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05-03-2006, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Blind Gardien
I think that when it comes down to projecting next year's lineup, we probably have to take a longer and more flexible view than we might be tempted to. There really are no guarantees about who will or won't be available as free agents, about which of our younger players will or won't be ready to step up, or even about how much money we're going to be allowed to budget on the payroll. So any look ahead we make at this point really has to be filled with conditions and considerations, and we can't just go out and throw every guy we don't like off the team.

That said, here's how I might look at next year's team, with some salary estimates and random commentary where warranted:

Guaranteed returning forwards (it takes A LOT to get a full guarantee):
- Koivu $4.75M
- Kovalev $4.5M
- Begin $627k
- Plekanec $450k
- Higgins (RFA-$1.1M)

Very Probably returning forwards:
- Ryder (RFA - $1.3M)
- Murray (RFA - $500k)
- Perezhogin (RFA - $800k) (there was a brief grumble about him getting more in Russia IIRC)
- Zednik $1.9M (hard to imagine we'd get anything in a trade, so he's probably got a chance to redeem himself next year)
- Bonk $2.394M (see Zednik)

Guys at risk (although you have to stay nice to them, because if we don't get any FAs and our kids end up not being ready, we may need some of them back):
- Ribeiro (RFA - $1.3M) (could be in the group above, IMO, he's on the borderline)
- Bulis (UFA - $1.5M)
- Sundstrom (UFA - see ya)
- Downey (UFA - $450k) (decent energy depth, but utterly replaceable from within if Lapierre or Ferland show they're ready in camp)

I'm not sure that any of our prospect forwards are ready to step in, perhaps Lapierre on the 4th line. It could be argued that guys like Kostitsyn, Chipchura, Latendresse might force themselves onto the team, or that they can't be hurt by another year of development in the AHL/junior. Either way, I enter my summer building my team under the assumption that none of them make it. If training camp changes that, well and good, but otherwise make no assumptions.

Bottom line, we're looking at $22.5M as our placeholder cap hit up front, with maybe up to $2.5M wiggle room if you're willing to bite the bullet and cut out Bulis and Ribeiro.

On D, it's a bit simpler, because I would like to think that everybody will be back (with the obvious exception of Todd Simpson):
- Rivet $2.470M
- Souray $2.242M
- Markov $1.75M
- Dandenault $1.725M
- Komisarek (RFA - $1M)
- Bouillon (UFA - $1M)
- Streit/Cote (500k)

Which on the bottom line is around $11M budgeted on D.

The goalies are really interesting, but lets suppose a worst-case where we keep Aebischer at his QO and are a bit generous with Huet up to $2M:
- Huet (UFA - $2M)
- Aebischer (RFA - $1.9M)

This means a default budget for next year could start at approximately $37.5M.

I'm not sure how much more than that the Habs will be willing to spend. If the cap goes up to $43-46M, it does suggest we'd have space for a marquee guy, and any savings we get by trimming other salaries (e.g. Bulis) could be added to this to fine-tune the roster with lesser signings. But generally speaking, I don't see a lot of room for maneuvering. We also have to be aware of next year too, when our defense will need attention. Markov, Souray, and Rivet will all be looking at free agency, and I'm going to suggest that the $6.5M we spend on them now will look a lot more like $11-12M by the end of next year. Of course, we could also project that the contracts to Zednik and Bonk might be off the board by then, shaving $2M from that deficit.

So I don't think we're looking at a really wide open summer of change. I'd expect a very similar roster next season, and a continuing process of watching the younger guys step up while saving our big-time UFA expenditures for some "put us over the top" types of signings with whatever cap room we have left by 2008-09.
Great Job. Shows that a lot will depend on the budget Gainey is given

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