Monday, November 16, 2009

Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Scotty G Has Got To Go!

I'll preface this by saying I don't believe Scott Gomez is a bad person. He's not a terrible hockey player either. On the contrary, he's an exceptionally good passer and has some nice speed through the neutral zone that allows him to carry the puck into the other team's end with great success. He's also pleasant to the media and patient with the fans, by most accounts. The biggest problem with Gomez is his price tag. His contract is killing the Habs.

If the Canadiens are going to improve as a team, they can't have Scott Gomez, making what he does, as the number-one centre. Many of us recognized that fact when Gainey traded for him last June. The guy had one career season in New Jersey and that morphed into the present ridiculous contract Glen Sather lavished upon him. Now that he's returned to his usual fifteen-goal seasons, the 7.357-million dollar cap hit he brings is too high for his on-ice contributions. With his eleven points in twenty games this year, he's being roundly out-performed by Tomas Plekanec, and even Glen Metropolit, at his own position. And that's with the best wingers on the team, a spot on the top PP unit and nearly 21 minutes of icetime a game. Gomez is a 4-million dollar a year player, at the most. If he were making that kind of money, Habs fans could have patience to wait for him to produce his usual 40+ assists. But since he's making the money he's worth, as well as that of another strong top-six forward, he's going to have to go.

The CBA ensures no contract can be renegotiated, so Gainey has four choices. He can try to trade Gomez, he can buy him out or he can waive him and hope someone claims him on re-entry waivers, or he can deep-six him and his contract down to Hamilton.

Option one: trade. If the rumours of last season had any credence, Gomez was on the block in New York for the better part of a year before Gainey bit on him. And the only reason Gainey did so was because he'd struck out on every other option he'd tried in his quest to attain a top centre. Unless another team with tons of cap space and in need of a .55 point-per-game smallish centre suddenly starts sniffing around Gomez' doghouse, I'd think a trade involving him (unless sweetened with a player with a small hit and of greater value to a team, like Gorges or Halak, or by the addition of draft picks which the team can't afford to give up) is extremely unlikely to happen.

Option two: buyout. This is economically not feasible for the Habs. There are four years remaining on Gomez' deal right now. The buyout rules say two-thirds of that salary counts against the Habs' cap, spread over double the remaining years on the contract. That means the Habs would be on the hook for 2.43 million bucks in each of the next eight years. With the cap projected to drop next year and no real clear picture of what will happen with it after that, that's way too much to pay for a player to NOT play for you.

Option three: waivers. Once again, finances come into play. If the Habs waive Gomez, it's unlikely any team would claim the salary without waiting for re-entry waivers. And if the Canadiens place Gomez on re-entry, he'd likely be claimed, but it would leave the Habs paying him 3.68-million dollars in each of the next four years while he's playing elsewhere. They can't afford to do that.

Option four: dumping Gomez to Hamilton for good. Since options two and three are completely financially impossible for the Canadiens, and if some kind of trade can't be arranged, this might be the only thing the Habs can do to rid themselves of Gomez. It's not something I can imagine Gainey doing, as it would be both an admission of a fairly massive mistake on his part, as well as a devastating blow to a proud, not unskilled player. Unfortunately, Gainey or whoever his successor will be, might have no choice. It would require the cooperation of the Molsons, who'd essentially be dumping nearly thirty million dollars on a minor-league player. That is, of course, unless Gomez refused to go to Hamilton and instead went to play in Europe, which is not an impossible hope.

But, looking at the other contracts to which the team is bound, and the players that will have to either be retained or replaced, there just isn't room for a luxury like Gomez. One of the Habs' biggest weaknesses with the current roster is a complete lack of secondary scoring. In order to address that, the team will have to retain Tomas Plekanec, who's playing himself into a raise. It will also have to acquire a couple of wingers to play with him, unless Andrei Kostitsyn finds his game. Gomez' removal from the roster would allow the GM to sign a decent centre to replace him as well as a supporting winger for Plekanec. If Kostitsyn doesn't wake up, he could be traded for another second-line winger. The only way any of this happens, however, is if Gomez' hit is removed from the team's cap. Keeping that salary while the cap goes down means Plekanec and possibly Metropolit and Mara, who've both been steady acquisitions, will be lost. That would make the team poorer in talent than it is now, and Gomez would continue to put up his fifteen goals while raking in the biggest payday in Habs history. Considering how craptacular the Habs look right now, it's hard to imagine what they'd be like with even less talent in the lineup.

