Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Some Curious Notes On Habs Salary Structure For 2008-09

As of now, the Canadiens payroll for 2008-09 stands at 39.3 million for 15 contracted players. On the present roster, there are 11 players who will reach full or limited free agency next season, and Bob Gainey's job will get more difficult in regards to keeping the current structure intact.

Several younger players, nearing the end of RFA status are due nice raises, and Gainey will have choices to make as to who stays and who leaves. Certain scenarios could get sticky, but the plan in place calls for a continuous injection of youth at a lower cost replacing the high end dropoffs of unrenewed contracts.

Here's a look at the Canadiens current salary status for this season and upcoming years.

Trying to get inside Gainey's head is never easy. Here are some of the things that will need to be dealt with in 2008-09 or sooner.

1 - The Canadiens have 4 UFA's next season, two of whom could return to the team if the price is right.

It would be doubtful that either Bryan Smolinski or Patrice Brisebois are resigned, but the Canadiens will surely have an interest in bringing back Mark Streit, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Michael Ryder.

Streit is the NHL's best bargain at $600,000 and could command upwards of 2 million in free agency. Ryder is the fifth highest paid Hab at 2.95 million. He gambled and lost in signing a one year deal last year, and has been a tremendous disappointment this season. Ryder could return if he settles for a salary in the range of 2 million. Seeing as he was not a highly sought after commodity at the trade deadline, it is doubtful that he will strike a jackpot anywhere come July.
The Canadiens will save 2.7 million on the Brisebois and Smolinski salaries.

2 - The Canadiens have seven RFA's all under the age of 24. They are goalie Jaroslav Halak, defenseman Josh Gorges, Ryan O' Byrne, and forwards Corey Locke, Mikhail Grabovski, Maxim Lapierre, and Andrei Kostitsyn. The group totalled roughly 4.4 million in cap space this season.
Kostitsyn ( $785,000 ) and Halak ( $492,000 ) are on the verge of big increases in respect to their worth to the team. Kostitsyn will score close to 25 goals and should receive a salary just slightly above what Chris Higgins is earning. A multi year deal would raise the per annun above the 2.5 million range. Halak, as a young goaltender of promise will likely see his salary doubled and then some. Teams will consider tendering Halak offers that will make for an uncomfortable negotiation for Gainey, and he may be forced into paying him more than he wishes for now.

Lapierre ( $583,000 ), O'Byrne ( $613,000 ), and Gorges ( $495,000 ) will see their salaries close in on the one million mark, likely in one or two year pacts. At $725,000, Grabovski's payday will reflect his performance over the Canadiens final stretch of the season. Locke ( $495,000 ) will likely seek employment with another NHL organization, whose talent depth offers him more opportunity than the Canadiens.

3 - Plekanec, Higgins, and Komisarek are each playing into the final years of deals and need to be re-upped before they expire.

Making 1.9 million next season, Komisarek will be a UFA come 2009-10. The Canadiens should attempt to sign him to a long term deal before next season kicks in. The Habs understand Komisarek's worth, and would be thrilled if he signed on for four more years at 3 million per. Komisarek wouldn't be wrong in thinking that he is worth more, and might seek longer term for above 4 million a year.

Plekanec ( 1.8 million ) as the team's top centerman will see his salary doubled and perhaps extended into a 4 year pact as he is entering into his final season as a RFA. Higgins ( 1.9 million ) will be in same situation, though he may not command as much. The assistant captain may earn near 3 million on his next deal, which good sense says would not be extended more than three years.

4 - Mathieu Dandeneault, Tom Kostopoulos, and Steve Begin are all on contracts that expire after the 2008-09 season and each will then be UFA's.

The Canadiens will have interest in retaining Begin ( $1.057 million ) as he is both a consumate fourth line professional and a contract that will not neccessitate a large raise.

Dandeneault ( $1.725 million ) and Kostopoulos ( $900.000 ) could be deemed expendable and too expensive to keep around. As victims of the Habs youth movement, their final year deals could see them traded or bought out. Much of their fate will depend on team depth come next summer. In all likelyhood, their roles on the team next season would not differ greatly, and team management will have to decide on the sense of having close to 3 million dollars of salary sitting in the press box.

