Yes, the Scott Gomez contract is an albatross, but it shouldn’t be used as the scapegoat. Working around a contract like that just forces a general manager to find value elsewhere throughout his lineup. Unfortunately, this is a skill that Pierre Gauthier and his predecessor have yet to show in any way, shape or form.
If you look around the league, other GMs have been able to sign players on the cheap and extract significant value out of them. Every team seems to have at least one guy on the roster that just makes you scratch your head and think “how in the world did they sign him for that?”
Take the Vancouver Canucks for example. After a 28 goal season in 2008/2009, Mike Gillis signed Alex Burrows to a four year deal worth $2 million a season. Burrows then rewarded his team with 35 and 28 goal seasons.
After a 26 goal season, Andrei Kostitsyn was given a three year deal worth $3.25 million a year. Comparable numbers, both homegrown players, but significantly different contracts.
Also in Vancouver, the Canucks had two guaranteed point per game players heading into the prime of their careers in the Sedin Twins. Mike Gillis recognised this and locked them long term for six million a year.
Thomas Plekanec, heading into the prime of his career, had never eclipsed the 70 point mark and was rewarded with five million a year.
In Washington, the Capitals were in search of a veteran winger capable of filling the net. They saw that Mike Knuble was coming off seasons of 24, 29, and 27 goals. They signed him for $2.8 million a season. He then rewarded them with 29 and 24 goals over the next two years.
At the same time, the Habs were also looking for a veteran capable of filling the net. Brian Gionta was coming off 25, 22 and 20 goal seasons for the Devils. The Habs signed him for five million a year and have been rewarded with 28 and 29 goal seasons. Virtually the same production for nearly double the price.
The Habs roster is littered with guys who are either overpaid or simply earning their money. No one outside their entry level deals is outproducing their contract and that’s the problem.
The salary cap world demands a GM capable of pulling off a steal. Be it through shrewd negotiations, better talent evaluation or voodoo magic, Pierre Gauthier simply has to find way.
At least voodoo can be learned.