Fun fact: Scott Gomez' shadow makes more money than the average Canadian.

In the end, the Montreal Canadiens did what they had to do with Scott Gomez.

It wasn’t pretty, and it’s not even exciting. Unfortunately, Habs’ general manager Marc Bergevin wanted to get Gomez’ $7.4M cap hit off the books in preparation for next season’s reduced salary cap. Scott Gomez is a walking fracture who had three stints on the injured reserve yesterday. A new term I heard during yesterday’s NFL games was “physically compromised”. It goes without saying that if the Habs have intentions on buying him out this season, letting him play with the abuse he suffered last season would be a mistake—if he gets hurt, he can no longer be bought out, and there’s only a short window where compliance buy-outs won’t count against the cap. Presumably, Bergevin has written off this year but wants the team to compete next season.

Still, it seems like the worst possible thing the Canadiens could do with the second best centreman on their hockey team. Montreal told Gomez to stay home yesterday, meaning they’ll eat all of the salary and cap hit this season while Gomez eats cheetos, thinking about his crimes. His only crime was being offered millions of dollars to play hockey by Glen Sather, and he won’t be able to do that anymore.

If you aren’t on board with what Gomez can bring to a hockey team now, well, it’s not useful to quote numbers at you from the dregs of the Internet stat book that haven’t made their way into mainstream hockey parlance. Gomez is a solid puck-possession centreman who can’t shoot. He makes up for his goal-scoring ineptitude by being a relatively good playmaker. Unfortunately, in the last two seasons, the Habs have shot just 4.7% and 6.6% at even strength with Gomez on the ice, far below NHL expectation. As a result, a player who put up 50 points in each of the three years at the start of his new contract (for a strong defensive centreman, 50 points is pretty good) saw his totals dwindle to 38, and, an awful low, 11, over the last two seasons, the 11 last season coming in a campaign when Gomez could play just 38 games.

The thing is, he’s still useful. He’s not $7.4M useful, but he’s useful to a team at $2M or $3M, or whatever they’re willing to pay him. Given that his salary is nearly $2M less than his salary cap hit this season, he’s useful for a team who wants to spend below the salary floor but still make it up to the $44M lower limit. There just isn’t the time, unfortunately, for teams to make wise player moves between now and season’s beginning.

It’s become part of the reality of the NHL, that players can be forced out of the game due to their contracts, and our perceptions of struggling players who make more become targeted. This happens in other sports as well: Alex Rodriguez’s struggles with the New York Yankees, particularly during the postseason, were well-documented. Hockey players are beginning again to making the ridiculous money for playing puck as other athletes do in their sports. A $7M mistake is worse than a $3M mistake.

Which is what could make the first compliance buy-out period pretty interesting. There’s no sense in the Edmonton Oilers releasing Shawn Horcoff, or the Calgary Flames releasing Jay Bouwmeester, or any team getting rid of a hockey player on the sole basis that he’s expensive. Usually, good hockey players are expensive because it costs a lot of money to get a good hockey player to play for your team. Sometimes, hockey players aren’t good enough that they can survive two coin flips going against them in consecutive years, and their offence takes a hit.

Guess who signed this guy's deal?

Meanwhile, this season could see Wade Redden playing up in the NHL for another year. Redden’s cap hit is still $6.5M over the next two seasons (yikes, somebody steal Glen Sather’s pen during this CBA period) and he’s been mucking about in the AHL, off the Rangers’ books. There’s no good value in having Redden on your NHL team, but there certainly is use in looking to acquire him if the Rangers were to eat a significant portion of his salary, and they very well might, lest they get stuck with the whole hit now that GMs can’t bury players in the minors anymore.