5 - Francis Bouillon's contract ends at the same time as Dandeneault, Kostopoulos and Begin.
At $1.875 million per year, Bouillon is currently the Canadiens third highest paid defenseman. The 31 year old's fate is tied to three factors - the Komisarek deal, Pavel Valentenko's next training camp, and whether the Habs can convince Alexei Emelin to come to Canada.

Komisarek's contract renewal could mean Bouillon plays out his last season and looks for work elsewhere, and the scenarios involving the two Russian defenseman could play into Bouillon's ice time starting next season if the situations lend themselves.

Gainey might decide that 2 million is better spent elsewhere come next season, and simply sacrifice Bouillon for a draft pick.

6 - Guillaume Latendresse and Sergei Kostitsyn have one and two years respectively remaining on their current deals.

I would expect to see the Latendresse contract
( $850,000 ) played out in full before the Canadiens assess his worth. The younger Kostitsyn has two more years remaining at $817,000 per season - quite a deal for a 200th overall draft choice that surprised. Should he continue to develop at the same speed, the Canadiens might renegotiate his deal by the thrid year of his present contact. The Habs have some wiggle room with both players being that they are each 20 years old and a few years away from unresticted free agency.

7 - How soon will Carey Price warrant a contract extension?

Of course it is a little soon to bring this up, but what happens if Jaroslav Halak begins next season making more money than Price?

Time will tell if it does happen and whether it will be an uncomfortable situation. Price is a very composed young man, but he has his ego just as any player does. Will what Gainey ends up paying Halak affect Price? If the Canadiens want to create and keep a healthy competition between the two goalers, having the contracts in sync will go a long way towards achieving that.

8 - With the rise in contracts for 2008-09, where exactly can a high end free agent fit it?

Should the team wish to bring in a star player in the July free agent hunt, Gainey will need to deal with the status and contracts of Ryder, Dandeneault, Kostopoulos, and Bouillon first. These four players represent close to $8 million dollars of cap space, and freeing up this money is what would lead to being able to compete for players Gainey wishes to bring in. With Smolinski's deal expiring, and some of the total savings being spread across the contracts of Plekanec, Higgins and Komisarek starting the following season, Gainey's wiggle room will shrink. Much of what he may be doing could be tied to how how the salary cap rises.

All of the scenarios above tie into what management does on an annual basis. Gainey and Julien Brisebois, who deals mainly with the players contracts and the CBA, have a general plan that is followed in regards to how to keep the core of the team intact. The four larger contracts of Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Andrei Markov, and Roman Hamrlik are evaluated in the balance as much as those of younger players. Decisions will need to be made when the second tier of salaries - the players nearing 25 years of age - begin to cost in the range of top tier players.

It could end up being that the most important contract renewal on Gainey's horizon is that of head scout Trevor Timmins. Lock him up long term now!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are you sure about those numbers? It looks like the nhlnumbers chart shows about $32.5 committed for 08-09.

Presumably Smolinski, Brisebois and Ryder will leave, meaning Streit is the only UFA of consequence Gainey needs to deal with. He's already said he'd prefer to stay in Montreal as long as the price as right.

Of the RFAs, O'Byrne, Georges, Lapierre and Grabovski are at the stage of their careers where they should only command modest increases.

Andrei Kostitsyn is the one Gainey will have to focus on. He will command a huge raise and would undoubtedly be the target of an offer sheet.

As you point out, it's the season after which Gainey needs to really worry about with Komisarek, Higgins, Koivu, Kovalev, Begin, Boullion, and Dandenault all up for renewal.

What's the market value for Komisarek? Who knows, if allowed to go to free agency how much he'd get.

I agree that somehow getting Dandenault off the books would great.

In short, I don't think Gainey's going to have too much difficulty keeping the team he wants next year.
He outta have enough cash on hand to resign the players he wants, and still have several million left over to acquire someone UFA.

Unless, these kids go and win a cup... If that happened then all bets would be off and pretty much every RFA would be looking for a big raise and be the potential target of an offer sheet.