There might be another way to bring in the pieces the Canadiens need to improve that I haven't thought about. But honestly, I don't see it. If Gainey's lucky enough to get rid of Laraque, the savings would only go towards raises for the goalies or Plekanec. The other big contracts: Cammalleri, Hamrlik and Gionta, are earning their money this year. Markov is worth more than he makes, AND will have to be extended during the Gomez contract period. Gomez makes the most and contributes the least of the highest-paid guys on the team, so it seems to me he's the logical choice to go if a salary dump is requried. It only remains to be seen whether management has the courage to do it for the good of the team.

13 comments:

Job said...

i would be amazed if anybody touched gomez's contract, sather must have danced a jig when gainey said we will take him. and hamrlik's 5.5 is no better, if anything when markov comes back we should try and dump that. face it we are stuck with gomez so we better make the most of it, although i fear is is going to be a long 5 years.

commentvatonclub said...

Maybe Gainey could hire a private like Steinbrenner and try to dig out some dirt on the poor (figurative) guy.

Now, if the dude's clean, we could arrange a fake dogfight ring in his backyard or some good ol'fashion child porn on his computer. That could be done, right?

(One more question, if a guy goes to prison, is it like he's being waive?)

In either case, he's got a buyout from fans this year. Next year, we're gonna see something far more worse than what Crackwood endured in his peak.

And I'm already giddy.

Andrew Berkshire said...

Gomez becomes more tradable later on in his contract, when he's not actually making as much as his cap hit. That's really the only option we can possibly have with him. There's no way Gainey or any GM of the Canadiens buries a guy in the prime of his career in the minors, it just won't happen. What we need to do is find a team that has a lot of cap space that's a few years away from competing where we can give Gomez up for perhaps a good prospect and send them a 1st round pick as a thank you. We're going to take a loss on it no matter what, but it can be done. The Islanders, Coyotes and Predators for instance, have a ton of cap space and could be convinced to take Gomez on if we sweeten the deal enough.

In fact with Phoenix we might be able to convince them to give us Jovanovski (way overpaid and an albatross contract on their roster) straight up for Gomez. Jovo wouldn't give us much cap relief, but his contract will be up sooner than Gomez' and let's face it, no center Phoenix has on the roster has been even close to working out.

DB said...

Gomez won't be tradeable until the end of next year unless some other GM drinks whatever Gainey drank last June. Gomez will then have 3 years and $17.5 M left on his contract. His cap hit over those 3 years will be just over $22 M. He would appeal to teams that want to meet the floor while actually spending less than the floor.

What else could the Habs do to free up cap space for next year?

1) Save $1 M by getting rid of Laraque and keeping Stewart. Trade him, waive him, give him a one-way ticket to Hamilton, or have Pamela Anderson adopt him and take him away to Tofuland. I don't care just get rid of him.

2) Save $1 M by not resigning Mara and keeping Carle. Carle is an RFA with little bargaining power so the Habs should be able to resign him for $600 K. Carle will be subject to waivers next year so the Habs could lose him if they tried to send him to Hamilton.

3) Save $.6 M by trading Gill and resigning Mara for the $1.6 M he's making this year.

4) Save $.5 M by carrying 22 players instead of 23.

5) Save $1.7 M to $2.9 M by replacing Spacek with either Subban or Weber. The savings are $2.9 M if Spacek is traded, buried in the AHL or agrees to go to the KHL. Buying out for a little under $1.3 M for 4 years reduces the savings to $1.7 M.

Total savings from above are $4.8 M to $6.0 M.

Dumping Hamrlik is another possiblity, but trying to trade his $5.5 M salary when a number of teams will have cap issues is a problem. Furthermore, he has decent size and is a good mentor to young defencemen.

Murray said...

JT, you are bang on about Gomez.

The Gomez trade may have been the single worst trade in Habs history.

