In his first meeting with the Montreal media in two months, Gainey said he hasn’t decided whether to swing a deal leading up to the NHL trade deadline Tuesday or stick with the current roster. “Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty and we’re not the only team in that situation,” Gainey said.
He said the club’s three games leading up to the deadline, including a game Thursday night against the Predators in Nashville, may decide whether he elects to deal.
He said injuries have made it tougher to establish what the team needs and whether a trade is needed.
“I don’t have a lot of time, but I’ll use what I have to analyse the situation,” he said. “I have to make a decision before 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday and I know I’ll be judged on what I do.”
It’s a tough market. Most teams, including Montreal, are already near the US$44-million salary cap, so money has to be considered in every deal.
And he said many teams in the Eastern Conference are waiting to see which club makes the first move.
With the Canadiens among a pack of teams still in playoff contention, he said it wasn’t clear yet whether he will be a buyer or seller at the deadline. Either way, Gainey said he will not give up his nucleus of young talent.
Most of the trade speculation has centred on the eight Canadiens who can become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, especially defenceman and team scoring leader Sheldon Souray.
True to form, the guarded Gainey would not say whether teams have expressed interest in Souray or any of his other players.
Other unrestricted free agents this summer are defencemen Craig Rivet, Andrei Markov and Janne Niinimaa, forwards Mike Johnson, Radek Bonk and Aaron Downey and goaltender David Aebischer.
Gainey said he tried to move Sergei Samsonov when the left-winger asked to be traded last month, after he was made a healthy scratch for three straight games.
In his contract, Samsonov has 10 teams he would accept to play for. Gainey contacted them all, but found no takers.
“That’s why we put Samsonov on waivers, to see if any (other) teams were interested,” he said.
Samsonov signed a two-year US$7.05-million contract with Montreal last summer but has been a bust in Montreal.
Gainey had not granted any media interviews since his daughter, Laura, was lost at sea in December, when she was swept off the tall ship she was working on by a giant wave. No questions were asked about Laura Gainey.