Winds of change
With over 70 seasons of combined experience with the Habs, the dozen players not returning to Montreal next season, including a truckload of unrestricted free agents, will make the Canadiens’ dressing room a much different place. Taking a moment to reflect on the sweeping changes he made to his roster, Gainey made it a point to single out one now former Habs player in particular.
“I had good conversation with Saku on Wednesday morning and I thanked him for everything. He was tremendous for us for a very long time, a special player,” said Gainey. “I have great memories of his time here and Saku was a great player for us. The time came for us as an organization to move on, create a new team with a new identity.”
While Koivu’s tenure with the Habs ended before Gainey began stuffing his shopping cart, others still had the possibility of remaining in Montreal until well into the afternoon.
“In Mike Komisarek’s case, we had been in discussions with him for well over a week and his time to really get something done with us was on Tuesday,” explained Gainey. “We made our intentions clear and he had our offer on the table. His camp never gave us a number they were looking for, which is an important step in reaching an agreement. We never heard back from him and then news of his signing with the Leafs broke. His deal with Toronto ended up being for bigger dollars than we had offered.”
Alex Kovalev was even closer to remaining a Hab. Armed with a multi-year offer from Montreal, the Russian winger sent a counter offer and then hesitated as other teams were also vying for his services.
“Both sides were interested in having Alex come back to Montreal, but we couldn’t come to terms in time,” said Gainey who had to move quickly as players were being snatched up in a hurry. “As it stands now, this would mark the end for Alex with the Canadiens.”
Also on the outside looking in for the Canadiens are: Alex Tanguay, Robert Lang, Tom Kostopoulos, Francis Bouillon, Mathieu Dandenault, Mathieu Schneider, Patrice Brisebois and Christopher Higgins, who was dealt to the Rangers for Scott Gomez.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
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