Rabid Habs

6 Possible Candidates To Replace Gionta

I wrote an article a couple weeks ago about the Gionta situation (see article) It appears that both camps are still negotiating to reach a deal but the current Habs captain is still evaluating his options before finalizing a deal. If Gionta decides to go elsewhere, Montreal will have to do the inevitable and replace him via Free Agency or Trade. Here’s a list of six men who I’m sure could fill his, albeit pretty small, shoes.

 

Radim Vrbata

Likeliness: Unlikely

Stats last season: 20 Goals and 51 Points in 80 GP

The 33 year old has built himself a name in Arizona by being one of their top scorers every year since returning to the NHL in 2009. Vrbata has been able to produce some very good numbers on an offensively deprived team who’s rather known for their defensive play under Dave Tippett than for their offensive punch. I’d be curious on the numbers the Czech Republican could produce if he was given better teammates. This season, he played mostly with Martin Hanzal and a mediocre winger who acted as a stopgap (Tim Kennedy, Lauri Korpikoski, Rob Klinkhammer). It’s worth noting that his most productive season to date (35 goals in 2012) occurred when he was playing alongside Martin Hanzal and Ray Whitney. Put him on a line with Alex Galchenyuk and Tomas Plekanec and I think magic will happen. Vrbata is defensively responsible and I believe his game will age well. There’s obviously a concern that he could be a modern day Marius Czerkawski (a forward from the early 2000s who could only produce with the Islanders) because of his play outside of Phoenix.

My offer would be 4 years at 5M a year.

 

Jarome Iginla

Likeliness: unlikely

Stats last season: 30 Goals and 61 Points in 78 GP

The soon to be 37 years old only wants one thing before calling it a career: a Stanley Cup. After falling short in 2004 in a series that came down to a controversial call and a game 7, he hasn’t been close to that goal ever since. He’s made it clear that at this point in his career that he’ll only sign with a team who he considers a contender for the Cup. Maybe after being eliminated by the Canadiens these past playoffs, with a little bit of convincing from Bergevin, he could sign with Montreal! He’s the exact type of player that our management raves about and would be a tremendous fit for this team. He’s one of the most respected players in the league and is one of the classiest players of our era. One has to wonder what the hell he was doing on a team like the Bruins…He showed last season that he still has a lot of years left in his body and that he can still contribute around 50 to 60 points with good teammates. It also wouldn’t be the first time that Bergevin targets a highly coveted leader via the free agency route. He was part of the teams’ negotiating with Shane Doan back in 2012. Iginla would be the perfect winger for the Desharnais and Pacioretty line and would give our team the same depth that we had when we acquired Vanek.

My offer would be 1 year at 7M (including bonuses similar to the contract he signed with Boston last off-season).

 

Nikolai Kulemin

Likeliness: Possible

Stats last season: 9 Goals and 20 Points in 70GP.

Kulemin is one of many players in Toronto to have found himself in the doghouse since the hiring of Randy Carlyle as coach. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Russian forward follows the same path as his ex-teammates, Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski, and has success with another team. Some of his detractors have shown concerns on whether or not the 27 year old has the talent to be a top 6 forward. He had 57 points in 2010-201 and has shown in the past that he can produce with offensive players (KHL, World Championships). His lack of production in the last seasons can be attributed to the fact that he’s been playing shutdown minutes for the Leafs and that he hasn’t been given the best teammates in terms of offensive talent (Troy Bodie, Jay McClement, Mason Raymond). Kulemin can play all positions up front, is a tenacious forechecker and a great player in his own end. I think he and Plekanec would have some terrific chemistry similar to the one him and Andrei Kostitsyn used to have.

My offer would be 3 years at 3.5M a year.

 

Troy Brouwer

Likeliness: Probable

Stats last season: 25 Goals and 43 Points in 82 GP.

Brouwer is a garbage goal scoring machine. He knows where to park himself in the offensive zone and he’s one of the best in the NHL at it. He’s very productive on the PP and his style could be highly beneficial to a team whose shown inconsistency on the man advantage. Bergevin is familiar with him from his days with the Blackhawks organization prior to his job with the Canadiens. Brouwer would be the ideal winger for Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais. He’s big and he knows what is role is: crash the net and go for rebounds. He has a good contract and the Capitals need defense:

I would offer the Capitals Alexei Emelin (could be a good defensive partner for Dmitri Orlov) for Troy Brouwer.

 

Jussi Jokinen

Likeliness: Low

Stats last season: 21 Goals and 57 Points in 81 GP.

After living off his shootout prowess early in his career and looking on the verge of being out of a job in the NHL, Jokinen has rejuvenated his career in Pittsburgh. Although he did play with excellent linemates this season (Malkin and Neal), his production is among the best from the current crop of Free Agents. The Finnish forward is pretty versatile in terms of the roles he can play in a line-up and similarly to Kulemin, he can play any position. He could be a decent option for Bergevin if the sexier names are already signed. I could see him and Eller forming a good duo.

My offer would be 3 years at 3.75M.

 

Milan Michalek

Likeliness: High

Stats last season: 17 Goals and 39 Points in 82 GP.

There are a lot of connections between Montreal and Michalek. He works out with Tomas Plekanec and like Brandon Prust, his girlfriend is from here. Like my list suggests, he’s far from my favorite option but I wouldn’t be mad if we signed him. I’ve never been impressed by his game and I’ve always found him to be a player who leeches off the talent of others and doesn’t really ‘earn’ his points. Although he has some good seasons on his resume, they’re mainly from playing with elite talent like Jason Spezza. To be fair, he would bring size on the wing and he has multiple 20 goal seasons which would make him a decent option as one of Plekanec’s wingers.

My offer would be 3 years at 4M.

 

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