Well, finally the Canadiens have decided to refrain from letting a pending free agent walk for nothing. The Streits and Sourays of the past could have brought so much value to the team if management had had the wherewithal to move them when their value was high. This time, though, the Habs were on the ball. They managed to hold onto a great asset, and at a relative bargain too. It's great to see a guy who really loves playing in Montreal have his loyalty rewarded with a nice contract and a little peace of mind, especially when he was only a week away from testing the market and possibly getting quite a bit more money elsewhere. Devotion like that is a rare thing, and I'm happy to see some people still have it. Thank God for Mathieu Darche!
Okay...I kid. Obviously, I'm delighted Tomas Plekanec decided to re-sign in Montreal. I like the money, which I think is a discount over what he would have received on the free-agent market. His consistent 20-plus goal scoring pace and his strong two-way play would have given him a lot of power on the auction block. It wouldn't have hurt, either, that he would have been the best centre outside Patrick Marleau to go on sale on July first. The term is good too. He's going to turn 34 in the last year of the deal, which isn't old.
I even like the no-trade clause. Some fans are getting worried about that, and ordinarily, I'd agree. I think Sam Pollock and his belief that no player should be exempt from getting traded were right. BUT, in Plekanec's case, I think the only thing he really wants is to feel appreciated. I think a big part of his poor season two years ago was due to hearing his name thrown out there in the aborted Lecavalier trade rumours. That, I think, hurt and distracted him. In his case, having the security of knowing he's wanted by the organization will help him perform better.
What I really like, though, is that he said all along he wanted to stay in Montreal, and it wasn't a lip-service kind of stance. He'd seriously thought about the consequences of leaving, versus staying, and back in April he explained what he wanted, and why.
"Every case is different," he said then. "But I have noticed a pattern. The way it usually goes is, a player will leave Montreal and they can't stop talking about how much easier it is, and how it's so much more relaxed where they are. They'll brag about how there are two or three media in the room and how you can go anywhere and no one knows who you are. But then, two or three years later, the reality sinks in. That's when they're like, 'Wow, Montreal was special, that's the place.' But by then it's too late. That stuff has always stayed with me."
Plekanec is one of the very few pending UFAs, along with Andrei Markov and Saku Koivu...maybe Alex Kovalev right after his trade from the Rangers...who could have done better elsewhere and chose Montreal instead. I believe him when he says Montreal is his second home and he loves the city and the fans, because he signed on the dotted line and proved it.
One thing I really liked today was hearing him say "All I've accomplished, I fully deserve." Of course, he does. He's worked very hard to improve himself as a player. It's only now, though, that he's overcome his natural tendency to put himself down and minimize his status. He's a good player, and he'll be better for finally being able to admit it.
People will say Pleks didn't pull his weight in the playoffs. I say he was assigned to shut down Ovechkin and Crosby, and how many goals did they score? He was playing with a nagging hip injury, yet he still played every PK and checked the best guys in the league. He's the first player on the ice at practice every day and shows the young guys what it takes to work your way up in the league. He's not lacking courage or effort.
There are other guys who score more, and some who play better shut-down defence. There are few who do both as well as Tomas Plekanec. The Habs got a good player with a good heart on a good deal today. We should be happy.
I hope he goes out and buys a hell of a lot of turtlenecks.