As the wave of relief over the long term signing of PK Subban fades, and the countdown number to the 2014-15 season grows smaller, the franchise still doesn’t lack issues to be dealt with. Some more glaring than others, especially to the general public.
After the eight year contract extension for Subban was announced, many immediately piped up feeling that the Captaincy issue was also now solved, feeling that #76 should wear the “C”.
That got BBBR to posing the following question to our readers – What’s the next big Montréal controversy? Captaincy or the backing goalie situation.
Your responses were clear. It’s all about who plays behind Carey Price. We couldn’t agree more. The franchise went an entire season with no one wearing the Captains C before it was awarded to Brian Gionta in 2010. A delay announcing his replacement won’t stop the world from turning.
On the other hand, Cap space and contracts are at the forefront of the business of hockey, and there is one contract too many within the goaltending slot.
Peter Budaj has been nothing short of wonderful during his stint as back-up for Les Glorieux.
The 31 year old, 6’1″ 192lbs tender played in 24 regular season games last season. His numbers were more than fine (10W 8L 3OT – 2.51 GAA .909SV%) as he instilled confidence in the fan base that he was more than capable of giving Price the night off. People felt that he always gave the team the chance to earn two points on any given night he got the call. But more than that, as an “older” player in the league, he causes no fuss for the organization. He is happy being number two, and has no further expectations. A requirement that hasn’t always been met in Montréal backup net minders. And that brings a certain harmony to the team that you can’t put a dollar value on.
Dustin Tokarski has also proven himself to be an invaluable addition to the NHL segment of the Canadiens franchise. He had a more than acceptable regular season (2W 1L 1.84GAA .946SV% with 1SO), but really stepped up his game as he took to replacing the injured Price in the Eastern Conference Finals. Considering the skates he had to fill, and that he had never started an NHL playoff game before, he did everything expected and more.
Most fans were surprised that the coaching staff were handing such a huge responsibility to such a young inexperienced player. After all, he’s only 24 years old without having experienced the pressures of NHL playoff hockey. But he outshined expectations, and despite losing the series posted a 2W 3L record with 2.60GAA and a .916SV%.
There’s no doubt that this performance elevated how the Canadiens organization, MSM, and the fanbase view him. Many of the latter stated that he had clearly become the new #2 man to back up Price.
By let’s look at the contracts, player values, and other variables that come into play.
Certainly there’s a dollar value win by keeping Tokarski and trading away Budaj. The youngster has a contractual value of only $562.5K per year over the next two seasons before becoming an RFA. Budaj on the other hand sits at $1.4M for another year before becoming a UFA. Pretty substantial dollar difference.
Contractually, the Habs only have the veteran on the books for one more season giving them time to decide if he is worth re-signing for the 2016 campaign.
After last years stint with the big club, Tokarski can’t be sent back to the AHL Bulldogs without being placed on waivers, which based on his performance induced value add, I hardly see him clearing. That means that one way or the other, in order to see this situation through, a trade is imminent.
It seems rather unreasonable to think that the Habs can muster up a solid enough payback on Budaj to make it worth him being put on the block. Add in his experience and content in the position, he seems the logical choice to keep.
Tokarski on the other hand has increased his value, and is at a good young age to fetch a solid return that (if packaged) could add even more size the the team up front. It also doesn’t seem likely that a young rising star would be happy playing between 10-15 games a season behind Price.
At this point, it appears that Budaj is the better choice overall for the Habs. The decision won’t be an easy one, but if I was going to leave it in anyone’s hands, Marc Bergevin is a phenomenal choice.
Let us know what you think and weigh in below in the comment section.