Is Pierre Gauthier's summer puzzle nearly done?

With the signing of Ryan White to a one-year, one-way contract with the Montreal Canadiens, Pierre Gauthier has just one restricted free agent left on the playing roster to negotiate with.

It's a no-brainer that Josh Gorges will be with the Habs 2011-12 season, but the final financial numbers are still to be determined. It's safe to say that in the event that an arbitration hearing does happen, the Habs should have the advantage. It would be a complete shock if the ruling went Gorges' way, given his injury history and the questioning of whether or not is knee is complete recovered for opening night.

White's signing is figured at $625,000 according to RDS's Renaud Lavoie, putting the club's salary somewhere around $56.5 million. That should leave over $7.5 million for Gauthier to absorb Gorges salary, have room to maneuver a bit to tweek the projected starting roster for the season, and possibly have some spending money at the trade deadline if needed.

How or when Gauthier does that remains to be seen. As of now, the Canadiens have 12 forwards, 6 defensemen (7 with Gorges) and two goalies who we should see on opening night in Toronto.

The Canadiens GM still has a pair of openings on the team's 23-man roster to work with. Many are speculating a lineup with eight defenseman, thus allowing Yannick Weber to be used as a forward when needed. It would aslo allow the old boys such as  Hal Gill and Jaroslav Spacek to catch a break from time to time.

Flip side of that coin is that it leaves only one true spare forward available to allow someone up front to rest. And given the Canadiens notorious flu bug issues, balancing the reserves might be the best option.

Last season, Jeff Halpern was picked up for a bargain basement price and paid off for the club. Can Gauthier dig out another surprise from the remaining free agent pool or will he rely on the non roster talent awaiting in Hamilton?

Another summer option for PG is that big blockbuster trade deal that has been rumored over the last decade. The latest rumor du jour is Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, who has replaced the last five summer's hopeful Vincent LeCavalier. The probability of the Habs landing Stamkos, without unloading a lot in the process, is more unlikely than Jaromir Jagr signing in Montreal. We all saw how that worked out.

Gauthier also has to fit players that work well under Jacques Martin and with the current leadership community on the team. The addition of Eric Cole covered those bases, and given the 2010-11 edition of the Canadiens nearly took out the eventual Stanley Cup champions in Round 1, it's safe to say there won;t be any more big splash announcements from the 7th floor of the Bell Centre soon.

 

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