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Canadiens Watch: Re-signing Plekanec a must for GM Gainey

There should be a sense of urgency surrounding a lot of aspects of the Montreal Canadiens these days.

When will the team get its first home win? Can Marc-Andre Bergeron help a busted power play that’s 4-for-26 heading into tonight’s game versus the surprising Atlanta Thrashers? And while we’re on the topic of scoring goals, when are the Canadiens going to, you know, actually start scoring some in general?

Even with the need to address some pressing issues, there is still one big-picture item that must get sewn up soon. That would be the signing of Tomas Plekanec, who’s been Montreal’s best forward this season.

Plekanec was one of the few free agents who didn’t leave town last summer, inking a one-year deal to stay in Montreal. Of course, the center who turns 27 on Halloween was a restricted free agent last off-season, meaning the Habs could match any offer another team tendered him. Realistically, after the poor 2008-09 season Plekanec put forth, nobody was going to hand him the keys to the vault.

That might not be the case next summer, when Plekanec is an unrestricted free agent coming off what’s shaping up to be a quality campaign.

The Canadiens, who’ve already lost assets like Sheldon Souray, Mark Streit, Mike Komisarek and Alex Kovalev to free agency in recent off-seasons, can ill afford to have another quality player fly the coop.

Plekanec will never put up overwhelming numbers, but he’s a determined two-way player who rarely takes a night off and should be good for 60 points a season. Between two good wingers, he’s very capable of being a team’s No. 2 center. Two years ago, when the Habs posted the most points in the Eastern Conference, Plekanec between Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn was the most potent trio the team had.

What’s great about Plekanec is, even when he’s not producing, he’s still hustling, winning faceoffs and playing a sound defensive game.

Montreal GM Bob Gainey better reach out to him soon, because the closer he gets to free agency, the more tempted he’ll be to test the open market.

And if recent history is any indication, that means he’s as good as gone.

This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.

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