NHL Free Agency Recap: The Canadiens Are Not Big Fans Of Money

— The Rangers sign Marian Gaborik to a 5-year, $37.5 million deal. Rather than settle with the Gomez albatross, the Rangers are taking a gamble on a contract with a chance to be an even bigger albatross, essentially inviting the oft-injured Gaborik a chance to kick back, hop on the injured bandwagon, and essentially retire. Healthy, he’s easily one of the league’s top 10 wingers, probably top 5, but that’s like saying that J.D. Salinger is a Top 5 writer whenever he actually decides to write.

Or maybe, the Rangers have a brilliant scheme in mind — when Gaborik gets hurt (tomorrow), they then trade for Dany Heatley, then keep Gaborik on injured reserve the entire season to free up cap space for Heatley, then in the playoffs, they bring back Gaborik when there’s no cap in effect and dominate. It might even be crazy enough to work, at least until Gaborik gets hurt on his third shift of the playoffs.

— The Canadiens sign Mike Cammalleri to a 5-year, $30 million deal, Brian Gionta to a 5-year $25 million deal, and Jaroslav Spacek to a 3-year, $11.5 million deal. Excepting an injured 63 game, 19 goal 2007-08, Cammalleri has scored 34 and 39 goals in his past two full seasons, and he’s still only 27; $6 mil is a dent to any cap, but the Canadiens have the money, and for an unrestricted 2-time 30 goal scorer who’ll only be 32 when the deal expires it’s not an unexpectedly egregious amount.

Five years at $5 mil per for the even tinier Gionta makes zero sense, though, particularly in conjunction with the Cammalleri deal. The Habs are gonna have $11 million of their cap for the next five years devoted to two Kiefer Sutherland-sized wingers? After adding the utterely overpriced, nonthreatening waste that is Scott Gomez? Maybe Cammalleri and Gionta are gonna stand on each others’ shoulders and wear one big long coat and entertain Jacques Martin? Who was Montreal bidding against for this contract?

Spacek is 35, and a 3-year-deal might be a bit unnecessary given the Canadiens’ multiple options for power play quarterbacks (especially with the addition of Hal Gill!), but he’s far from a liability, and what the hell, if you’re gonna spend, might as well spend — the Canadiens have the money. After taking on the Gomez contract, though, this team could’ve traded for Crosby in the offseason and I’d still be laughing at them.

Other deals around the league, and my something-resembling-almost analysis:

— The Oilers sign Nikolai Khabiboulin to a 4-year, $15 million deal. I’m not particularly convinced his improving GAAs over the past four seasons are much more than a function of the Blackhawks’ gradually improving defense, but in a weak UFA goaltending class, this isn’t a horrible deal. He’s also nicknamed “The ‘Boulin Wall,” perhaps ominously, as the Berlin Wall was torn down two decades ago.

— The Maple Leafs sign Mike Komisarek to a 5-year, $22.5 million deal, and trade Pavel Kubina to the Thrashers. Komisarek’s a solid, physical, top-4 defenseman, but I simply don’t understand why this team with all the cap space in the world didn’t make a bigger push for Jay Bouwmeester; Komisarek can’t play the power play, he doesn’t give Toronto the flexibility to trade Tomas Kaberle the way a Bouwmeester signing would have, and at 27, is unlikely to improve, but will probably just stay reliably ok.

Meanwhile, the Kubina deal gives the Thrashers a reason to be mentioned in “Most Likely Players To Get Traded” columns leading up to the trade deadline next year when the Thrashers are well out of contention. How does Don Waddell still have a job? Sorry, just required to ask that once every few weeks.

— The Flyers sign Brian Boucher to a 2-year, $1.85 million deal. As much as I’ve argued in this space that overpaying for a free agent goalie (or a goalie in general) is all-too-often inadvisable, and the Flyers’ financial commitment to Boucher and Ray Emery is extremely minimal, it still means the Flyers plan to enter the season with Brian Boucher and Ray Emery as their goaltending tandem. Even John Stevens has to chuckle a little…

— The Senators re-sign Chris Neil to a 4-year, $8 million deal. WHEW.

For my thoughts on the moves from earlier in the day, here they are. Or just scroll down the blog slightly.


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