In the last installment we examined the contract given to Tomas Plekanec. It looks like he was overpaid, especially for someone who hadn't hit the UFA market yet and wanted to stay a Hab.
Maybe the biggest impact of the Plekanec contract was on the backup goalie position. Earlier we presumed Gauthier wouldnt simply hand the keys over to Price, given Price's inconsistent play. So Gauthier traded malcontent Sergei Kostitsyn for essentially the negotiating rights to Dustin Boyd and, more importantly, Dan Ellis. Gauthier managed to sign Boyd, but Ellis went elsewhere -- for only $500k more than what the Habs ended up giving Alex Auld.
When one looks at the probable lineup for next year, its not hard to see that the Habs only had about $1M to offer a backup goaltender. But here's where the Plekanec contract comes back into play: if the Habs had $500k more in cap room, Ellis or (better yet) Johan Hedberg could have been in play. Both signed for $1.5M per and both are goalies with a much better track record than Auld. Even when Gauthier traded for the negotiating rights to Ellis, he still couldn't close the deal. Gauthier was probably trying to pitch the $1M cap hit contract, and Ellis knew he was worth more.
It doesnt stop there: now that Price's agent knows that Price is the man, his bargaining position suddenly got much better. And the Alex Auld signing only reinforced that position. If Ellis or Hedberg were signed instead, the message to Price and his agent would be: we still have options.
The Plekanec contract may have also affected how Gauthier could improve his corps of forwards. He wanted to leave it mostly intact, but obviously could not afford to re-sign Moore and Metropolit (at least not at their current salaries).
Still, the Habs desperately need size and some grit, something that was only provided consistently by Moen and Lapierre during the playoffs. And that size and grit was available, for a decent price: Adam Burish was signed by the Stars for only $1.15M in cap hit money. His Stanley Cup experience and right handed shot would have been an added bonus too. But instead the Habs signed Dustin Boyd, for $500K less.
So if Plekanec signs for a much more reasonable $4M per, the Habs would have had a chance at Burish, Ellis and Hedberg. Much better than Boyd and Auld.