Friday, 15 November 2013

Canadiens, Raphaël Diaz negotiating new contract

Gaston Therrien of RDS is reporting that the Canadiens management team is negotiating with Mr. Diaz and his agent on a new contract, and that the figure being batted around is $3M, but the term is not pinned down right now.  He and the panel agreed that he's a good player, but no more, and that this is a wise move if only to retain him as an asset to trade later.  As in, he'll be more marketable at the trade deadline with a contract rather than approaching his UFA status in July without.

I was expecting/hoping for more progress from him this season.  I've written before how his role as a puck-moving rightie defenceman was much more important this year with Tomas Kaberle and Yannick Weber gone, but he's not embraced the opportunity as well as I'd hoped, or produced enough to confirm the trust that was placed in him by management.  It's a long season, but if he maintains this trajectory, I don't see him maintaining his spot in the roster long-term when Magnus Nygren is adapting quite well to the North American game in Hamilton.  Mr. Nygren is younger, cheaper, bigger and tougher, and has a bigger shot from the blueline, something we're missing on the second wave of the powerplay.  Mr. Diaz' sneaky wristers from the point haven't caused enough damage to instill fear in opponents so far this season.

The result is that while extending his contract seems to be a sensible move, the David Desharnais situation makes me gun-shy.  Raphaël is another undersized player who has a short track record and is being signed with the expectation that he'll improve or at least maintain his production, in the league of Colin Campbell and Eric Gryba.  The David Desharnais contract also seemed reasonable at the time, the 'going-rate' so to speak, but now appears to be an anchor more than anything.  Similarly, the Josh Gorges deal which provoked immediate gulps of worry from Canadiens fans doesn't look any better since Pierre Gauthier negotiated it.  The $3.9M yearly cap hit is still too high, even with the cap rising, and the term feels, uh, interminable.

So I hope the Canadiens tread carefully on this one, and don't embark on another Josh Gorges contract, one which overvalues an incumbent because he fills a role on a team not due to his talent but rather due to the team's lack of other options.

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