With the NHL Entry Draft behind them, the Montreal Canadiens now look towards the next date on the calendar, the July 1 free agent deadline.
Now that pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) Andrei Markov locked away for another few years, and the bulk of any other key restricted free agents (RFA) merely a formality, Pierre Gauthier finds himself pretty much in a decent situation leading up to Friday, unlike the situations he and predecessor Bob Gainey have found themselves in the past.
The Canadiens have just over $14 million in cap space to play with, and 16 spots filled on the current roster payroll. In terms of the remaining UFAs, four are on the blueline.
There is still a chance that Gauthier is looking to keep Roman Hamrlik on for another season, according to last week's report, and if so it would be for far less than the $5.5 million he was making.
James Wisniewski is coming off a career year, and was essentially brought on to fill the void of the injured Markov. It is most likely that he will test the free agent market, and could land in Detroit or..gasp..Boston.
In terms of forwards, Jeff Halpern is the lone UFA and was a valuable asset with the Habs last season. At a bargain basement cost of $600,000 Gauthier could still bring him back at a decent price.
This season's UFA crop is not an outstanding one, but The Fourth Period has broke down the top-30 eligible players on the market. The list ranks Wisniewski No. 5 and third in defensemen and Hamrlik 23.
Robert Rice, known to many as SeriousFan09 and one of the top Habs prospect bloggers, gives us his assessment of the Habs 2011 Draft Class.
Come Monday, KIrk Muller appears to be out of the Canadiens organization. First report had him going to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, but Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos has him pegged to go the Milwaukee Admirals. TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted Sunday that the latter of the two is correct.
Say what you want about the Habs scouting system, but they have the best record for picking eventual NHLers. Now whether they play in Montreal is another story.
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