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#3 in my ongoing series of 5 questions with another blogger, Montral Canadians with the authur of Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. Again I must know the right questions to ask, because I always as a question, and by the time the blogger has a chance to respond, well the GM does something to answer it. (Question #4)

1) So as I can see, Montreal has 3 potential Free Agents that I think the Avs might have at least an inkling of interest in. Niinimaa, Souray, and Bonk. Which ones would you rather keep, and why? If you had to let one go who would you let go of first?
1) There's no question the Canadiens would love to retain Souray, but, his sudden explosion onto the scoresheet last season will make him a hot commodity, should he hit the open market.
We all know he scored the most goals since Al McInnis did it about a decade ago, and broke a franchise records for goals scored on the powerplay, but he also was a complete black hole in his own end.

He was relied on way way too much by Guy Carbonneau, and a few of his bonehead plays may have cost us a couple of wins.

Nevertheless, Souray's offensive production was his main weapon, and fans loved it when he would get the puck at the point, wind up and just BAM, smash it in there.

Soon after though, teams learned that the Habs' no.1 ranked powerplay in the NHL was all because of Sheldon Souray, and his booming 95-100 mph slapshot.
I'd love to retain him, but if reports that the Habs offered him $4,5 million per season are indeed true, sayanora Sheldon, no way he's going to make less than Andrei Markov (5,75 per season), and if anything, he'll make more.

Personally, I'd like to keep Bonk, he's a great 2-way forward and played perhaps some of the best defensive hockey of his career, of his life, last season under Guy Carbonneau.
Originally acquired to provided a ''sized'' offensive output as the team's checking line centre, Bonk did the complete opposite and played inspired 2-way hockey, even if the Canadiens originaly got him to perform score-wise.

Still, Bonk was a pleaseant surprise last year after a horrific first season with the Canadiens back in 2005-2006.

He's a great guy, gets along well with the players and he is by far Carbonneau's favourite player out there, Bonk made $2,5 million last season, and that money was given to him while he was back in Ottawa, in the pre-lockout years, when his role as a forward was clear: Crash the net, and score.
Now, not so much, Bonk still uses his size and puckhandling skills to his advantage, but he is definitely not the player he used to be with the Senators.

Janne Niinimaa is expendable.
I was actually jumping up and down when I heard the Habs got him for the princess that is Mike Ribeiro, but I was quickly silenced as he really just turned out to be a totally different player than his days with Philly, Edmonton and the Islanders.
He played well in the second half, and after Craig Rivet was dealt, he earned more playing time and even got some powerplay time, but, he only had 3 points to show for it.

There are also reports out there that he will return to Finland next season and play for Karpat, I'm not sure what his current status is, but, if he can get more money and start in Finland, rather than earn minimum wage and be a 7th defenceman in the NHL, he'll go back to his country, and that may be good for him too, as he just didn't seem to be in the game last year.

At $2,7 million, he was also the team's highest paid defenceman, and only second behind Patrice Brisebois as the NHL's most expensive depth defencemen.

To directly answer your question, definitely Radek Bonk and if God allows it, Sheldon Souray.
If I was Bob Gainey, I'd let go of both and go after a guy like Danny Briere or now, Alexei Yashin, rather than give them a ridiculous amount of money, only to see them (more specifically, Souray) underachieve.
2) On some of the Avs boards Souray has been called an overhyped product of Eastern/Montreal Media. The general thought is that he is excellent on the powerplay, but is a defensive liability the rest of the time. His team worst -28 rating (an overated stat to be sure) would tend to point to this. Is this a fair assessment?
2)Haha, these guys have obviously never watched Souray play.Souray, is not a no.1 defenceman, like the Habs treated him last year, he is at best an upper tier no.3-4 defenceman with a no.1 defenceman status on the powerplay.

Souray was not overhyped by the Montreal media, far from that actually, he was actually underhyped most of the time as the Quebecois media thought that guys like Sergei Samsonov, Alex Kovalev, Andrei Markov and especially, quebecers Guillaume Latendresse and Maxim Lapierre were more important than Souray.

The only time the media overhyped Souray was near the trade deadline and in the final games of the regular season, when they realized that good ol' Bob may not be able to retain him.

His -28 rating is also deceiving,

When the Habs lost Mathieu Dandenault, Francis Bouillon, Craig Rivet and even Andrei Markov to injuries, they had no choice but to rely on Souray to lead the way, and as a result, he was on the ice for most of the goals scored and most of them that were scored against, had he been treated like a n.3 defenceman, his +/- would certainly be a lot better, just because he'd have played less.

