So, what do you want to bet Chris Higgins won't be hitting the post on his first breakaway against Carey Price?
My head says I should give Bob Gainey a chance; that maybe the Higgins/Gomez trade doesn't stink as much as my first instinct says it does. But I just can't dismiss that first instinct. It makes no sense to me. At all. There are so many things to hate about the deal.
First of all, I think Higgins had just found his groove at the end of last season, and he was shaping up to be the kind of player who helps a team win big, shiny, silver trophies. His speed, his ability on the PK and his relentless forecheck made him a great third-line winger.
Then there's Ryan McDonagh. I loved the pick in the draft two years ago, and I had high hopes for him as a Hab. He's developing into a well-rounded defenceman who plays a different style from the other D prospects in the system, and will eventually be a very good NHL player. With Higgins, that makes two first-round picks gone in the Gomez deal.
There's the salary. Gomez' contract is horrible. He's a 7.357-million cap hit for the next five years when the cap is expected to drop next season. I know Gainey's got a lot of money to play with, but this trade means other players...players we like...won't fit under the cap now.
There's Gomez himself. He's getting paid a number-one centre's salary, but he's not a number-one centre. He's living off the results of one 33-goal season, but in the three years since, he's put up 13, 16 and 16 goals, with totals of 60, 70 and a whopping 58 points. He's also not a big guy. He's a little bit taller and heavier than Saku Koivu, and he puts up similar numbers for double the price. He's a player who chose to sign in New York, and who wanted to stay there. I think he's got little interest in giving his all for the Canadiens.
And finally, there's the awful timing of this trade. With free agency opening in a few hours, Gainey has helped Glen Sather out by giving him eight million in cap space so he can go shopping. At the same time, he's limiting his own options by doing this now. Mike Komisarek is still trying to decide whether he'll re-sign in Montreal, and Higgins' departure takes away one incentive for him to do that. Gainey could have waited to see how things go down today before making the deal, and then decided if he still wanted to go ahead with it, or instead found a better deal on the market. It reminds me too much of the Sergei Samsonov signing. Gainey brought Samsonov in as plan C on July 1, then ended up having no money to spend when the Sabres failed to sign JP Dumont a few days later.
Maybe somewhere, there's good in this trade. Maybe Gomez' presence will help attract a good UFA or two to Montreal. Despite his numbers, when you hear his name you think of a good player, and it's always fun to play with good players. Maybe Gainey means to send Higgins an offer sheet in New York and steal him back. But honestly, I'm having a really hard time finding the good here.
I think this is a really bad trade and I think the fans in Montreal will make Scott Gomez' life miserable when he puts up 60 points while making eight million bucks this year. If he's still a Hab three years from now, I'll be surprised. I won't be surprised, however, to see Chris Higgins' next hat trick scored against the visitors from Montreal. That's always the way it seems to go, isn't it?
Good luck Scott Gomez. You're going to need it. Bob Gainey, you wuz robbed.