Slowly but surely Bob Gainey is destroying the team that he played such an important role for as a player, but cannot match in management. I grew up watching the Habs and was a teenager throught he seventies, so know Gainey very well. Unfortunately even someone as revered as Bob cannot have the latitude to make a five year plan into a ten year plan, and we all know that is where we are headed.

We haven't iced such a mediocre team during my lifetime, one with no real first or second line. Guys like Latendresse and Kostitsyn should not be in the NHL, not with their complete lack of production, and although I loved Lapierre as he excelled last year, he is barely noticeable this year. If up and comers Pacioretty and D'Agostini are our future, then we really do have a ten year plan, as neither of these guys makes an impression on the ice, if they ever will.

You can forgive Bob for the porous state of our defense with Markov gone, along with several other defenders, but if he continues to play Bergeron ahead of Weber, Carle, Belle and Subban, then obviosly Bob sees little in our defensive talent pool as well.

Back to the heart of the problem. Scott Gomez is a decent hockey player. I've watched most of the Habs games this year and have seen speed and the occasional pretty pass, but also an inability to put the puck in the net other than in shootouts. Gomez would be a decent second line centre at about 50% of his cost, but as a first line centre, is simply a misfit.

How Gainey could relieve Sather of this obscenely overpaid contract is beyond comprehension - when a GM makes a critical gaffe, another GM is supposed to learn from it, not bail him out and transfer the gaffe to your own team.

How in the world can the Habs add any real talent, or even re-sign the little we have, with such a high proportion of the cap paid to one guy, let alone a guy destined for less than 50 points and maybe 10 or 12 goals. The Habs cannot score goals, and are completely handcuffed for years to come unless they can get Gomez to re-negotiate his own contract.

Sound crazy? If Gomez wants to win, then he needs help big time, and the only way to get it is to recognize that he is highly overpaid and is now the main cause of mediocrity on his team since he cannot produce anywhere near what his salary demands. If Gomez scored 25 goals and got 85 points, that would be worthy of $7MM. But it will not happen unless he plays alongside the likes of Ovechkin and Malkin.

These are not only sad but very frustrating times for Habs fans, and watching Gainey allow 10 players go for nothing this summer, then deal away our best skater and a first rounder for a second line centre taking up nearly four players salaries, is a bit much.

Bob, it is time to move on. You mean well, as does Gomez, but we cannot win with you guys around.

Signed a diehard and dying heart Habs fan.

pfhabs said...

JT:

-any of your options concerning Gomez is an admission of a massive error so do not expect it to happen under this regime

-it will be under the next regime that Gomez's fate will be determined and any of the cap reducing options are better than carring it at the full $7.37 pop...that assumes he continues at a 45-50 point season

-as Mike Brophy of Sportsnet calls him Scott is a great guy, skilled and speed to burn but he is only a second line centre making first line money

-his salary is only the beginning of peeling the onion on the Gomez trade...more agony to come on that one

-btw; would you prefer a second line centre at a cap hit of $3.25 and at a 0.53 pt/gm clip ? same points and a saving of over $4 million...he's a smallish Finn playing in Anaheim

Ted said...

JT - I'm no expert on the cap and therefore don't even know if it is possible, but perhaps the way to mitigate the impact of the contract is through an extension.

I know you're not fond of Scott Gomez but we are talking a way to make him more palatable with a contract there is no getting away from. If you extend his contract for another five years at say 2.5 million per year you would then perhaps reduce the effect of that hit over that period of time. The window on this idea will probably be short lived if it works at all.

Conversely, perhaps a loan to the KHL might be doable but in any event I believe the reality is nothing can or will happen until Andre Markov returns.

saskhab said...

For all Sather is derided for the Gomez/Drury contracts (and Drury's is much more out of whack, BTW), he still iced competitive teams around the players that made the playoffs every year, even competed for the division title.

Gomez also draws the toughest opposition as the teams really focus on our one loaded line... beat them, you beat the Habs. Plekanec benefits from going up against weaker opposition as a result, but he's also shown that he can't elevate his wingers in the process (mind you, it's only one other guy who we should realistically be expecting production from, but still).

Trading Gomez won't solve our secondary scoring woes. Nor is buying him out, or putting him in the minors a possibility. Gomez still counts against the cap during the offseason, so he'd still limit our ability to sign players.

