The Montreal Canadiens had a disappointing end to their surprisingly strong season with a five-game elimination at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers, but in the end-of-season press conference, GM Bob Gainey said he was pleased with his club’s overall performance.
Gainey’s priorities this summer will be re-signing unrestricted free agent defenseman Mark Streit, whose 62-point breakout season will earn him a significant raise from the $600,000 he earned this year, and restricted free agent forward Andrei Kostitsyn, who could be a target for offer sheets from other NHL teams or even Russian clubs.
The GM will also have to figure out where goalie Jaroslav Halak fits into the club’s future. Halak’s agent said his client wants more playing time, but with Carey Price having established himself as the Canadiens starting goalie, that may not be possible and could result in Halak being traded by the June entry draft weekend.
Gainey also hopes to attract some help at forward in the off-season, such as a physical scorer willing to play aggressively around the opposition net, a trait sorely lacking in the series against the Flyers.
• Speculation Marian Hossa could become an unrestricted free agent this summer was bolstered by a report in the Boston Herald citing a Pittsburgh source claiming the Penguins won’t try very hard to re-sign him.
The Penguins acquired Hossa at the trade deadline to bolster their roster for a run at the Stanley Cup and while he’s paid strong dividends so far, it’s believed Penguins management will put more priority into retaining young stars Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal.
Reports out of Boston since the end of the regular season suggest Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli could make a serious push to sign Hossa. Chiarelli was assistant GM with the Ottawa Senators during Hossa’s final seasons with that club, plus Hossa’s friend and former Senators teammate Zdeno Chara is captain of the Bruins.
• Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis said he wouldn’t consider signing any of his former clients unless they could help his team, so a recent visit to Vancouver by former client Pavol Demitra created a fair amount of buzz, especially when it was revealed he was given a guided tour of the city by Canucks captain Markus Naslund, another former Gillis client.
Demitra is under contract with the Minnesota Wild until the end of June, after which he’ll become an unrestricted free agent. While Wild management isn’t expected to re-sign Demitra, they reportedly weren’t pleased with his little excursion to Vancouver and asked the league to look into the possibility of tampering.
The league apparently found nothing unusual in Demitra’s visit, but that won’t quell speculation that there may have been more to his trip than merely sightseeing, as well as casting doubt on the possibility of Naslund, who’s also eligible for UFA status, playing elsewhere next season.
• With Olaf Kolzig’s recent announcement that he won’t be returning to the Washington Capitals, re-signing goaltender Cristobal Huet has become the team’s top priority.
Huet is eligible for unrestricted free agency and stands to more than double the $2.75 million he earned this past season, either from the Capitals or another club if he tests the market.
The Washington Times recently reported Huet’s agent claimed he’d last had contract talks with the Capitals at the end of March, but expressed confidence talks would resume, while in recent interviews Huet expressed his intent to return to the Capitals.
As for Kolzig, retirement is a possibility, but his agent recently told the Washington Post he’s training for next season and hopes to sign with another team as a free agent this summer.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.