The Myth Of The 10 Unrestricted Free Agents


Robert L Note: This is a translation of Mark - Antoine Godin's piece in Montreal's La Presse from today. The title is Godin's. The photo above is from Saku Koivu's wedding - the other extreme of free agency. A few of Godin's redundant passages were left out. Link to it above if you do Moliere.

For a certain time, commentators covering all things Canadiens, have put forth the opinion that the large number of 10 potential unrestricted free agents on the horizon is affecting the team's progression.

Is this truly the case?

It is true that during training camp, the yellow caution flag was already raised.

"There is always the risk that certain players act egotistically, letting individual concerns dictate their play", says forward Chris Higgins. "But it can also be a good thing, considering it could keep players hungry all season long."

At this stage of the season, what does coach Guy Carbonneau think about this?

"With the ups and downs that we have experienced so far, for sure it has had an impact. Those players want to be successful in order to get the best possible contract. But what I sensed when things weren't working well wasn't individualism, it was frustration."


In surveying the opinions in other organizations, it was asked around if large groups of potential free agents hampered collective thinking.

In 2006-07, for example, the Nashville Predators were thought to be a Cup contender. Forsberg, Kariya, Hartnell and Timonen all had current deals expiring.

"The team was pieced together for that particular year", recalled J.P. Dumont. "When you sense that you have the chance to go all the way, you're not thinking about next season. Because you can't predict what is going to happen."

"Were there any signs of disinterest among certain players who knew they would not return?", Dumont was asked. In hindsight, as good as they were, the Predators only managed to last five games into that year's playoffs.

"No, that wouldn't explain our elimination", say Dumont. "It was more a question of facing up to the Sharks mentally. Our team, it should be said, was very young."



Two years ago, both Daniel Briere and Chris Drury hd reached the end of their respective contracts with the Buffalo Sabres. Dainius Zubrus was acquired as rent - a - player on that season's team.

"We knew going forward, that this group would not be remaining intact, but we recognized there was an exceptional opportunity presented to us", Zubrus stated. "Personally, I was very hungry to win, having reached to Cup final my first season and not returning since."

Did Zubrus find that there was additional pressure to win it all at that moment, knowing the team would be broken up?

"What I felt more than any pressure, was excitement. However, I can understand that for players who had been there longer, there had to be a certain anxiety."


This season, among the 13 UFA's on the Anaheim Ducks, there are several role players.

"I haven't noticed that it changes anything either way", comments the currently injured Francois Beauchemin, who will also be unrestricted at season's end. "The players give it everything they have and don't talk about contracts. It has to be said that we have a great team spirit built in here, since winning the Cup in 2006."

Last season, it was the New York Rangers arriving at the end of a cycle. Coach Tom Renney watched all of Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, Martin Straka, and Sean Avery walk away.

It in, Renney observed similar notions: a desire to win over everything else.

"NHL players are supercompetitive", Renney adds. "I don't know a single player who doesn't want to be a good team mate."

While there might be a higher proportion of rose in Renney's glasses, it seems that the majority of players facing free agency are first concerned with rolling up their sleeves and putting the team first. Hopefully it is a trend that is maintained among Canadiens players.

Photos courtesy of Habs Inside Out

Top of comments section | Top of article | Homepage