Here’s Your Money Now Go Away: The Canadiens and Compliance Buyouts

by Gordiedougie

Why won’t Bergevin return my calls?

Gomez we know about. The Canadiens will still have another compliance buy-out to use after the season, and unless Kaberle or Bourque retire, they might be strong candidates to be paid to play hockey badly somewhere else.

Who should it be? While many may hope that Kaberle is given the golden handshake next, due to his propensity to go into anaphylaxis when asked to play his position competently, Bourque will actually be a much better player to expunge from the salary record. Unless, of course, he can show something (anything!) this season.

Having covered Kaberle’s contribution to the Canadiens here, let’s examine Bourque’s.

Rene Bourque: To Play or Not to Play, That is the Question

The Habs desperately need a big winger who can score and play on the 2nd line with Plekanec. Prior to last season, Bourque had scored 27 goals a season for two straight years. Bourque also stands at 6″2 and weighs over 200lbs. After East-Rivering Cammalleri last season, it looked like the Habs might have located a player who could do just that.

Wow, did that ever not happen. After arriving in Montreal, Bourque scored 5 goals in 38 games, and gave hope to all the casual fans in the city that they could one day fumble passes directed at them by Plekanec. All this despite playing the 6th most minutes per game for Habs forwards at 17:49/g.

This season, that 2nd line wing spot is still tantalizingly available, and those goals need scoring more than ever if the Canadiens are going to make the playoffs this year. If Bourque can play like last year was a horrible dream that he’s awaken from, then Kaberle’s as good as gone. Otherwise? Not so much.

Heres why:

Rene Bourque is signed until 2016. 

Think about that. Think about 4 more seasons of watching him make children cry and grown men curse with his lackadaisical play, and even if- even if!- Kaberle’s cap hit is nearly a million more than his, Bourque’s 3.33m/year salary lasts far longer than Kaberle’s.  The only players signed for longer than Bourque on the Habs today are Pacioretty, Gorges, and Price. Bourque, 31, doesn’t play with the grit or have the defensive awareness to play on the 3rd or 4th lines, and will essentially be a handicap on the team’s spending until 2016.

2016.  Four more years. That’s a long time.

It comes down to what the team thinks will be more valuable: Kaberle’s expiring 4.25m contract in 2013-2014 as a trade chip or Bourque’s contribution to the team as a 2nd-line scorer.

Whether or not Bourque can improve his play from last year, it may still be worthwhile to buy-out his contract since he’ll be 35 at its conclusion. Unless Bourque lights up the league during the shortened season and shows some hitherto unseen-at least in these parts- spring in his skateboot, Bergevin would be wise to keep and then attempt to trade Kaberle’s contract to a team facing a cap crunch next year. The cap drops next year, and it’s unclear what the cap will be the year after that since it’s tied to the new revenue split. It’s entirely conceivable that some teams could make use of an expiring $4.25 million contract. Buying-out Gomez and Bourque will still save the Canadiens approximately $10.5 million in cap space anyway. Do you know what any team does not want in a situation in which the salary cap can come down? Being tied into 4-years of a player who can’t contribute.

Buying out Kaberle would save the team less than a million dollars more, which wouldn’t be worth taking their chances with Bourque for 3 more years beyond Kaberle’s departure.


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