Sunday, December 20, 2009

A proposal

So Jaroslav Halak wants out? With Carey Price solidifying his play (save his troublesome glove hand; use a broken-in mitt, Carey!), Halak is somewhat expendable. "Somewhat" because Price hasn't proven that he can't be a Brodeur-like iron man. Martin has tried, at least twice starting Price in both games of a back-to-back. And both times Price looked good in the opener, and somewhat suspect in the closer. To wit:

So a decent backup is needed. But what the Habs need more is cap space, to re-sign Plekanec especially. But it would be nice to re-up Bergeron too, and maybe Metropolit. And of the RFA's, Lapierre, Sergei Kostitsyn and especially Price are must-signs.

But as we have seen from the last post, cap space will be hard to come by next season. While there is much speculation as to where the cap will actually be, let's assume it's the same as this year. Only $6.175M is coming off the books in UFA contracts. Two thirds of that could easily go to Plekanec. The rest would have to be split in raises to Price, Lapierre and Kostitsyn. Price alone could command the remainder of the UFA savings. He makes $2.2M in cap dollars today, and another $2M might not be completely outlandish to lock him up long term.

So that leaves Metropolit, Bergeron, Lapierre and Kostitsyn out in the cold. And it also assumes that the other RFA's will be content to extend their contracts at the current levels.

So what's a GM to do? The easy target is Gomez. He makes by far the most on the team, but is a second-line player. He was the same for the Rangers too, and Glen Sather really lucked out in finding someone stupid enough to take his fat contract so that he could sign points-leader Marian Gaborik.

So if Gainey is to trade Gomez, he needs to package him with a player with real worth, and minimal cap hit. And that's where we get back to Halak. But who could afford the cap hit that Gomez brings, and also needs goaltending help? For some unknown reason, Gainey apparently shopped Halak to the Flyers. Sure they need the goaltending -- but trade an asset like Halak to an intra-conference rival pushing for the same playoff spot you are? No, a better target is someone in the Western Conference.

Turns out that the Dallas Stars are at a crossroads in their goaltending situation. Marty Turco is a UFA at the end of the year, and has turned it around from last season's poor performance (2.81 GAA/.898 PCT). The Stars are weighing their options, but it certainly would help if they had someone to push Turco and thereby make the decision easier -- someone better than Alex Auld (3.16/.892). Even better if that someone came at a bargain-basement price like Halak.

The Stars could definitely use the help. They are currently 6th in the league in goals scored, but only 21st in goals against. Halak by himself might not be able to cure this, but certainly would be an improvement on those nights that Turco doesn't play.

Gainey ought to be very familiar with the Stars and their personnel, having come from their organization and consummated several deals with them over the years (Begin and Ribeiro for basically nothing). He should also know that they are significantly under the cap, to the tune of almost $10M. Playing in a 90+% full arena, they're not the Coyotes. They can afford to spend more.

So the Stars might be willing to take on Gomez's huge contract, so long as it were sweetened with Halak. The Stars wouldn't have a problem fitting Gomez in as the second line center behind Ribeiro, as Richards easily slides over to the wing.

And who would the Habs get? Draft picks or prospects might be enough in compensation, as the whole point of this exercise is to clear cap space. There are enough pieces in the organization to compensate for the losses of Halak and Gomez. Cedrick Desjardins (1.34/.948) is playing well enough to merit a call up. Sergei Kostitsyn could replace Gomez on the second line, as the pivot is his natural position.

So the lines might look something like this:


Sure, this trade doesn't address the Habs' need for more size up front and bets a lot on Sergei's ability to step it up a notch. Still, the main point is to clear cap space. Plekanec must be re-signed, the sooner the better. And it opens up some intriguing possibilities for next year...


Anonymous said...

I understand your point of moving some salary in order to resign Plekanec and Price but even though he's greatly overpaid, I'm not sure I'd like to send Gomez away. We've had problems at center for a long time and #91 sure is doing a fine job this year. And Sergei K as our 2nd line center? Hmmm... that's suspect.

Maybe a trade that would attain the same objectives and attract more suitors would be one like Halak + Hamrlik. Habs would clear lots of money and the trade partner would only have to pay Hamrlik for one more season (compared to 4 more years for Gomez). Moreover, Habs have plenty of prospects on defense.

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