Habs GM’s focus shifts from draft to free agency
LOS ANGELES — When Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier is asked whether he has a Plan B or Plan C for the direction the team will take in the next two weeks, he says there aren’t enough letters in the alphabet to cover the different scenarios.
With the National Hockey League entry draft out of the way, the next priority for Gauthier is to deal with the free-agency period. There won’t be wholesale changes, but there is enough work to keep him busy.
The Canadiens have some potential unrestricted free agents, but Gauthier was proactive in signing centre Tomas Plekanec to a long-term contract last week. He must make a decision on whether to sign centre Dominic Moore before he becomes unrestricted on July 1, but forward Glen Metropolit and defenceman Paul Mara don’t appear to be on the radar.
There might be some urgency regarding one restricted free agent — goaltender Carey Price. The Canadiens have extended him a qualifying offer, but he’ll be looking for more now that the Canadiens have traded playoff hero Jaroslav Halak.
There is the possibility that some team will present Price an offer sheet, but Gauthier said that prospect doesn’t frighten him. He noted the 22-year-old Price is still four years away from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
“There are different ways to structure his contract, but that’s a game of negotiation and we’ll find a solution that’s agreeable to both parties.”
Gauthier is expected to tender a qualifying offer to forward Benoit Pouliot, who inexplicably was not offered one last week. The team did make an offer to problem child Sergei Kostitsyn, who was critical of the decisions to trade Halak and Guillaume Latendresse in an interview last week in Belarus.
“He didn’t say anything to me,” said Gauthier as he ducked a question about the young forward’s future in Montreal.
At the present time, the Canadiens don’t have much salary-cap space to make a big splash in the free-agent market, but Gauthier noted: “There’s always movement you can create if you don’t have the money.”
The Canadiens feel they pulled off a coup when they moved up five spots in the first round of the draft and selected defenceman Jarred Tinordi with the 22nd pick overall.
Gauthier said the six-foot-six, 210-pound son of former NHL defenceman Mark Tinordi has the right combination of genes, size, character and leadership.
The Canadiens didn’t pick again until the fourth round, but Gauthier said the team’s scouts were happy to grab “two offensive players in (Mark) MacMillan and (Brendan) Gallagher and a well-rounded defenceman in (Morgan) Ellis.”
MacMillan (fourth round, 113th overall) is a six-foot, 150-pound forward from Alberni Valley of the British Columbia Hockey League. He showed a scoring touch last season — he had 26 goals and 54 assists in 59 games —_but needs some time to fill out.
Ellis (fourth round, 117th overall) is a six-foot-one, 197-pound defenceman from Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He describes himself as a “stay-at-home type who makes a good first pass and can throw a good check.” He grew up as one of eight children on a cattle farm on Prince Edward Island.
Gallagher (fifth round, 147th overall) is another small forward, but he put up some impressive numbers while playing for the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League. The five-foot-eight, 163-pounder from Edmonton scored 41 goals and added 40 assists in 72 games.
With their final pick, the Canadiens chose John Westin, a left-winger from MoDo in the Swedish junior league who went in the seventh round, 207th overall. He’s five-foot-11 and 183 pounds and had 16 goals and 10 assists in 31 games.
Gauthier has some items that are not on the front-burner. He’ll wait until next month to address the coaching situation for their American Hockey League affiliate in Hamilton and any adjustments to the Canadiens’ coaching staff.
“The important thing is to hire the right people (and) as long as everyone’s in place by training camp, we’re all set.”
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