Alright, I'm going to put my head on the proverbial chopping block with this one, but here goes: I think Mike Komisarek is overrated. Not just by Habs fans, either. I think Komo is considered to be more than he really is by most of the league.
There, now that the controversial opinion is on the table, let's dissect it. First, we should look at what Komisarek actually is, which is a big, strong, fairly mobile defenceman with a huge heart and extremely limited offensive ability. (Breakaways courtesy of Brian McCabe notwithstanding.) That package is one many teams would find valuable. The fact that he hovers around the top of the league in hits and blocked shots every year increases that value significantly. But, in terms of pay, most comparable guys in the league, like shot-blocking machine Anton Volchenkov in Ottawa, whose cap hit is 2.5 million, and St.Louis' Jay McKee who comes in at four million a year, don't make anywhere near the giant salary many are projecting for Komisarek.
Of course, I know a player's contract is about more than just his numbers. There are the intangibles, like his presence in the room, his impact on the chemistry of the team and his leadership abilities. No one can deny Komisarek is a great unifying force for the Canadiens. He's the first guy to pat a teammate on the back when he's done something great, or console him when he's made a mistake. He'll drop the gloves in defence of his mates. He's well-spoken and confident in public, and seems well-liked and respected within his team. But, is that enough to make him worth the five-plus million a year that many fans and pundits are predicting he'll pull down in his next contract?
While the intangibles are great, and should certainly play a role in negotiations, they still can't be the biggest factor in a GM's decision about what kind of offer to make a player. And, this year, Komisarek's play on the ice isn't good enough to warrant a giant deal. I've seen him make some pretty horrible mistakes that have cost the team, including yesterday's rotten giveaway to Dennis Wideman with a second to go in the first period that ended up in the Habs' net for a backbreaking, game-tying goal. In the game against the Kings on Saturday, Komisarek made a play that's become fairly typical of him this year. On the PK, he abandoned the man he was supposed to be covering in favour of double-teaming partner Andrei Markov's man. As a result, Komisarek's guy was wide open and tapped in an easy goal. Also this season, Komisarek's puck-handling has been fairly shaky. He's always relied heavily on Markov to start the play up the ice, but this year he often seems completely lost about what to do with the puck if he can't get it to his partner. His first pass is often intercepted, seemingly more often than it was in previous years.
Other general managers drool over Komisarek's physical package, and I'm sure many of them would have been willing to offer him five or six million a year in a long-term deal...at least before worrisome rumours about a looming drop in the salary cap began to emerge this season. Even so, there will probably be a team or two desperate for solid defence that will cough up the dough for Komisarek this summer. That's why I hope Bob Gainey signs the big guy before it comes to that.
Gainey won't win a bidding war for Komisarek's services because he knows what we know...that Komo isn't the equal of defencemen like Jay Bouwmeester or Zdeno Chara, or even Markov, who actually present a well-rounded game on the ice and, it can be argued, deserve the millions they get. I think Komisarek is important to the Canadiens' future, and he's got the intangibles to be captain material someday. But if he's to stick around, he'll have to consider some intangibles too.
Does he really like Montreal as much as he says he does? (Sorry, Mike, but your old buddy Souray fed us that line once before. Fool me once, and all that.) If he's telling the truth about that, I think he and Gainey can negotiate a fair deal, somewhere between 3.5 and 4.5 million dollars a year. He's certainly worth that, despite his shortcomings. I'd like to see a deal happen sooner rather than later, because the high bidders are circling and if he hits the open market, Komisarek will not only be overrated, he'll be overpaid for it. And it won't be in Montreal.