July first is a marked date in the NHL, where the frenzy is at its peak for the first time since the spring trade deadline. Sports radio and television stations have hours long specials, battling for scoops in hope to be the first one to break a signing or a trade. And since the arrival of the salary cap, combined with the loser point keeping the standings tight, trades are few and far between in the league and teams have very little chance to improve their situation so days like today are great for fans and media to see teams address the needs for the upcoming season.
This year was no different and two of the tops available free agents were Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov, both of whom played a key role in the Habs’ success this past season. It’s been a long saga for both pending UFA’s marked by the fact that there was an expansion draft and the Canadiens could only protect so many players, and they couldn’t agree to a contract prior to the deadline arriving. In both cases, the sticking issue doesn’t appear to be the dollar figure as much as the length of the contract. Markov wants two years, the Habs want one year. Radulov is rumoured to want 6-7 years, the Habs want a much shorter term.
Radulov going home
Some very interesting information came out all day long about the negotiation between the Canadiens and the 30 year-old right winger and fans were taken though a roller coaster of emotions following insiders (real and fake), waiting desperately for the news they’ve all been waiting for. So allow me to give you a recap of the day’s events, and some things that fans might have missed in one language or another.
- Radio commentator Martin McGuire is not one to invent things like others in the business. He said in the afternoon that Radulov and the Canadiens had reached a deal on a four year contract.
- A few reporters in Quebec, including François Gagnon, said earlier that the Habs had made a final offer to Radulov, a take it or leave it type of offer. They also mentioned four years.
- Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud), a russian journalist covering the KHL, tweeted that the contract signed by Radulov was a deal for the Habs as he was offered much more money and term in the KHL. He erases his tweet soon after but one of my followers, @AlexNyko, will be able to attest as he re-tweeted the post.
- Then Radulov posted a video on his Instagram account, where he is sitting on a plane, telling people that he is going home. Did he mean Russia? Montreal?
- We know that Radulov was vacationing in Italy and I don’t know if players still need to physically sign their contracts or if they can do it electronically like you do in the real estate business.
Like when trying to solve a crime, this is all circumstantial evidence until the team or one of the reputable insiders comes out with the DNA. Until then, it’s all speculation.
Markov in limbo
Insisting on a two year deal could spell the end of the longest serving Canadiens on the team. I don’t know why the 39 year-old Markov can’t do what Nicklas Lidstrom, Rob Blake, Joe Sakic and many other star players have done before him and go year to year. Is he really better than those Hall of Famers? But the Habs have loaded on defensemen today when acquiring Karl Alzner and Joe Morrow, and they had already acquired David Schlemko not long ago.
No matter what happens with Radulov and Markov, Marc Bergevin has yet to get his hands on a top-six centre, a big need on his team. While UFAs like Joe Thornton (SJS), Nick Bonino (NAS) and Martin Hanzal (DAL) have all signed new deals, Joe Sakic has yet to find a taker for Matt Duchene and if he wants him traded, time is the essence. Sakic has not done anything substantial to improve his team today, a team that finished in the basement of the NHL, and that can’t sit well in Colorado.
I have a theory (not a scoop), which I shared on Twitter: if Radulov signs an extension, Alex Galchenyuk very well could be sacrificed in a trade for a top-six centre. Will it be Duchene from Colorado? Maybe but the Avs are wanting a top end defenseman in return, something the Canadiens don’t really have. But Galchenyuk is a nice piece for them, one that the Habs might be dangling in front of them.
Then there’s the Edmonton Oilers who are trying to sign both Connor McDavid ($13 million?) and Leon Draisaitl ($9 million?) and this could force Peter Chiarelli to find a taker for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Could a trade involving Brendan Gallagher and some added incentive be enough to get the young centre? “The Nuge” is making $6 million per season while Gallagher’s cap hit is $3.75 million. Both contracts go until the end of the 2020-21 season. This would save the Oilers some cap space.
“Expect the unexpected“, said Marc Bergevin in a couple of occasions in the last week or so. But what are we expecting exactly?