There was a report yesterday, initially dismissed given the source (Sovietsky Sport, the same folks that made up a bunch of false items about Alex Kovalev and his feelings on then-coach Guy Carbonneau) but which has picked up considerable steam in the past 24 hours. I saw it on the Sportsnet ticker last night just before going to bed and now I see it has reached the TSN site as well. In sum:
- Saku Koivu will not be offered a new contract
- Alex Kovalev will be offered a new deal worth between $6M and $7.5M and be made the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens
- Mike Komisarek was offered a multi-year deal at $4M per season, which he declined in the hopes of getting $6M per season.
Each of these news items is very weighty for Habs fans to consider.
Saku Koivu has been captain for 9 years, longer than anybody except for the great Jean Beliveau. He has spent his entire career in Montreal. He is both beloved and underappreciated by the city and its fans. While his skills have diminished in recent years, his production remains high and the leadership he brings to the team is unquestionable. It would be a very strange sight to see the 2009-10 season begin and Saku Koivu wearing another team's jersey.
Alex Kovalev can be loved and hated all on the same shift. He is a wizard with the puck, nobody questions that, but that wizardry has its limits and Kovy often tries to do too much with the puck. When he is on his game, he is amazing and can bring people out of their seats. He was the toast of the town on All-Star Weekend, and was sat out for two games only three weeks later. The dollar figure sounds high (especially the upper end) but he has proven, during Saku's occasional absences due to injury, that he can lead this team.
Mike Komisarek is one of the most popular players on the team and has been considered by many to be a future captain. He is a strong part of the team's young and emerging core, with his crushing bodychecks, sound defensive play, and willingness to get in the way of shots. But he does have limitations--he has very little offensive upside (Josh Gorges scored more than Komi did this year!) and he never seemed to recover from the beating that Milan Lucic gave him last fall. He's a very good player, but $6M is great player salary and would mean he makes more than Andrei Markov. Who is more valuable to the team? With Markov out, the Habs lost their last 8 games. With Komisarek out in mid-season, the team still survived and many guys stepped up to fill the void. They may have to do so on a permanent basis next season.