Maybe it's just me, but I never know when it's time to stop saying "next season" and switch to "this season" when we're talking about the hockey season that begins in the coming October. For me, the current season ends with the elimination of the Habs because I immediately start thinking ahead to the draft and UFA season, and puck drop in October becomes "this season." It's my way of coping with no more Habs for months on end. So, while I'm thinking "this season," everyone else seems to think the last season still goes on as long as the playoffs continue, so it's "next season" for them. Confusing, when you're trying to write about it.
Now though, I've noticed on some Habs' discussion sites that since Bob Gainey signed Maxim Lapierre to a new two-year deal this week, I'm starting to see more talk of "this season" in regards to 2008-09. I guess Lapierre's signing was the first shot across the bow of the Centennial season. I like this deal. He'll be making a slightly increased $575-thousand this year and $800-thousand the following season. That's a responsible and realistic price to pay for a still-developing fourth-liner with speed and a very strong PK ability. If Gainey can sign the other pieces he needs to slide into place in the next couple of weeks at such responsible rates, the team will be looking good financially for the coming season, and the even more important one, capwise, to follow. The trick for Gainey is to protect his assets from poachers, while keeping them happy with their rates of pay, and still save enough money to make a big, albeit short-term splash for the team's hundredth birthday.
Within two or three weeks, we should actually have a good idea of how that Centennial roster will look. The fifteen-day buyout window will open on Sunday. That'll give us a clue about whether a player like Dandenault can be moved or must be bought out. Then the draft next weekend is expected to be a busy one for trades. With only five Habs' picks on the docket right now, I'd expect Gainey to make even a couple of minor moves to add to that number. In the meantime, we can expect to hear about the signings of further restricted free agents and possibly an UFA like Streit as well. All that housekeeping will clear the decks for the big day, July 1. That day and the three or four that follow will answer the most compelling question we're asking: Will the Habs land the missing piece to become a serious Stanley Cup contender for their hundredth birthday?
Only three weeks to go before we know the truth behind all the speculation! It feels like "this season" already.