Stoic. Low-key. Patient. Gainey has built his career and reputation as a hockey executive on those traits. That being said, he pulled out all of the stops and stole the show on free agent frenzy day. With almost a dozen of his own free agents to be potentially signed, Gainey opted for a wholesale change.
“We had a project that began on Tuesday with the acquisition of Scott Gomez and it continued on Wednesday,” said Gainey. “As a result, we were able to be major players on the market. We put ourselves in a good position where we could raise our talent level and change the face of our team.”
The domino effect of Gomez’s arrival was no accident, with the swap making Gainey’s July 1 shopping that much easier.
“Without bringing Gomez on board, I doubt we would have Gionta with us today,” admitted Gainey. “The goal was to bring in a top center and we have one now. Scott is a great passer who makes his teammates better. We hope we’ve provided him with what he needs to be successful.
“Gionta and Gomez have a great background together as linemates and each enjoyed the best years of their careers together in New Jersey,” added Gainey. “We’ve gotten younger and more durable and that’s exciting for us and our fans. This a fresh start.”
Chemistry-wise, Gainey is confident that Mike Cammalleri will be a natural fit with Gomez and Gionta.
“Gomez needs to play with shooters and that’s where Cammalleri comes in. I think he’s a better fit that way than a player like Alex Tanguay would have been,” explained Gainey. “We told Mike that we had a good place for him and he’s a 27-year-old that is looking for a challenge.”
Gainey’s busy day also included the inking of a pair of battle-tested defensemen, to replace the likes of Francis Bouillon, Mathieu Dandenault, Patrice Brisebois, Mathieu Schneider and Mike Komisarek.
“Spacek is a top four defenseman who can help us in a number of areas, including the power play. He’s another player that several teams were looking at,” offered Gainey. “A veteran like Hal Gill brings us that physical presence and toughness we lost in Mike Komisarek.”
The busiest team in the NHL on the biggest shopping day of the year, the Canadiens made a serious statement. Gainey pulled no punches about the message that was sent.
“All of these players were being looked at by other teams, but we beat them to the punch,” said Gainey. “The important thing is, they chose Montreal.”
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
Habs sign Brian Gionta to a 5-year deal
Habs sign Michael Cammalleri
Habs acquire Scott Gomez
Built for speed
Habs ink Jaroslav Spacek
Hal Gill heading to Montreal