In the minds of some Montreal Canadiens fans, all they need to know about Robert Lang is he isn’t Mats Sundin.
Habs GM Bob Gainey confirmed trading for Lang (and his $4 million salary) ended any chance of Sundin joining Montreal this year. Gainey surrendered a second-rounder in 2010 (acquired from Toronto for Mikhail Grabovski) to Chicago for the 37-year-old Czech.
While nobody is going to mistake Lang for Sundin, he represents an upgrade over Bryan Smolinski as a third line center.
As serviceable as Smolinski was, he scored only eight goals in 64 games last season, making it an easy decision for Montreal not to re-sign him. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Lang has scored 20, 19 and 21 goals in the three post-lockout seasons. He’s an unrestricted free agent at year’s end, so Gainey isn’t making a big commitment.
With the addition of Alex Tanguay earlier in the summer, one of Sergei Kostitsyn or Chris Higgins is going to be bumped from the top two lines. It will be good for whomever ends up playing on the third line to skate with a center who still has some quality offensive skills.
Acquiring Lang does nothing to address the fact Montreal has lacked a big, skilled No. 1 center for decades, but he adds scoring depth to a team that’s relied heavily on the power play for the bulk of its goals for a couple of seasons now.
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