are only 28 other GMs and you are not going to find one to confirm that."

'Carey Price is a thoroughbred'

Gainey stuck by rattled starting goaltender Carey Price, leaving no doubt as to who's his man moving forward into next year.

"I think Carey Price is a thoroughbred," he said. "At 21 years old, I think he's doing pretty darn well."

Price has come under massive scrutiny by the fans and Montreal media this season, and it came to a head during the Game 4 loss on Thursday versus Boston in their Eastern Conference quarter-final, which eliminated the Canadiens from the playoffs.

The Habs goaltender gave up four goals, and after making a routine save on a dump-in during the second period he raised his arms in a mock salute as the crowd jeered.

It was a moment eerily similar to Patrick Roy's, who famously did the same gesture in his final game in a Hab uniform on Dec. 2, 1995.

"Looking back on it I thought I could've held my composure more," Price said when he took the podium. "I just wanted to remind people that booing doesn't always help."

'Make better decisions'

Even though it was his final media conference of the season, Gainey was far from making any plans about  his team.

"I think what's best would be to have a couple weeks to separate from the season and make better decisions," he told reporters on Thursday.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that this could have been the most challenging season in Gainey's tenure as GM of the Habs.

Coming off the elation of winning the Eastern Conference in 2007-08 and heading into a season-long celebration of the Canadiens' 100th year in existence, expectations were higher than they've been for a long time.

But after a strong start to the season, things went south quickly. On- and off-ice incidents plagued the squad that  barely squeaked into the playoffs, where it was swept by Boston, the first time since 1989 Montreal was swept in the first round.

Gainey has a lot of work to do if he wants to keep this team together: The Habs have 14 players headed for unrestricted free agency on July 1, including Alex Kovalev, Robert Lang, Mike Komisarek and captain Saku Koivu.

The Canadiens also have six players headed into restricted free agency, including Higgins, Plekanec and Guillaume Latendresse.