It'd be an interesting test if Martin dropped Gomez from the loaded line and put Plekanec there, though.

J.T. said...

@Andrew: Unless there's a league-sanctioned buyout amnesty this summer, there are going to be a lot of teams who can't afford the contracts they're carrying. Dumping players to the minors, (precedent is McGillis in Jersey) or "loaning" them to the KHL will happen out of necessity.

@DB: Yes, those are certainly ways to save money. But the total you're saving is probably only enough to cover the raises for the players already on the team. Adding a significant goalscorer will cost more than that, and Gainey doesn't have it with Gomez on staff.

@Ted: Extending Gomez would certainly reduce the cap hit. It's an option, if he's agree to one of those "unspoken" deals in which he's signed until he's forty, but really intends to retire at 37.

@saskhab: I agree other teams spend their time shutting down the Cammalleri line. It's Cammy they go after, whether he's playing with Plekanec or Gomez. In any case, the mark of a true number-one centre, regardless of his size or his salary, is his ability to find a way to fight through tough checking and maintain some consistency. Gomez' performance to date just underlines the fact that he isn't the first-line centre the Habs need.

As for Plekanec not "elevating" his linemates? Come on, man! Do you honestly think Rip Van Latendresse and Maxim "Invisible Man" Lapierre can be "elevated"? Outside the realm of public adoration in Quebec, I don't think so. Kostitsyn's playing just as crappily with Gomez as he has with Plekanec, and Ryan White and Tom Pyatt as NHL second-liners? Not likely. I'd love to see Pleks centre Gionta and Cammalleri for five games, just to see what would happen. And who knows? Maybe Gomez can elevate Lapierre and Pyatt!

redbaron said...

JT:

If we can trade him -- or nearly anyone -- for more than he's worth to us, I'm all for it. But while we can all agree that he's overpaid, that fact is that he's not here to score goals -- he's here to collect assists, and so far he's second only to an excellent Plekanec in that regard. Should his numbers be even higher considering his linemates? Absolutely. But he's certainly not a millstone around our necks, like a good half dozen other players we could all name this year.

I gotta respectfully disagree too that "Gomez' removal from the roster would allow the GM to sign a decent centre to replace him as well as a supporting winger for Plekanec." The only UFA centres of note next summer are Marleau, Jokinen and Marc Savard, and there's no guarantee we can sign any of them even if we have the cap space, unless we offer them inflated UFA contracts that have fans on Gainey's back again. The winger pool is almost as shallow, and again, no guarantee we can (or should) land any of them. Unless we've got a replacement for Gomez that's better than he is, I say we stick with him for the time being.

DB said...

At the time of the Gomez trade I thought it was like someone paying well over asking price for a mediocre, foreclosed house that had been sitting on the Florida market for a year.

Now I think you have a better chance of winning 649 than the Habs do of trading Gomez. Not only is his contract an albatross, but he is on track for a career low 45 points.

I think the only options for Gomez are to dress him in a moose suit and hope Sarah Palin takes a shot at him or to have Laraque chase him out of town by convincing Laraque that Gomez hunts baby seals.

HoustonHab said...

Not that I have anything to offer in the way of a solution but Gomez in the single reason for the current state the Habs are in. I’ve said this since July 2 and I’m glad to see that people agree with me.

Gomez could have been a good 2nd line with his $8m price tag. Higgins, McD and the pick could have been a stud D-man.

Given the price tag and the down payment for Gomez why not spend the extra money for Vinny. At less the fans would be happy.

I don’t think Bob will be around for the draft as a result Gomez and his faith in Price to a lesser extent.

Andrew Berkshire said...

HoustonHab: If you think people are complaining about Gomez' salary, Lecavalier's contract is perhaps the worst in the entire league. We have Gomez for 5 years, Lecavalier would be ELEVEN years and at a higher salary. Lecavalier has already shown signs of his play going downhill the last two years, and he has persistent shoulder problems. His contract would absolutely destroy the Canadiens. Can you imagine a 40 year old Lecavalier who can probably only manage 30 or so points earning almost 8 million against the cap? I'll take Gomez every time.