Ready to rumble
With the NHL draft making its return to Montreal for the first time since 1992, Gainey has aligned himself to be a potential power player on one of the busiest weekends of the NHL season.
“We’re in a good position to find a dance partner,” explained Gainey. “We have the room on our roster, we have the money under the cap and we have the young prospects.”
“We’re aware of what’s going on around the league and, like all teams, we have a few balls up in the air,” described Gainey. “There will surely be some changes happening. Every year the draft presents an opportunity for teams to either fine tune their rosters or make major changes.”
As for the Habs’ general manager’s shopping list, he was more than happy to reveal the top item on his list.
“It’s been no secret that we’ve been in the market for that big strong, impact centerman,” admitted Gainey. “Wherever that player is, that’s where we’ll be looking. We have the assets and we will be sure to remain available to those teams.”
While the free agent frenzy will kick off next Wednesday, Gainey doesn’t see the solution to his primary concern in the league’s storefront window.
“To be honest, I don’t see that centerman out there in the free agent crop this summer,” affirmed Gainey.
Slated to test that free agent market as of July 1 in his own right, defenseman Mike Komisarek is currently in talks with Gainey about keeping him in the only NHL home he’s ever known.
“The only one of our unrestricted free agents that has received a concrete offer from us is Mike Komisarek due to his age and position within our team,” confirmed Gainey. “I wouldn't say I’m confident or unconfident, but Mike knows our position and that’s the important thing.”
On a less positive note, a veteran defenseman was also recently in contact with Gainey.
“In Francis Bouillon’s case, I told him that I wasn’t able to offer him anything before July 1, but that doesn’t mean that can’t change after July 1,” offered Gainey. “The best example of that would be Patrice Brisebois last season, who I didn’t have an offer for until well later and he ended up re-signing with us.”
Saddled with almost a dozen unrestricted free agents to-be all season and having stuck to his guns by refusing to renegotiate until after the season, Gainey has certainly rolled the dice. Pushed by the media to assess whether that was a wise move, Gainey cocked his eye brow and quickly put an end to that vein of questioning.
“So what is it, are you asking me to second-guess myself? Isn’t that your job?,” asked Gainey, glaring at the cheeky journalist. “What we’ve done this year is risky, but I’m of the belief that risk brings opportunity. We are at a point with our team where it’s time to get a lot better.”
With negotiations with the likes of Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay on ice for now, Gainey affirmed that there is a method to his madness.
“I’ve told players like Koivu and Kovalev that I will talk to them again on Monday,” reiterated Gainey. “We’re waiting on that for a reason. Who knows, our roster might be much different by then.”
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
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