Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stud shopping

To market, to market to buy a big stud
Home again, home again...ugh, it's a dud!

The rumours are rampant that the deal sending Michael Ryder away in either a trade directly to Atlanta or in a three-way deal involving Calgary...all in an effort to bring Marian Hossa to Montreal...is done. La Presse is even reporting the Canadiens have ordered the Incredible H's favourite gear in Habs' colours.

Now, I'm on the record as being very, very cautious when it comes to deadline dealing. I'd even be content to take the current lineup into the playoffs with maybe a little bit of third-line tinkering. It's partly because I think teams have grossly overpaid for deadline rentals with very little positive return in the past. And it's partly because I think dealing right now would be risky for the momentum building in the Habs' room. Even so, I admit the thought of acquiring a real, bona fide superstar makes me drool just a little bit. The picture of Hossa flanking Koivu and Higgins is as pretty as anything Monet ever painted. But, as everyone knows, he won't come cheap. And a trade is only the beginning.

If Gainey is to trade for Hossa, one must assume the intent is to keep him in the bleu, blanc et rouge for at least a few years to come. So he'll have to pick up the contract negotiations where Don Waddell leaves off. That's going to mean long term, and big money. Huge money...in the seven-to-eight million dollar range for several years. If he were the final piece of a Cup contender, with all the other pieces clearly defined and paid accordingly, that would be fine. But the Habs aren't a mature organism just yet.

Right now, we don't know what Mike Komisarek's upside is going to be. Or Tomas Plekanec's. Or the Kostitsyn brothers, or Ryan O'Byrne, or any number of good young players coming up through the system. So, if a player like Plekanec turns out to be a point-a-game man who'd make four to six million on the open market, Gainey will have to pay up to keep him. Likewise Komisarek, who'll be an UFA after next season and could command five million a year. The core is continuing to improve and will become expensive to retain. Adding Hossa, whose upside we do know, to the mix complicates things. Because if that happens, Gainey must inevitably make choices. Does he lock himself into Hossa now, and then later have to give up Plekanec whose value is increasing? Or Komisarek who's an anchor of character, toughness and steady D on the blueline? Those are tough choices to make when you don't have all the facts.

Don't get me wrong...I'd love to see the Habs improve to the degree they would with the addition of a player like Hossa. But I'm concerned that the time isn't right for bringing in a player like that when it comes to long-range planning. If we knew definitively what the players already on the team will be bringing in the future, it would be okay.

But we don't know, and shopping for a superstar right now is like picking out a roast with a blindfold on. It feels right and smells right, but you might be picking it while there's a prime cut right next to it that you just don't see. The problem is, when you take the blindfold off, it's too late and you can't afford both.

1 comment:

Naila J. said...

And this is why I don't like the speculation.