Transcribed from Bertrand Raymond's column
in today's Le Journal De Montreal
Pete Mahovlich is employed as a professional scout with the Atlanta Thrashers and he has taken in the last three Canadiens games, including last Sunday's accompanied by coach and GM Don Waddell.
When bringing up Atlanta, we are talking about Marian Hossa, plain and simple. He is the player most sought after as the trade deadline approaches if the Thrashers cannot manage to get his signature on the dotted line.
As a lark, I asked Mahovlich if he could bring Hossa to see when the Thrashers play here next.
"Why do you ask?", he said.
"Because we'd like to talk to him", I answered.
"So would we!", Mahovlich replied, half seriously.
Mahovlich plied his trade in a day when contract talks weren't at the heart of every discussion revolving around players. He's not, however, the type of person that envies today's professionals or complain that he was born too soon to profit from it.
Still, he finds today's contract demands a bit exaggerated. Atlanta has offered Hossa a multi year deal at above seven million dollars per season and he didn't flinch. Regardless of the next offer Hossa receives, inside he knows he'll be lured with more come July. The current system favors a player in h is situation.
Hossa wants to win a Stanley Cup. He doesn't see the day when the Thrashers can compete for it. If he's not traded before February 26, he'll choose his destination come summertime.
The Canadiens did everything imaginable to get Daniel Briere, offering him a little more than the 52 million he is being paid by the Flyers.
After proving that the Canadiens can make the big home run pitch, how would Bob Gainey react if Hossa were among the eligible free agents in July.
"At this time we know exactly what we have to spend and what we have to offer in a trade", Gainey says. "We also possess many good elements that are not yet with the team. On top of that, we have an owner who would approve 100% any decision that improves the team."
When the opportunity comes to make such a decision, Gainey insists on the fact that it has to be the right decision for the team, because the consequences, should it not be, are heavy.
"The right choice would make a big difference, but the wrong choice could spell disaster", he puts it.
Gainey, evidently, is not the sole decision maker in such a process.
In the case of an impact player such as Hossa, who's averaged 40 goals over the last 4 seasons, he'd need the green light from Goerge Gillett and Pierre Boivin because the financial implications would be considerable.
Boivin confirms that the team has the elements that allow the organization such flexibility when considering these kinds of moves. Thanks to a very credible scouting staff, he sees no know reason why the pipeline of young talent heading to Montreal in the coming years would suddenly run dry.
No two ways about it, Boivin affirms, the Canadiens will be in the hunt for such a player.
"We are actually one of the better positioned teams in the league now", he makes a point to say.
"A top rate player is all we are missing. We have the means and the depth for such transactions, and we also have a very attractive team for these players to consider when they look for teams where the future is bright."
And that, is the major element such players look for. These athletes all want to win.
Consequently, when the Canadiens were less hopeful, players looked away.
"We have total confidence in our hockey people", adds the president. "They benefit from the owner's support and mine."
Boivin understands fully that if the player is not aquired before the deadline, he can always be brought in during the summer months.
"We were among the finalists in the Shanahan and Briere sweepstakes over the last two summers. Sooner than not, we'll score one."
Can we expect Bob gainey to pull off a trade in the next 17 days?
Gainey hesitates some before answering.
"Today, I would say that it is unlikely that it happens. If got nothing brewing that could be called a major transaction. There are so many teams still in the playoff hunt who believe that they can win the Cup that few teams are willing to sacrifice important elements."
Gainey maintains that he's keeping his eyes open for all scenarios.
"Making a major trade isn't the only method to improving a team. Sometimes a minor change can have the same effect."
Would Gainey be hesitant to break up the chemistry of a team that is doing fairly well so far by puling the trigger on a big time deal?
Gainey tiptoes around the question.
"We've been patient to far", he points out. "We have established the direction in which we wanted to proceed. The coaching staff also have their ideas themselves. They know what they need and want and they let me know it. Put it this way, the communication between us is clear."
Now if you read between the lines, you get the sense that Gainey is in line with the thinking of those running the team at ice level as far as what the team requires.
He wouldn't hesitate to make the right deal should the opportunity present itself.