Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Habs Rumour Update: No Konopka, but Gauthier at Work

Habs fans everywhere - this blog's author included - were disappointed to see Zenon Konopka sign a 1 year deal with the Ottawa Senators today, and that for just $700,000. Surely he'd have taken the same contract to play in Montreal, but reports indicate Pierre Gauthier never offered him a deal.

Still, your rumour roundup, per Renaud Lavoie, has PG hard at work to add size to his forward group (unclear whether it's through UFA or a trade). Reviewing this morning's Top 10 list of remaining UFA Habs might want, the names of Brad Winchester and Jason Arnott jump out as possibly interesting the Canadiens' GM.

Winchester would play a similar role to that of Konopka, as a 4th liner who can grind it out. They have a number of striking differences though. One of Konopka's strengths is in the face-off circle, an area where the Habs definitely need help, while Winchester is a winger. Though Konopka plays tough and drops the gloves with regularity, he is only 6'0", while Winchester has a much more imposing 6'5" frame. Lastly, Konopka's actual puck/hockey skills are limited, while even in a fourth line role, Winchester could chip in close to 10 goals over a full season.

Arnott, on the other hand, is not a physical or particularly tough player, but has a similar imposing frame to Winchester at 6'5". He is a centerman who is inconsistent in terms of face-offs, but could play fourth line minutes at even strength while screening goals on the powerplay. Doesn't seem like the best fit, but he does give you options. If Gauthier can find a team to take Scott Gomez's contract off Montreal's hands, having a battle for 2nd and 3rd lines between Arnott, Desharnais, and Eller wouldn't be the worst alternative for the coming season (though the biggest benefit is freeing the team of Gomez's salary).

But putting things in perspective, fans shouldn't be TOO disappointed over "losing" Konopka. He isn't much of a hockey player, and take a ton of penalties, something this team already does too much of. The team would rather add a more versatile player who they can trust on the ice in different situations. What's the use of having a guy to win face-offs if every time he does, he must be recalled immediately to the bench?

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