The Engels Angle: Yemelin's Signing Would Push Hamrlik to Free Agency
By Eric Engels
Published Wednesday, May 11, 2011 11:54AM EDT
MONTREAL - With news reported by Marc De Foy of Le Journal de Montreal that the Canadiens are close to signing Alexei Yemelin to a one-year contract, Roman Hamrlik's future with the team may be in question.
Hamrlik just completed a four-year contract with the Canadiens that paid him $5.5M/season. In three of four seasons with the club, he finished among the league's top-five shot-blockers.
The Canadiens relied on him rather heavily over the last two seasons marked by injuries to Andrei Markov, and they were rewarded with solid play from the veteran defender who only missed 16 games over his entire contract with the Canadiens.
But given that Hamrlik is 37, and that the Canadiens have intentions to bring Yemelin over, he's unlikely to be rewarded with another contract from the team.
Considering how crowded the Canadiens blue line is, it stands to reason that Hamrlik may find himself on the outskirts come July 1.
Even though the Czech defender has gone on record to suggest he'd take a significant pay-cut to stay in Montreal, it may not be enough incentive to bring him back.
Yemelin is known for his prowess as a physical, defensive defenceman.
He's a shot-blocker and a solid hitter, who can skate well and move the puck out of his own zone.
Yemelin also led the KHL in penalty minutes last season.
The Canadiens have been trying to convince him to leave Russia for the last three years, but Yemelin was perfectly content to stay in the KHL unless the Canadiens guaranteed him a spot in Montreal, unwilling to entertain the idea of starting with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
De Foy states that Yemelin will sign a contract with the Canadiens, within a week, once the World Championships of Hockey have ended.
P.K. Subban and Jaroslav Spacek are both under contract for one more season.
Yannick Weber will be a relatively inexpensive signing for the Canadiens, which would leave three starting positions open.
Pierre Gauthier has already gone on record to state that he will resume negotiations with Andrei Markov over the next couple of weeks.
It's believed they've already gone through a round, with Markov hoping for a secure commitment, and the Canadiens hoping to get him under contract for one or two seasons.
Either way, it seems he's a part of the plan moving forward.
Josh Gorges' status as a restricted free agent guarantees he'll be a part of the plans moving forward.
According to Gorges, his recovery from knee surgery has gone exactly according to plan.
He'd been playing with the injury for several years, and doctors have assured him that his knee will be stronger than it was before.
Chances are that he will be signed long-term by the Canadiens.
Another interesting thing Gorges told reporters before taking off for the summer was that he advanced to Canadiens management that Hal Gill must be brought back to maintain the synergy of the room, referring to Gill's on-ice services as indispensable.
With Markov, Gill, Gorges and Weber likely to remain with the Canadiens, that would leave Emelin in a battle with Weber and Spacek for regular duty in Montreal's lineup.
All things considered, a blue line that consists of all the names above would certainly be a much-improved edition to the one that helped the Canadiens through an injury-riddled season.
Parting ways with Hamrlik and Wisniewski may also free up some money to address the primary needs of the club, which remain at forward.