Still no word from the big bald Swede. I have to think that the longer it takes, the less chance we'll see him in the CH. So, inevitably, we have to think about Plan B. Unless Bob Gainey has some indication that Sundin will sign with him, I'm pretty sure that's what he's thinking about today too.
Assuming Andrei Kostitsyn, Ryan O'Byrne and Jaroslav Halak are re-signed before someone steals them away with an RFA offer sheet on Tuesday, the team needs to replace Mark Streit, Michael Ryder, Bryan Smolinski and Patrice Brisebois. Gainey's already made a good start by trading for Alex Tanguay to replace Ryder. Streit may yet be back in his utility role if Sundin isn't signed, so there's no rush to replace him on the PP just yet. Anyway, Tanguay may be able to take on some of that role. There are also Sergei Kostitsyn and Josh Gorges who can man the point if needed. So there's still a need for a third-line centre and a seventh D. Depending on what happens in camp, those spots could possibly be filled by existing assets in Kyle Chipchura and a young defenceman like Pavel Valentenko, if they're ready. If not, Plan B must include a cheap, veteran defenceman who can step in on the blueline when needed and not complain when he's not. Habs fans will hate this, but it may mean Breezer's back for another year. The plan would also have to include a reliable, shut-down centre who's great on the draw. I nominate Sergei Fedorov. His negotiations in Washington apparently aren't going that well, and he's great on faceoffs. He's classy, has great experience and can still motor. He and Breezer also wouldn't cost that much, which would allow Gainey to re-sign Streit and also keep some money available for the trade deadline if he needs it.
What we and Gainey need to beware of, though, is throwing money at a name just because it's there. Or buying recklessly because it's the centennial year and there's a need to make a splash. The Habs shouldn't be shopping for big-name defencemen because the current top six is reasonably reliable and the organization is flush with developing players at that position who'll need to be moving up in the next couple of seasons. A long-term, expensive D would block some of that development. They also shouldn't be shopping for wingers. There are six strong wingers on the team right now, all needing a good offensive centre to round out the lines. Koivu and Plekanec are the only players who fit that bill right now, so it's a centre or nothing as far as the forward lines are concerned, I believe.
So, that's my Plan B. If Sundin's not coming, I want Gainey to sign a cheap, reliable third-line centre and a cheap, veteran seventh D. Then I want him to keep the rest of his money. Better to have it in the bank unused until the deadline rather than spend it on a player who just doesn't fit with our current team. The team is already better on the wings with Tanguay. If it can improve at centre as well, it will have the potential to be deadly, Sundin or not.