Rabid Habs

Brown: The Habs Should Be Cautious This Free Agency

Every year after the NHL Draft, you will most likely witness general managers scrambling to sign free agents and their restricted free agents to long term deals to benefit their teams. Among those signings, plenty of them never pan out, as the players don’t perform to their price tag. A great deal of those signings were a thorn in the side of teams, as they lost valuable cap space that could have been used on other players.

Montreal suffered the consequences when they signed Brandon Prust to a 4 year, $10M contract in 2012 and Daniel Briere to a 2 year, $8M contract in 2013. Prust and Briere receiving big bucks despite their calibre of play. If you just took a glance the age of these players when they signed, you could clearly predict that the two respected players were unquestionably going into decline. Briere was 36 at the beginning of his contract and while Prust was just 29, his style of play was starting to take a toll on his body. Because of the two large contracts, Montreal was stuck salary cap wise. They couldn’t acquire any big names through free agency (that came at a reasonable price) or trade because Briere and Prust were the nucleus of all the salary cap problems.

When you throw too much money at free agents, it can ruin a teams salary cap situation. We clearly have first hand experience of such ordeal looking back at the Briere and Prust contracts. Ultimately, both players were traded in deals that didn’t really pan out. Prust was sent to Vancouver in exchange for Zack Kassian, while Briere was traded after just one year with the Canadiens. For Briere, Montreal received P.A. Parenteau, who was bought out after one year with the Habs.

This is why Marc Bergevin and the Habs brass should be weary around this time of year. One signing can cause a ton of problems down the road. Although there are clear needs in the organization, it would be unwise for Montreal to pay top dollar for any of the available free agents. And yes, I am talking about our beloved, Alexander Radulov as well.

For the past few months, Bergevin and Radulov’s party have been discussing a possible contract extension. The latest report coming out of Montreal indicate that Radulov is asking for a 6 year, $42M contract, averaging out to $7M per year. Frankly, that type of contract can put a team into a sticky situation towards the end of its term.

We also have to consider that this free agent class is one of the weakest in recent memory. You should expect players like Martin Hanzal, Nick Bonino, Karl Alzner and Michael Del Zotto to receive rich contracts that they simply can’t keep up with. That’s where we’ll witness desperate general managers sign average players to mind-boggling contracts. Hopefully, Bergevin stands pat and doesn’t get lured into some bad deals.

It’s clearly evident that no team can turn into a cup contender solely through free agency. We cannot forget about a hectic summer before the 2009-10 NHL season. This is where we witnessed Bob Gainey sign mega contracts to Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Hal Gill. We all thought that these particular acquisitions were going to help us for years to come. Looking back at it now, we wish that we didn’t have to endure such travesty. Although their were some bright spots like Montreal reaching the conference final in 2009-10 and 2013-14 it was simply not meant to be for the trio as they all departed empty handed.

This free agency period, Montreal should stand pat and sign cap friendly deals that will benefit the team.

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