I’m not too sure just how useful Redden is at the NHL level at age 35. Presumably not an all-star anymore, but he was a plus-possession player in the three years between 2008 and 2010, when he was sent down to the Connecticut Whale to get off the Rangers’ salary cap page. At $6.5M, he’s a poor deal, but the Rangers can retain up to 50% of his salary in a transaction. Is he worth $3.75M? That’s only a little more what 36-year-old Sheldon Souray signed in Anaheim for three years this past summer after a good year in Dallas, coming off a season where he was stashed in the minors as the Edmonton Oilers for the same reason as Redden. It’s not that he couldn’t play anymore.

So you could make the argument that Redden is worth just as much as Souray, and perhaps Bouwmeester worth as much as Souray, if he had also just spent his time in the AHL. Unfortunately, players up with the big club face a lot more scrutiny. When Redden comes back to the NHL this season, presumably, because there’s only a slight chance he isn’t one of the top 180 defencemen in the world, it will be like a new beginning. When Souray came up, Don Cherry gleefully heralded him on national TV each week about the reclamation of the Elk Point, Alberta native who just shows you what you can do if you keep working at it at all levels, kids.

Back to Gomez, though. There’s no question to me that he could be a moderate second-line centre in this league, or a fairly good third-liner, if money was no object. The problem is that money is an object when it comes to Montreal. They had to buy him out at the end of the season, or trade him. Either way, he can’t play another game with the Habs and risk injury, even though, and I agree with Habs Eyes On The Prize, he’s the second best centreman on that team. The mere fact he can’t play because he’s paid too much is pretty funny. Minus the jokes about his goal totals (besides, who looks at only the numbers? Why can’t people just watch the games) and how he got paid x amount of dollars for each goal as a Hab, he’s useful. He’s not $7.4M useful, but there are teams who are short a centreman who could find use for the guy. It’s just sort of a shame they can’t. It’s not his fault he got signed to an awful, expensive contract, and then traded for an awful, expensive return. We could call him the Bobby Holik of the 2012 CBA.

Comments (17)

  1. Can you clarify what lies ahead for Gomez? He got bought out…can he be picked up by anyone now?

    • He wasn’t bought out, he was told to stay home. Basically, he’s getting paid to watch TV and read about himself on Backhand Shelf but is still property of the Canadiens. At least this is my understanding…

      • If I had read the linked story at the beginning of the article I wouldn’t need to ask a question, haha. He will sit out this year so he doesn’t get hurt so they can amnesty buy him out next year. I wonder if they will attempt to trade him to avoid the buyout entirely?

        • No one would want to take his cap hit, you’d never find anyone who would take him at that cost and the only other option is a trade involving some of the cap staying with Montreal. Since getting him off the cap is the goal, that makes no sense either. He’ll be scoring goals this year, when he’s sitting around playing NHL 2013.

  2. I was at a jays game one time and this guy sitting a couple seats down yelled at this one jays player ( i forget who) “You overpaid underachiever”. Probably because i heard it repeated several 100 times, but every time I see players like Gomez in Montreal I mentally yell “you over paid under achiever” in a old man voice.

  3. For a team that needs to get to the cap floor next season, Gomez wouldn’t be a bad option. His cap hit is about $7.3 million but his salary is ‘only’ $4.5 M. His buyout amount would be $3.015M, so MTL would have to bring back assets worth $1.485M or less for 2013 to make a trade the more favourable route. I don’t think that’s out of the question.

    • The cap floor really isn’t an issue anymore. A team might take him because they can but the taking team will have a lot more leverage in a deal.

  4. So, is he on the team’s roster? If they wind up suffering some injuries this season, will having a guy sitting at home on the couch cost them twice in that they don’t have the extra room on the bench?

    • You’re missing the point. They are willing to eat his salary for the year so he doesn’t get injured. If a player is injured and put on the IR, he cannot be bought out. Berg doesn’t want to take a chance that Gomez could sneeze awkwardly and throws his back out/get a concussion/injured and has to be put on the IR for 6 months, which would make him buyout ineligible.

      • No, i get that. My question is whether a guy, sitting at home to keep him from getting injured, still counts as being on the roster? In essence, these two teams would have had one less player available to them during the season relative to other teams. It’s moot though since the league just announced buyouts to begin this season.

