Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Canadiens sign Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong and Francis Bouillon

The Canadiens added one of the most sought-after free agents today in Brandon Prust, a player whose name was bandied about when I read reports of what the Canucks or the Leafs were planning for free agency.  The team was able to count on the fact that Mr. Prust's girlfriend lives and works in Montréal, but still had to overpay to land him, giving him a four-year contract worth $10 million.

Which leads me to wonder how does a Travis Moen feel today, having decided to stay in Montréal and offering the team a hometown discount at $1.85 million, instead of testing the market?  Did his charity to the Canadiens end up in Mr. Prust's pocket?  Travis received money comparable to other sought-after fourth-liners like Adam Burish, but it's likely that he would have received more on the open-market, with the buzz his name was generating at the trade deadline and in the last few days.  In any case, Mr. Moen is not the kind of guy to malinger, I hope this doesn't sour his outlook on his own deal signed just yesterday.

Brandon Prust can earn his money in more than one way.  He'll bring toughness and character to the third or fourth line, he'll add to the team toughness concept that is preached by Marc Bergevin, and lighten the load that was carried at the end of the season only by Ryan White and Brad Staubitz.  He'll also be called on to kill penalties, and we can hope that he relieve some of the pressure on Tomas Plekanec, who was relied on to an excessive degree by the Martin-Cunneyworth tandem.  If Tomas is fresher, he may produce more offensively, and make his wingers more effective as well.

With Mr. Prust being only 28, he's a young veteran who should be hitting the peak of his athletic ability and the prime of his career.  Let's hope that he'll be productive for the entire four years he's under contract.

The Colby Armstrong signing to me is a gimme: one year at $1 million for a player coming off injury who has a lot to prove, has some size and skill and can finish a few chances.  He's a vast upgrade over Mathieu Darche, so I now understand and forgive Marc Bergevin for allowing him to walk.  Mr. Armstrong is a perfect placeholder to allow the Louis Leblancs, Aaron Palushajs, Blake Geoffrions, Brendan Gallaghers et al. to learn their craft in the AHL.  He's a legit NHL'er who doesn't ensnare the organization in an onerous contract, the Canadiens can walk away next July, or re-sign him or flip him at the deadline if he has a good season.  Another bonus for this fan is that somehow Mr. Armstrong never got on his radar as a cheap-shot artist, so he doesn't feel the revulsion some Canadiens fans do at the thought of adding this former Leaf.

Francis Bouillon doesn't quite fit the bill that we envisioned as an addition to the blueline.  We wanted a big tough defensively sound veteran who could eat up minutes on the third pair and maybe display a nasty streak every few weeks.  The main concern is the fact that he is now 36, and that while he's built like a fire hydrant and has always been tough, he's not necessarily a crease clearer and a basher.  He's always been underestimated, his entire career, and maybe that's what I'm doing now, but I would have been happier with Bryan Allen, who didn't break the bank and got a relatively reasonable 3 year deal at $3.5 million per from the Ducks.

Sheldon Souray may have been a pipe dream, but I thought the right-handed shooting defenceman would have been a great add, bringing offensive acumen, a great shot, and toughness around the net for the tedious scrums which occur after whistles due to refereeing ineptitude.  Having said that, Francis brings a familiarity with the team and the city, he's a local boy who's overjoyed to return, and I prize players who want to be here.

I was disappointed that P.A. Parenteau wasn't signed by the Canadiens, given that the contract he signed with the Avalanche wasn't out of whack, everything considered.  The four year $16 million contract he signed was the upper limit of what I would have been willing to give him, I thought he deserved Josh Gorges money, and maybe a little bit lower with the hometown discount.  In any case, the Canadiens didn't even make an offer.

The Canadiens still haven't improved their Top 6, which we seem to need since we struggled to score last season, and needed help on the powerplay.  Maybe the plan is, as rumoured, to hire mercenary Jaromir Jagr as a placeholder for a season and plunk him on the wing next to Tomas Plekanec.  This wouldn't be an easy fit, in that Brian Gionta is penciled in on the right wing, and Mr. Jagr is also a right winger.  Can either of these veterans switch sides and not lose too much effectiveness is a question that needs to be asked.

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