There was enough media on hand to run three scrums simultaneously with Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey (foreground), head coach Jacques Martin and Director of Player Recruitment and Development Trevor Timmons (both in the background) on Thursday, June 25, 2009 at the Montreal Canadiens practice facility in Brossard.
Photograph by: Montreal Gazette, Montreal Gazette
The National Hockey League entry draft is centre stage at the Bell Centre, but Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey said he hopes to steal the show with a trade that would fill the team's need for a big centre.
"It hasn't been a secret that we've always been in the market for a big, strong, first-line centre and wherever that player may be, that's where we'll be looking," Gainey said yesterday during an informal gathering to discuss the Canadiens' plans for the draft, which begins tonight (7 p.m., TSN, RDS) with the first-round selections.
"I think it's going to require some patience, maybe a little bit of luck. We feel we have some of the assets needed to put a deal together if we have a partner who really wants to move in that direction. We're staying available and we'll be available until a deal is done."
The name most commonly mentioned is that of île Bizard native Vincent Lecavalier, but there are questions of whether Tampa Bay is willing to trade him and whether the Canadiens can meet the Lightning's price.
Gainey said the best chance of landing a big centre was through a trade rather than waiting to see who's available on the free-agent market.
"We don't know who's going to be on the free-agent market and we won't know until July 1, but I don't see that centreman there. I see other good players, but I don't see a centre."
Gainey, who has made a splash at previous drafts with deals to acquire defenceman Roman Hamrlik and forward Alex Tanguay, noted that the draft offers possibilities to make changes. He is so intent on making a deal this weekend that he has put the task of dealing with the Canadiens' unrestricted free agents on hold.
There are 10 potential unrestricted free agents on the team's roster. Gainey has designated five of them - Mike Komisarek, Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Mathieu Schneider and Tanguay - as priorities, but has told them he won't start negotiating until after the draft. They are all eligible to become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday.
"We want to get our priorities in order," Gainey said. "After the weekend, we'll have a better idea of what the cap will be and how much money we have to spend."
Gainey said it was important to be flexible. He noted that the Canadiens signed Sergei Samsonov early in the free-agent signing period a few years back and didn't have room later in the summer when J.P. Dumont became available.
Gainey said Komisarek, who is regarded as one of the potential prizes on the free-agent market, is a priority.
"I'd say his age (27), his position on our team (make him important). He's open to talking and listening. We've tried to evaluate the market as we see it. We'll keep talking to him until he either says yes or no."
There is a group of potential UFAs who are not a priority. They include Mathieu Dandenault, Francis Bouillon, Tom Kostopoulos and Patrice Brisebois.
"We have five or six positions available and we have young players like (Gregory) Stewart, (Kyle) Chipchura and (Matt) D'Agostini, who will probably fill some of those spots," Gainey said.
"We've told those players we won't be talking to them before July 1, but that doesn't mean they won't be back," said Gainey, noting that Brisebois was in that position last summer and signed a contract on the eve of training camp.
As for the draft, the Canadiens will only say they'll go for the best asset available. The team is unlikely to move up, but director of player personnel Trevor Timmins said the team could move down if the top players on their list aren't available when Montreal gets the 18th pick. With the draft in Montreal, there will be pressure to draft a francophone and there are two possibilities in Harvard-bound Louis Leblanc and Simon Despres.
NHL Entry Draft at a Glance
Where: Bell Centre.
When: First round begins tonight at 7 p.m., with television coverage on TSN and RDS. Rounds 2 through 7 begin tomorrow at 10 a.m., with TV coverage on the NHL Network and RIS.
Canadiens Picks (seven): One in the first round (18th overall); two in the third round (Nos. 65 and 79) and one each in the fourth (No. 109), fifth (No. 139), sixth (No. 169) and seventh (No. 199) rounds.
Ticket availability: There are no tickets remaining for tonight's first round, but there will be a limited number of tickets available tomorrow on a first-come, first-served basis.
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