They invest heavily in top end talent and then rely on the cap friendly kids/goons to round out the rest of the roster.
The Habs have a good set of kids (Higgins, Lats, Pleks, Perez, etc.) who are cap friendly and provide depth. What they lack, is true top end talent. If the money used on a lot of our depth like Samsonov, Ninnimaa, etc. added onto the money Kovalev and Koivu make, they could provide us with a superstar or two.
Every team needs to limit their expenses for role players and depth because there isn't the money with the cap to pay them. I realize this is football, but the Pats are the perfect example. They set limits on the cost of each position and if a player gets too expensive then they get rid of them (they didn't franchise Vinateri).
The Habs went in the right direction by trading Rivet who was overpaid in his position. They still have Bouillion, Dandenault, even Begin to a certain extent (1 mill for a fourth liner) who are overpaid for their role within the team. Players like bottom pair D and 4th liners should make 450K.
I really do believe that Gainey should've pulled the plug on the season at the deadline. Especially if he understood the sellers market mentality going on. Rivet should've only been the start. Souray, and one of Bonk/Johnson could've netted a good return.
All that being said, in no way should Gainey or Carbo be fired. We need to stick to the same management/coaching staff for the next 5 years IMO. I really do wonder if Gainey will retire, though. This year hasn't been remotely easy on him, and maybe the burnout that claimed Clarke will claim Bob as well. It would be very sad if that happened, but IMO, a very real possibility.
Players that I'd like to see moved? A lot of salary:
Obviously one of Sammy/Kovalev would be brilliant. Sammy might be easier (not damaged goods, only 1 year left, less money). But these are buyer beware deals, we may need to take an equal/similar salary in return. Not much of a cost saving mechanism. That must come from other areas.
Ryder - entering UFA year, let's pre-empt this one now. Considering signing him has been an issue the past 2 summers, and he isn't cutting it as a front line player, it's time to cut bait and get a good return
Bouillon/Dandenault - One of them. We can't be spending money on each of our 3rd pairing guys the way we are. I thought we shouldn't re-sign Bouillon last summer because of that reason, knowing we had a big UFA season coming this summer.
Bonk/Aebischer/Downey - as UFA's, let them walk. Bonk is the most difficult of the group by a long shot, but I think we need to start training Plex for the 3rd line centre role.
Johnson should be re-signed. Great versatility and we need to keep some veterans in the ranks.
Souray - if it's a 3 year deal or less, fine. Anything more is too much. More of a Redden type deal and less Chara/McCabe. I'm not sure what figure exactly, but it'll probably be in excess of $5m... could be close to $6m.
Markov/Komi - should be re-signed to identical term deals. Obviously Markov is the big ticket, but we need to pre-empt Komi's contract and get him locked down. This is our top D pairing and should be for the next 5 years or so. I'm thinking 5 years, $12.5m for Komi ($2.5m a season) and 5 years, $27.5m for Markov ($5.5m a year). If we had re-signed Markov earlier, I think we could've gotten him for closer to $5m a year. But the market keeps going up.
Goaltending - I am not sure what to do here. Aebi will be let go, might as well. Huet can't handle 55+ games and we may be damaging Halak big time with this stretch run and regression is definitely possible. Halak should be playing 60 games in the AHL... that's not going to happen with Price next year. If there's a big trade this offseason, Halak could be going the other way.
We need help for Huet in goal and help for Koivu down the middle. I wish Gainey had saw that Souray is too rich for this situation, unless miracle cuts can be made elsewhere.