What exactly was Bob thinking? Maybe he wasn't. After all, the only UFA's he went after were Komisarek and Kovalev, probably the last ones most Habs fans would have selected, judging by the vitriol thrown their way on the way out. And then when Kovalev supposedly didn't get back to him on his offer he went hog wild on a bunch of second-tier UFA's. No Hossa. No Sedin twins. Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri. How utterly underwhelming.
And it wouldn't have been so bad had he not sunk much of his future cap space into these three players. Three players who are notably not the "big centreman" he supposedly was looking for.
Certainly size and strength are overrated in today's NHL. Just ask the Red Wings or Penguins. But paying superstar money to non-superstars is simply insane. While the Habs might get under the cap this season, next year's cap is sure to shrink significantly -- at the same time that Bob needs to sign Lapierre and Price, among other RFA's.
This year? He'll be lucky if he gets $1.5M under the cap after signing all his RFA's, assuming he doesn't try to shore up his defense with another veteran dman (which might be needed). Next year, more cuts will be necessary to both get under the cap and keep Lapierre and Price.
But it wasn't all bad. Letting Komisarek walk was probably ok. The Leafs overpaid for a guy that still has a lot to learn about playing positional defense. But if he does learn that while playing with the Leafs, he'll be well worth it. Spacek is a decent replacement, but it would be nice if they got a right hander instead to round out the top 4 (Markov, Gorges and Hamrlik are all lefties).
Gionta was also a decent pickup, being the cheapest (and smallest) of the smurf-like overhaul. He's a desperately needed right handed shooting scoring forward. Only D'Agostini and Lapierre could be (generously) described as such.
As for the rest, here's what Habs GM would have done:
Gill? Sign Phillippe Boucher instead. He's not as big (who is?), but at least he won't be skirted around like a giant pine tree on a downhill slalom course -- like Gill often is. Boucher's got a wicked right handed shot, and would push for a top four spot. He probably could have been signed for the same amount too. The fact that he's French-Canadian is only a bonus.
Cammalleri? Re-sign Tanguay instead. Why exactly did we give up a first round pick to the Flames anyway? When he was healthy, he pushed the Habs to another level. And sure it was frustrating when he passed instead of shot, but he was one of the few Habs to at least create scoring chances. Whatever line he was on seemed to click. He would certainly have been cheaper, maybe half as much as the $6M/yr doled out to Cammalleri. And again, French-Canadian. Only a bonus.
Gomez? Re-sign Koivu, thereby not trading away our best defensive prospect (McDonagh) in the process. Higgins seemed to be headed to a third or fourth line, defensive-specialist role, so he wasn't a huge loss. But Koivu could have been had at much less than half the cap hit as Gomez, and for about the same production.
With the money saved by getting Koivu and Tanguay instead of Cammalleri and Gomez, Gainey could have easily gone after Hossa. Hossa's cap hit was only $5.23M, albeit over a much longer term (but we've gone over that before). Or save it and go after a big name in 2010 -- Jokinen? Marleau? Kovalchuk? All UFA's.
Instead, we will be treated to about the same on ice product as the last few years, just with more speed and less skill. How is that an improvement?