So, increased playing time during the Habs second half slump led to his terrifying +/- rating (and those of Saku Koivu and Michael Ryder).
Ryder and Koivu were also first liners for the entire season and received a lot of playing time as well, you have Guy Carbonneau to blame for Souray's -28 rating and playing these guys so much.
3) Souray is getting all the attention, but how good is Niinima. Niinima has a -13, but that is a deceiving statistic to be sure. His 3 points in only 41 games played is worrysome, but is he a good defensive defensiveman that was usually stuck against top opposition and with a crappy partner (like Souray)? Or was that partially his fault too?
3) Janne Niinimaa was a terrible defenceman for the Habs last year.
And no, he is no longer a solid defensive defenceman and seems to have lost all of his offensive instinct.

He is nervous with the puck and has trouble getting it out of his own end, he also took stupid holding and hooking penalties on more than one occasion, when he got a chance to play.
Niinimaa played with Sheldon Souray and Francis Bouillon, and that's all you need to know, both are not very good defencemen and Niinimaa's sloppy footwork didn't help his cause either.
He is also no longer the smooth Finnish skater of the pre-lockout era, he looks so uncomfortable skating backwards, it's actually kind of pathetic.

So in a word, no, you don't need Niinimaa and I don't think any other team in their right mind would want Niinimaa at this point.
4) I know you would love to get rid of Samsonov. What happened? Is he that bad an apple, or is it just a clash of styles (him and Guy Carbeneau). His salary is pretty daunting to a guy perceived to be a cancer, but the Avs could afford to take a chance with him. What would MTL want in return? Would it even be worth the Avs wild? (remember you're not trying to swindle me, I'm not making the decisions so be honest :) )
4) First off, you ask any other Habs fan, he will tell you straight out the Sergei Samsonov sucks.

At first look, yes, he sucked bad last year, but that wasn't completely his fault.
We thought we knew what Bob Gainey had given us with Samsonov: a goal scorer and the perfect Russian linemate for Alex Kovalev.

That turned out to be the complete opposite, Samsonov did not score goals, far from that, and had one of the longest goal-scoring drought of his career, one that surpassed the likes of 20-games and made Habs fans feel like it would never end.
He was officially scratched for good in mid-February, after a horrible performance against the Atlanta Thrashers, who blew the Habs away bad.

There's no question Gainey is doing everything he can to dump Sammy, and I'm even hearing that Chicago would be intereted.
I don't care who it is, as long as anyone takes him and if we do get anything back from him, I'm happy, otherwise, play him, he's getting paid a lot of money to sit in the press box, and I think he would be just A LITTLE INCY WINCY BIT more valuable on the ice than in his street clothes.

UPDATE: Gainey traded Samsonov to the 'Hawks, like I had said, and totally won out on another deal!
Adios Sammy, and it wouldn't surprise me if his production is much better in Michigan than it was up here (Jibblescribbits note: I am assuming he means Illinois.), especially with a better coach in Denis Savard.
5) What would you like to see MTL do. They don't seem to have a boatload of Free Agent money if they resign all their FA's, and this was a team that didn't make the playoffs last season. How are they going to accomplish that next season?
5) I'd like to see the Habs get a quality 1st-2nd line scorer with some size, but that'll be difficult to get, since it seems when it comes to size, the Habs either are hugely under average, or just can't find a way to bring any in.
Regardless of his size, Daniel Briere is the guy the Habs should target, and I'm not saying this like a Habs fan and I like him, I'm saying it since it's the truth.
Gainey said he'd aggressively pursue FA's, and if he can nail Briere, Gomez or even Bill Guerin, I'd be a happy duckling.
And no, if reports out of Montreal here are true (and what Bob Gainey quietly mentioned to the media), then don't expect the Habs to make any fatherly attemps to sign Mike Johnson, Radek Bonk and especially, Janne Niinimaa (gone) and David Aebsicher (gone for 2 months now).
Johnson and Bonk would be nice to retain, as I said above, but, there's only so much money Gainey wants to target to his UFA (Briere), and this may not leave much left for them two.
Barring any change in heart on Gainey's side, these guys, and their total 2007 salary of around $4.4 million combined will be tossed out the window, and that is really too bad.

I just hope the Canadiens don't pull another Samsonov, and bring in some talent, something Habs fans have been waiting for a long time, a really long time, and hopefully, something we've waited for even longer, our old buddy Stanley...

Thanks for this, I had fun writing this and I know it's a bit long!
So my analysis. Hmm $6-7M for a non-#1 Defensimen like Soray is a bit high, so I say the Avs pass on him. $2-3M on a quality 3rd line vetren center with a scoring touch, like Radek Bonk, could be a nice deal though. I would definantly keep him in my sights, if I were Giguere. He could be a tidy little bargain. Thanks BBR for answering the Questions about Les Habitents