A Telling Choice
MONTREAL—It’s a move that will have reverberations beyond one game.
The apparent decision of the Montreal Canadiens to sit out defenceman Mike Komisarek for tonight’s key tussle with the Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre could well have an impact on this summer’s free agent market.
Komisarek, 27, is unrestricted. Being a healthy scratch tonight suggests the 6-foot-4 stay-at-home blueliner has fallen far out of favour with Montreal GM/coach Bob Gainey less than two months after he was a starter in the NHL all-star game in this city.
At $1.9 million this season, Komisarek is due for a big pay hike. But after injuring his shoulder in a pointless fight with Boston’s Milan Lucic this season, Komisarek has been a shadow of the player that established himself as a team leader in the past two seasons.
The Habs already have some big decisions to make this summer with 10 unrestricted free agents, including captain Saku Koivu and veteran winger Alex Kovalev. On defence, the Canadiens are committed to Andrei Markov for two more years at $5.75 million, and two more years at $5.5 million for Roman Hamrlik.
How much is left for Komisarek was always an intriguing question, doubly so now that he’s in Gainey’s doghouse.
If he does get to free agency, he’ll be an intriguing unrestricted defenceman, not as hotly pursued as Florida’s Jay Bouwmeester, but intriguing to a variety of clubs, including the Leafs.
Right now, the Leafs are focusing on college free agents like Boston defenceman Kevin Gilroy, University of Denver forward Tyler Bozak and Notre Dame’s Christian Hanson.
Toronto hasn’t made a big splash in this market since signing Mike Johnson out of Bowling Green in March, 1997, but it’s a hotly competitive area rife with pitfalls with players who are usually older – Gilroy is 25 – standing out in competitive with much younger college opponents.
Meanwhile, Martin Gerber appears to be favourably impressing Leaf brass at least to the point he might have a chance to catch on as backup to Vesa Toskala next season if he’s willing to play for a bargain basement price, something in the neighborhood of the $700,000 Curtis Joseph is making this season. Joseph, by the way, will not be back with the Leafs next season despite playing some decent games of late.
Don’t be surprised, finally, if the Leafs take a run at re-signing Dominic Moore on July 1 after trading him to the Buffalo Sabres March 4 for a second round pick. If Moore is willing to consider playing at or around the $1.7 million salary the Leafs were offering before dealing him away, he could return for next season.