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Some people have been saying that the Habs should consider burning the team down and rebuilding. I believe it was Tony Marinaro who said it on TSN 690. Now Pat Hickey said it in the Montreal Gazette. I don't have an account there, so I'll respond here: I don't see the logic. Why would the Canadiens want a rebuild now when they're in a position to sell the farm and essentially guarantee a rebuild in five years or so?
When people talk about the rebuild as the way to the promised land, they point to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Los Angeles Kings. More and more, they now point (arguably prematurely) to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers — the teams that they find so much more exciting than their Canadiens in the immediate aftermath of a regular-season slump or a playoff elimination. All five of these teams missed the playoffs for years but then drafted great players. For three of them, the rest is history; pain now, Stanley Cups later.
Am I completely sold that missing the playoffs for a full decade is worth it in today's NHL, where you can really only be so good for so long? No, I'm not. But I get the point, and I'm willing to accept the premise. What I can't understand is why anyone would think a rebuild is an option right now.
The Canadiens already have a generational talent and a relatively strong supporting cast, and many of the main ingredients are on the older side. Coming out of the World Cup of Hockey, Carey Price was the unanimous best goalie in the world. He was also right up there with Sidney Crosby in the conversation for best player in the game. He's hearing less of both recently, but not that much less.
The Canadiens' star is 29 and up for contract, and he says he wants to stay. Shea Weber is 31 and under contract until about 2040. Max Pacioretty is 28. Brendan Gallagher is only 24, but as a small grinder he perhaps shouldn't expect a particularly long career. We all love Alexander Radulov and want to re-sign him, but we balk because he's 30. We shouldn't.
Habs GM Marc Bergevin should sign Price and Radulov to eight-year contracts. By signing them to the longest possible deals, Bergevin can pay them less per year, decreasing their cap hits and allowing the Canadiens to sign more good players to support them through the back end of their primes. Once Price, Weber, and Radulov are in serious decline, the GM can initiate a rebuild, selling the rest of the team for parts. No one will want the ugly Price, Weber, and Radulov contracts by then, but that's the point: The Habs will have to suffer through the second half of these contracts, but they'd have to suffer through the rebuild years in any case.
Now, maybe what the rebuilders want is a new look to the team. Maybe the problem is that they want to see 5-4 games instead of 2-1 games. Maybe they want our best player to be our first-line center and not our goaltender. But I'm sorry to tell them that we have the defensively minded Claude Julien on a big-money contract for five years. Luckily, those five years coincide nicely with the performance cliff we can expect Price, Weber, and Radulov to fall off.
So, to those who are eagerly anticipating a rebuild, don't despair. You'll get one soon enough.