Free agency gives teams the opportunity to strengthen their squads and sign that missing piece or two that will help take the team to the next level. At the same time, free agency can also represent a place to see poor judgement exercised by teams overspending on players.
While they were far from the most active team in free agency, the Montreal Canadiens, lead by General Manager Marc Bergevin, have taken the right approach in this offseason’s free agency window by not falling into the trappings of overspending. With the latest and newest salary cap number all NHL teams are expected to abide by, being prudent with free agent signings is key.
The Canadiens made two moves so far in this free agency window. The first was trading for enforcer George Parros from the Florida Panthers and the other was signing Danny Briere.
The move to trade for Parros made sense as he is an enforcer type who will give the Canadiens additional grit and toughness to go along with a player who was signed during free agency last summer who brought the same qualities to the team in Brandon Prust.
The signing of Briere caught many off-guard as he clearly does not fit the tall, tough, gritty mold and he was signed to a two-year deal worth $8 million. Yet, it must be kept in mind that with right winger Michael Ryder departing via free agency to the New Jersey Devils, the need to fill the void at that position was a must.
While many will question why Bergevin signed a player who is 36 years old, hasn’t played a full season since the 2003-04 season and has seen his points per game average decline getting a contract that averages $4 million per season, it is only a two-year deal and therefore, it won’t hurt the Canadiens cap flexibility in the future.
And because of that reason, Bergevin should be given the benefit of the doubt by all Canadiens fans. Bergevin understands that overpaying for players, especially big bruising forwards, is not smart. Can anyone with a straight face say that David Clarkson is worth paying an average of $5.25 million over the next seven seasons or that Ryan Clowe is going to live up to a five-year contract that will pay him an average of $4.75 million per season?
These are the type of signings that in the long run do teams more harm than good. Also, in many ways, fans think when their teams talk about needing tall, big forwards that you need something like four or five of these players. In reality, you do not. Two or three of these players suffice. Already having Prust meant that Bergevin could be selective in who to add to occupy that role along with Prust.
Finally, the Canadiens also ensured that there will be players who address the issue of size within their own system and the best example of this is first round draft selection Michael McCarron. Therefore, the lack of depth of a big forward within the organization has been answered with the drafting of McCarron and several other players who promise to occupy that position in the future.
Many times, being active in free agency does not necessarily translate into a positive thing as teams can end up overpaying for players and hurting themselves in the future because of the length of contract. Marc Bergevin recognizes this and did well to sign and acquire players who fill a need and also will not hurt the team in the future. For that, the Canadiens are in a strong position for the upcoming 2013-14 season and for the future.