May 25, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Montreal Canadiens right wing Brian Gionta (21) , New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) and defenseman Dan Girardi (5) watch as the puck hits the post in the third period during game four of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Letting Brian Gionta Walk Would Be Right Move By Montreal Canadiens


It appears the Montreal Canadiens will head into the free agent market tomorrow looking to replace their captain. Brian Gionta has been the captain of the Habs organization for the past four seasons, but his contract demands are too rich for the Canadiens to agree with.

Gionta was signed to a five year deal with the Canadiens in 2009, that paid him 5 million dollars per season. He twice scored 29 goals, and was a solid second line scoring winger for the first couple of seasons he played in Montreal. However, his offensive game is slowly slipping away from the 35 year old, and he wants a contract with similar term to Andrei Markov’s new deal.

Apr 20, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens left wing Rene Bourque (17) celebrates with center Lars Eller (81) and right wing Brian Gionta (21) after scoring a goal against Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period in the game three of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Markov, who is the same age as Gionta, signed a three year contract extension with the Habs that will pay him 5.75 million per season. So, though the Russian defenseman was willing to take a bit of a hometown discount on his salary, he took market value term, and the Canadiens captain now wants the same treatment.

The thing with Gionta is, he is still a valuable depth player, and helped the Canadiens penalty kill tremendously, but he is not a top goal scorer anymore, and the Canadiens can’t take the same long term risk with both players.

Markov and Gionta both looked to be slowing down as the season stretched into the Eastern Conference Final this season, and the Canadiens are already taking a big risk signing one of the 35 year olds to a three year deal, and don’t want to be caught with the oldest team in the league in a few years.

Gionta had a decent season, scoring 18 goals and 40 points in 81 games with the Habs this season, but struggled to provide offense in the postseason, even when his two linemates, Lars Eller and Rene Bourque filled the scoresheet on a seemingly nightly basis. Gionta scored in the first game of the playoffs, in round one against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but failed to find the back of the net in the next 16 straight games, finishing the playoffs with one goal and seven points.

May 25, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Montreal Canadiens right wing Brian Gionta (21) , New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) and defenseman Dan Girardi (5) watch as the puck hits the post in the third period during game four of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Brian is also one of the smallest players on one of the smallest teams in the league. There is no question that the Canadiens have put a premium on getting bigger in the future, and letting the 5’7″ winger leave, would be a step in the direction of becoming a bigger, more physical team.

Gionta was a great goal scorer in his day, and his willingness to take on a depth role and kill penalties was a major reason the Canadiens advanced as far as they did in the playoffs. If he were willing to come back on a one year deal, I would support it fully, but there is just too much risk in giving market value to Gionta, as some team looking for veteran leadership will offer a three year deal at close to, if not more than 4 million per season.

The Canadiens are already taking that risk with Markov, and can not afford to double down on two of their oldest players. Due to this, Gionta will be signing elsewhere as early as tomorrow afternoon, and the Montreal Canadiens will begin the process of selecting the next captain of the organization.

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  • mcpooookles

    gio was never a “great” goal scorer…he was a good goal scorer…can we stop over valuing our players….its really laughable. same with pleks…he’s a nice little player…nothing more…only in montreal can we turn the average into the best…

    • Kenny MacMillan

      His 48 goal season was pretty great

      • mcpooookles

        one season does not make a great goal scorer…after that one flukey season, he never even touched 30 again, let alone 40+

  • Matt Singerman

    Hey, I think Josh Gorges is a great fit to takeover the captaincy. Oh wait…