Martin Signed For 4 Years, Gillett's Ruse, And Lemaire As Plan B

There are a pair of interesting revelations in Le Journal de Montreal this morning, courtesy of Yvon Pedneault, tied to yesterday's signing of Jacques Martin as the new Canadiens coach. Based on Pedneault's whispers in print, we can gather that quite a lot is happening inside the Bell Centre walls these past few days.

As you surely heard, the names of former Canadiens coaches Jacques Lemaire and Mario Tremblay were being bandied about even prior to Martin setting foot inside the Habs press conference room. The intense speculation put forth live on RDS had Tremblay - heaven forbid it - coming on board as Martin's assistant, while Lemaire would be worked in on an advisory capacity role.

If you are thinking that this isn't the first time RDS froths at the mouth and rabidly jumps the gun, you've learned a lesson.

Pedneault notes in his article, rightfully, that the Canadiens are up to their ears in hockey advisors, especially now from adding a new coach fresh out of GM circles the past three seasons. Tremblay, is Lemaire's right hand man, should he be looking to coach once more, and is hardly Martin's choice this early into his decision process in sorting assistants. In essence, none of the speculation added up, and something was definitely lost in translation.

Of course, Pedneault no longer works for RDS. Could they be guilty of trying to scoop him?

Today, Pedneault tells at the end of his piece on Martin, that from whispers he has heard, the Lemaire and Tremblay duo, for all intents, was the organization's Plan B.

Interesting and scary, that!

Could it be that potential ownership - if that exits - had a say in which direction the team went in?

Much of the mounting ownership speculation should be sorted in the next two weeks - thankfully! You know the old "where there is smoke..." saying, well it is getting to be that one cannot see the real smoke, for all the speculative smoke.


Pedneault also dug up some details on new coach Martin's contract.

Martin's affairs are handled by Marcel Aubut - lawyer, agent, and former Nordiques owner - and Pedneault credits the coach's agent on a job well done. Contracts for coaches - new ones as well as extended ones - generally run three seasons, but apparently Aubut managed to negotiate a four year deal with the Canadiens, which just might be the first time that happens in Montreal.

That had me thinking some things.

Generally speaking, coaches salaries are chump change in the grander scheme of hockey operations, where player salaries dwarf all other expenses. It is less and less rare that teams have as many as three head coaches - one in place, two terminated - on their payroll. Such is the case in Ottawa, where fired bench bosses Craig Hartsburg and John Paddock are still being paid by the club, while current coach Cory Clouston has been re - upped.

NHL coaches are not unionized, in any way, shape or form. Their contracts represent their only protection. In some cases, coach's contracts are guaranteed beyond their firing and hiring by another club. For example - and this is total speculation on my part for this bit - Guy Carbonneau signs in Dallas, and with a guaranteed deal, is henceforth paid by both his current and his former employer.

An odd situation to be sure, but it was only recently that Jaromir Jagr, as a New York Ranger, was still having a portion of his contract paid by the Washington Capitals. Instances such as this for players, were outlawed by the current CBA when it came into effect, but Jagr's deal, signed and traded before this CBA was signed, remained an exception.

As there is no such protection for coaches covered by the CBA, the NHL has a stipulation in place that its clubs cannot demand compensation for when an employee seeks to move to another organization for reasons of job or career advancement. That is why the Canadiens were not required to compensate the Panthers for the hiring of Martin yesterday. Clubs either grant or deny another club the privelege or permission to talk salary terms with a contracted employee.

I'm not 100% on the ball on this, but these stipulations may have come into effect somewhere around the time that the Ottawa Senators attempted to block, disuade, and regulate their own terms of approval for when assistant GM Peter Chiarelli was courted by the Boston Bruins in May of 2006. In agreeing to part with Chiarelli conditionally, the Senators were attempting to dictate to Boston certain terms of his departure. The NHL stepped in quickly to sort the mess, informing Ottawa that it had no legal right to make demands on their employee's departure and employment with another club. Minutes into free agency, on July 1, 2006, Chiarelli nabbed Ottawa's prized UFA Zdeno Chara, as Ottawa screamed foul.

As coaches and hockey department employees salaries do not count against the cap, it often happens that they receive their renumeration until hired at a higher salary or position by another club. A coach can - and often will - take a lesser position and salary in a different organization in order to remain inside the game. On such occasions, the former employer may continue to pay out the difference in salary.

Still, it is curious that the Canadiens are paying out four seasons to Martin when the future ownership of the team is in question. Or make that, "said to be in question!"


There is a theory making the rounds that Habs owner George Gillett is not as intent on selling the Canadiens as is generally believed. Call it a rumour if you will, but the theory suggests that having as many as five consortiums outbidding one another to get their mits on the franchise, is the best solution for Gillett to factually have the team's net worth assessed on the open market with bids as proof pudding.

Crazy as that sounds, bids for the team could hit a $600 million dollar ceilling. With such an assessment in hand, Gillett could then tell banks leary of loaning him the cash to save his stake in Liverpool FC, that the investment is secure.

Nutty, and maddening as that seems, the theory might be given some weight by the fact that an organization, perceived as being in transition, has just placed a coach on their books for four years, in what I'd guess would have to be a guaranteed contract.

The appearance of hiring Martin at a particularly tempestuous moment in the Habs ownership transition may tend to play into Gillett's initial goal of simply having his "portfolio" assessed. With a coach of solid repute in place, the Canadiens appear much more organized going forward than it did days ago. That could very well translate into money in Gillett's pockets either way one looks at it. Waiting any longer to fill the position, may have brought some serious doubts concerning direction. Doubt in business, in a reccessionary financial climate, may have prompted this move and its timing.

The four year salary to Martin may also be his way of insuring himself in the event that his employment is terminated midway through the pact, if indeed a sale of the club does happen. As it can be assumed that Martin left of hefty chunk of cash on the table in Florida over the remaining three years left in his deal, the length of this deal covers his tail in that sense.

Martin has aligned himself with a crafty and sly negotiator in Aubut, and without sounding improper, the coach requires his services due to high alimony payments from an unfortunate and messy divorce settlement a few years back that hit him hard.

The Canadiens new coach said all the right things during yesterday's press conference, underlining on more than one occassion that the opportunity to work alongside men such as Bob Gainey was too alluring to pass up. In emphasizing that point, Martin may have lent clues to Gillett's truer intentions. As many know, Gainey is Gillett's man through and through, especially as the GM has the requisit stoic demeanor to mask whatever the owner is up to.

That all this seems to point to the Canadiens ownership picture becoming clearer quite soon can only be a good thing.

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