  5. “His only crime was being offered millions of dollars to play hockey by Glen Sather”

    Well that and the fact he doesn’t produce anywhere close to that value – but I guess you’re arguing that’s not up to him??

    • It sucks he isn’t producing, but, at the time, can you blame him for accepting the deal offered to him?

  6. I’m pretty sure David Desharnais disagrees that Gomez is the 2nd best center on the team. And as a fan of the Habs if you asked me who I would rather out there in a crucial situation on defense: Lars Eller or Scott Gomez – it wouldn’t even be close in favor of Eller. Gomez’ defensive game was pathetic over the past 2 years, and while injuries are surely to blame for some of that – I honestly can’t see a place for Gomez in that lineup given how terrible he was at the wings when they tried that. Gomez’ role had been reduced to a break out rush starter – with the most predictable turnover in the world pre-destined at the end of each one. I feel a little bad that he’s going to miss a full season, but that is the risk that comes along with being unable to earn your salary.

  7. I wouldn’t consider him innocent in the Sather deal. He negotiated it and knew what he was doing. He knew his own talent level. No one in there right mind says no to that deal, but the question is, can you live with yourself afterwards.
    I’m sure he has trouble looking at himself in the mirror somedays, but then he looks at his bank account, smiles, and says “thanks suckers!”
    I’m sure Sather started with a lowball as well, and they went back and forth for a while. He was negotiating with Drury at the same time and had Shanny and Lundquist still unsigned.

  8. I think it’s really kind of sad and unfair that Redden and Gomez are not able to play this year, because their teams want to buy them out at the end of the year. Gomez can’t even play with Alaska in the ECHL like he did during the lockout… I really think they should be able to sign an agreement saying “yes, we’re buying you out in the summer, now you can go play anywhere except the NHL.”

  9. I’m no Gomez-hater, but it seems to me you’re being awfully quick to exonorate Gomez for things that are, in fact, his fault.

    “Still, it seems like the worst possible thing the Canadiens could do with the second best centreman on their hockey team. Montreal told Gomez to stay home yesterday, meaning they’ll eat all of the salary and cap hit this season while Gomez eats cheetos, thinking about his crimes. His only crime was being offered millions of dollars to play hockey by Glen Sather, and he won’t be able to do that anymore.”

    One could argue that Gomez’ crime is getting a big contract, then changing the way he plays because it’s easier to be on the perimeter (which he is in Montreal) than it is to take the puck into traffic in the offensive zone (which he used to do on Jersey).

    “If you aren’t on board with what Gomez can bring to a hockey team now, well, it’s not useful to quote numbers at you from the dregs of the Internet stat book that haven’t made their way into mainstream hockey parlance. Gomez is a solid puck-possession centreman who can’t shoot. He makes up for his goal-scoring ineptitude by being a relatively good playmaker. He makes up for his goal-scoring ineptitude by being a relatively good playmaker. Unfortunately, in the last two seasons, the Habs have shot just 4.7% and 6.6% at even strength with Gomez on the ice, far below NHL expectation.”

    You’re seeing happenstance here, where you should be seeing causality. Gomez has good possession numbers because he’s great at getting through the neutral zone. The Habs have bad shooting percentages when Gomez is on the ice because he does nothing, -nothing-, to get the puck to scoring areas once he’s in the offensive zone.

    I don’t know if there are heatmaps of where shots come from when Gomez is on the ice, but my guess is just about all of them are weak wristers from bad angles at range.

    But you are right that the ghost of what Scott Gomez was is a useful player at a greatly reduced salary because he’s still awesome at breaking the puck out.

  10. So I don’t know a ton about the new CBA and how the cap works but, could a team offer sheet Subban to ram up Mtl’s salary to dangerous levels and then ask for Gomez with Montreal taking on 1/2 his salary burden? Gomez at $3.6 doesn’t seem too awful.

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