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Roster Report

The Sports Xchange
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MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Erik Cole was the team's prized free agent signing and he bounced back from as slow start to lead the team with a career-high 35 goals. Jacques Martin was reluctant to use the 33-year-old Cole on the power play but Cole finished with 11 power-play goals to match his career best. Cole provided a role model for younger players by never taking a night off and he was part of the team's No. 1 line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty who were each playing their first full season in the NHL.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER
There were multiple candidates in this category. Scott Gomez, the highest-paid Canadien at $7.5 million, played only 38 games because of injuries but was on his way to another career-low season with two goals and nine assists. Rene Bourque had five goals and three assists 38 games with the Canadiens and was minus-17. Bourque was expected to provide the Canadiens with a more physical presence but came up short in that area.

FREE AGENT FOCUS
The Canadiens face decisions on three of their four unrestricted free agents. Mathieu Darche and Travis Moen are both solid two-way forwards and Darche will almost certainly get a new deal because he doesn't make a lot and he's a local favorite. Brad Staubitz raised the physical level of the team's play and will get a deal if the Canadiens feel they need a fighter. Defenseman Chris Campoli won't get an offer.

The new general manager will have to deal with 11 restricted free agents, including goaltender Carey Price and defenseman P.K. Subban. The Canadiens will try to lock up both players with longterm deals. The list of RFAs also includes Lars Eller, who blossomed as a shutdown center with an offensive upside and defenseman Alexei Emelin. The latter has a bit more bargaining power because he can go back to Russia but he has indicated that he wants to stay in North America.

Forwards Blake Geoffrion, Aaron Palushaj, Ryan White, Petteri Nokelainen and Michael Blunden and defensemen Raphael Diaz and Frederic St. Denis are also restricted free agents.

PLAYER NOTES

--RW Erik Cole, who grew up watching Canadiens' game in upstate New York, had a successful first season in Montreal with a career-high 35 goals and 60 points. There were some concerns when the Canadiens signed the 33-year-old to a four-year deal but nobody on the Montreal played with as much energy and determination as Cole. He seemed to get stronger as the season went on and he scored 18 of his 34 goals in the second half. He and defenseman Josh Gorges were the only Canadiens who played all 82 games.

--C Tomas Plekanec saw his numbers tail off slightly this season after leading the team in scoring in each of the past two seasons. But Plekanec, who scored in a 3-on-5 shorthanded situation in the season finale, was handicapped because he played with a revolving set of wingers. He started the season with Brian Gionta and Michael Cammalleri but they both struggled with injuries and Cammalleri was traded midway through the season. The result was that Plekanec was part of 16 different line combinations. He still managed to score 17 goals and 52 points -- down from 60 last season -- and was part of the penalty-killing unit which finished No. 2 in the league. He'll be reunited with a healthy Gionta in the fall but the Canadiens will have to find some size and muscle to complement them on the left side.

--LW Max Pacioretty appeared to be on the verge breakthrough last spring before he suffered a concussion and a broken vertebra when he was pushed into a stanchion by Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara. