With the new NHL season only 40 days away, the excitement over the upcoming season is slowly starting to build.
I just finshed doing a live chat with my Hockeybuzz.com colleagues Eric Engels, Steven Hindle, and about 500 Canadiens fans, during which a few themes seemed to continually resurface.
Since the same few questions seem to be on everyone's minds, I thought I would take this opportunity to help answer some of these questions in blog-form for everyone to read.
So here goes!
As of the typing of these lines, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price remains the lone unsigned player on the team. The rumour mill is reporting that a possible two to three year deal averaging between $2.5 to 3 million a season is imminent.
While it remains to be seen when and for how much Carey Price will sign, let me assure you of one thing: he is not being traded.
So close your ears and stop listening to the rumours out there, because Price will sign—likely in the first week of September—and he is here to stay.
Reports surfaced a few days ago that Andrei Markov's rehabilitation from offseason knee surgery is progressing faster than expected. Originally projected to be on the shelf until November, it is now looking like he might actually be ready for the start of the season.
His agent, Don Meehan, said as much on the Team 990 yesterday afternoon and went so far as to say that if Markov was not ready for the start of the season he wouldn't return too long after that point.
This is great news for Habs fans who were dreading another Markov-less beginning to the regular season.
The other question mark with Markov is his contract status. Entering the final year of his five-year deal this October, Markov will undoubtedly become one of the most highly sought after UFA's in next summer's market.
That is if the Canadiens let him go to market.
I think that like Price, there is no way the Canadiens can afford to let Markov walk or to trade him.
While the trade route might seem appealing given the high value that Markov could fetch on the open market, he is simply far too valuable to the Canadiens to get rid of him.
Not only is Markov—as Eric Engels pointed out—the only constant to a top ranked powerplay over recent years—Sheldon Souray, Mark Streit, Marc-Andre Bergeron have all come and gone—but he has grown up in the Canadiens' system and has been a Hab his entire career.
While there is a slight concern about the series of injuries that have befallen him over the course of the last few years, he still remains one of the best puck-moving defenseman in the NHL and the Habs simply cannot do without him.
I can see Pierre Gauthier putting together another five-year deal with Markov for around $6.5 million per season and calling it a day. Keep in mind that the Canadiens have about $20 million dollars coming off of the books this offseason.
Overpriced? Yes. Completely useless? No.
Despite being hated by a huge swath of Montreal Canadiens fans, Hamrlik remains a good soldier on the back end. More importantly, his experience working with and shaping young defensemen like Dion Phaneuf will be invaluable to the Habs and young P.K. Subban this season.
Expect the two of them to be paired together again, and expect P.K. to lean heavily on the experience of Hamrlik.
While many would be happy to see Hamrlik traded for a dog and then see that dog shot, he simply will not be moved before training camp.
Entering into the final year of his $5.5 million per season contract, Hamrlik could be moved closer to the trade deadline, but that depends largely on how well—or poorly—the team is doing at that point.
Don't be surprised, however, is Roman simply plays out the final year of his contract before sailing into the sunset.
How good is he? Where does he fit on the team? How many points will he score?
All are good questions and before I answer them, let me start by saying that Eller will surprise a lot of people this season. Mark my word.
Right now, Eller seems destined for the third line center position. If that ends up playing out, that would give the Canadiens an interesting line of Max Lapierre, Lars Eller, and Travis Moen.
Speed, grit, and skill would be the make-up of that line and it could easily help Lapierre get back to the 15-goal range.
While Eller looks like a good fit for the third line center's position, he also provides a nice intangible of motivation to Benoit Pouliot and Andrei Kostitsyn.
Both Pouliot and Kostitsyn are playing for contracts and knowing that there is a big, skilled youngster nipping on their heels should help give them that extra boost they need.
If either of them falters, look for Eller to get a shot as a winger in the top-6.
How will Subban follow-up an excellent playoff run? By challenging for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
I am not saying that he will win it, mind you, but I think that he will definitely get a nomination.
P.K. will fit nicely on the right wing of Roman Hamrlik as the second defensive pairing and, as mentioned above, he should benefit for Hamrlik's experience.
Quite possibly playing on the first powerplay pairing with Markov, but more likely manning the second wave, Subban should see enough ice-time this year that he could crack the 40-point mark.
Well that's enough food for thought for now but tell me what you think. Do you agree with me? Disagree? Think I should stop hitting the crackpipe so hard?
I am going on vacation next Tuesday and won't be back until September 10th so you might not hear much from me between those dates.
If you have any other questions or want to know my thoughts on any other subject, feel free to email me or send me a Tweet and I'll do my best to put together another question/answer piece before I leave.
Enjoy the weekend all!