Okay, now that my anger at Mike Komisarek's lousy play in the second half of the past season has dissipated, I'm scared. I don't want him to walk away from the Canadiens for nothing. In fact, I don't want him to walk away at all.
I remember his draft, and how exciting it was to have the Habs pick in the top ten. It was great to see the team take a massive, physical defenceman with some skill because one had been needed for a such long while. I remember his first couple of up-and-down pro seasons when he bounced between Hamilton and Montreal. I rooted so hard for him to find his game and stick with the big team. Then his breakout season two years ago when he began to emerge as a force on the ice and a leader in the room. I've discovered you can't watch a prospect become a player that closely without becoming attached to him.
I know Komisarek doesn't bring everything you'd ideally want in a big, strong, top-pairing defenceman. He can hit, but he offers next to nothing offensively and fumbles the puck quite often. He blocks a ton of shots, but he's not a very good fighter. He's a respected leader among his teammates and loved in the community, but his style of play makes him susceptible to injury. Now we're looking at losing him. I don't like the thought of it for a lot of reasons; primarily because even though he's not perfect, the things he does provide aren't in great abundance on the team. Even if he doesn't have the best outlet pass, if he leaves, the team loses size, hitting and shot-blocking from the defence. And there's not a lineup of players out there who can do those things willingly and well either within the Habs' system or in the free-agent pool this summer. (Unless, of course, Ryan O'Byrne suddenly blossoms.)
Almost as important, it's so rare for the Canadiens to draft and develop a first-rounder as well as they have with Komisarek it's a good idea to hold onto them. There's that attachment of the fans to the player I mentioned already, but there's also a slight advantage in having a player who knows only the Montreal environment. There's a better chance he'll put up with the crap involved in playing for the Habs than a player who's got another NHL experience with which to compare it.
Of course, the problem is cost. I was dead-set on not giving Komisarek more than four million bucks a year on a four or five-year deal. I figured comparable players in the league make around that much, if not less. But now I concede Komo's intangibles...leadership, personality, tolerance for crap...make him more valuable to the Habs than does his skillset alone. For that reason, I wouldn't be entirely pissed if Gainey were to offer Komisarek a little more than four million. I'd give him a generous offer to show the team's goodwill. Then, it's up to him.
I hope he wants to stay in Montreal. I think he'd leave a big hole if he left. And I hope he'd be willing to accept a deal that makes sense for both sides. If, however, he demands the moon and is willing to go to a loser team with lots of cap space to get it, I reserve the right to take back the nice things I've said about him. Because, if a guy the Habs have drafted, groomed and developed can't be bothered to stick around, that does not bode well for the organization's future.