“Beam me up Scotty” is a popular Star Trek catch phrase which even the most sci-fi oblivious hockey fans have heard at one time or another. After three barren seasons by center Scott Gomez, the Montreal Canadiens are neither beaming, nor are they too high up on their pricey free agent bust. The enterprising decision to sign Gomez has teleported the Habs to where many teams have boldly gone before: salary cap wasteland.
Having netted only twenty-one goals in three seasons since his high profile signing, this is hardly the return on their investment Canadiens management envisioned when bringing Gomez to Montreal. To put this offensive underachievement into perspective, Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber each scored nineteen goals from the back line in 2011-2012. Now, if only Gomez can play the defensive position like either Karlsson or Weber, the Habs’ problem would be solved. Unfortunately, this is the NHL, not some Sci-Fi television show where fantasy becomes reality.
There is a tiny silver lining for the Canadiens encircling the dark cloud of this season’s labor stoppage. Just like the NHL season, the painful decision on Gomez’ future has been delayed…for now. For the team’s front office, the options are limited and grim. Trading Gomez appears to be out of the question, since no team would touch his astronomical salary with a ten foot hockey stick. During a time of economic uncertainty for the NHL, finding a taker for a high priced ineffective 32 year old center may be a bit of a stretch.
The Canadiens also have the choice to buy out Gomez’ two remaining years and send him packing. However, several months ago, new Habs General Manager Marc Bergevin stated he has no such plans. For now, the team is not willing to shell out the buy out cost of $6.67 million over the next four years. They seem content to take their chances with their expensive damaged goods.
Subsequently, the Habs are left with only one viable solution: using Gomez to start the season and see if he could recapture some of the magic he displayed in his twenties as a New Jersey Devil. This scenario is rather unlikely, since Gomez is coming off an injury plagued season and will no doubt be affected by the lack of competitive NHL play due to the lockout. For a player who primarily relies on his warp speed skating ability, the extended down time will not help his cause.
When the season finally begins, one can expect Gomez to be on the Montreal roster. If he continues his lackluster play, he will probably be sent down to the minors in order to give a young and hungry prospect the opportunity to get his skates sharpened. It would make little sense for a rebuilding team in dire need of offense to keep an unproductive veteran front liner on their roster.
For Hab fans, it is easier to believe in the existence of a human teleportation device than to believe a rusty Scott Gomez will rise from the ashes while on the fourth line with a middle of the road team. At this critical stage, it appears that not even resourceful chief engineer Scotty can save Scott Gomez from the eventual unceremonious ending to his less than illustrious tenure in La Belle Province.