Monday, 27 October 2014

Is Brandon Prust overpaid?

Fans nowadays spend a lot of time going over player salaries, in the age of salary caps, when an overpay on a certain player hamstrings your team in another area.  In the old days, most of us didn't care really, it was the owner's money, we wanted management to spend our ticket revenue on retaining our players, and attracting new ones to help our team eventually win a championship.

The last few years have been difficult on Canadiens fans, as we ran out the clock on the contracts of Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Tomas Kaberle, Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik, most notably.  It was understood in 2010 that we had to purge these out of the system before we took another kick at the can.  The Bob Gainey gamble, his Virage Vitesse, was undone by Jeremy Jacobs and his band of thugs, with right-hand-man Colin Campbell helming the officiating for him  the League.

Now that we've come through this fallow period, our salary structure is actually sound.  The big money is going to the player who are actually the best players on the team, if not the league.  It's going to the proven veterans.  Useful contributors are wrapped up on decent deals, or are still chewing their way through their Entry-Level deals.

In this advantageous position, perfectionist fans are sometimes driven to nitpick, and zero in on Travis Moen and Brandon Prust as their targets for discontent.  

Travis Moen has two more years to his contract, at a touch under $2M a season, and it's not a great situation to be in.  Travis was signed in 2012, on June 30, when team depth was at its nadir.  We had finished that season with Mathieu Darche in the Top 6, playing powerplay minutes.  In that context, it's understandable that Travis got the security he was seeking, and that the team, undersized and undermanned as it was, couldn't pass up his services.  

It's only the recent concussions, which have made him hesitant to face up to other teams' tough guys, that have made this deal more problematic.  At the time, it seemed reasonable to sign him for that amount.  On July 1, we patted each other on the back, seeing the much larger contracts awarded to similar players around the league. 

We're often reminded how much Travis is respected, even loved by his teammates and coaches.  Michel Therrien has been benching younger players in his favour, using him on the powerplay.  Some surmise he's being showcased, but whatever the reason may be, we're far from a Tomas Kaberle situation with Travis.

Brandon Prust is another rugged forward who received a contract from the Canadiens during the summer of 2012.  He was one of the early UFA signees, the 'target' of Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien, who felt that his presence would play a large part in transforming the Canadiens.  He brought size, strength, and an ability to fight that eclipsed his more modest physical dimensions.  Marc Bergevin explained that he brought a whole lot of intangibles, in terms of what a great teammate he was, how his energy was contagious, how his fearlessness on the ice electrified a lineup.  He played 'the right way'.

They were so convinced of this that Michel Therrien and Director of Player Personnel Scott Mellanby visited him in person on July 1, at his house in London, on his doorstep with a lettered jersey in his name, as the clock struck twelve and the UFA festivities kicked off.  And they didn't show up with a linebacker number either, they gave him the '8'.  It was a significant sales pitch, and a smart one too, seeing as Brandon was known to be in a relationship with Québec media personality Mariepier Morin.  Her expression was priceless when she was interviewed and told the story of how Brandon called her about the offer.  It's obvious he didn't have much of a choice any longer, to remain in NYC or go anywhere else.

The contract also needs to be taken in the context of how much in demand Brandon was.  The Leafs and Canucks were just two other teams who were thought to be chasing him, among many, for exactly the same reasons the Habs did, his toughness and energy, while still being able to contribute at actually playing hockey.  

The Maple Leafs, famously, took another run at this type of player when they, disastrously, signed Dave Clarkson to his crazy contract.  

Rangers followers bemoan his loss, and long explained the team's many woes as due to his departure.

Seeing Brandon running all over the ice, his ability to play fourth-line and move up the roster, his bromances with the kids and P.K. among others, his obviously being a 'glue guy', who's 'good in the room', based on what we see watching games and 24CH, his courage in taking on all comers, it's hard to believe that he might be overpaid.  We'd be mean to mentally chisel away a half mill from his contract, given all he gives of himself.

No, when we look at it, in terms of what it takes to sign a frontline player, one who's in demand, on July 1, and when we look at how he's played, how he's contributed to the dressing room that's the "happiest, tightest" P.A. Parenteau claims he has ever been a part of, Brandon Prust is a scream of a deal, worth every penny.

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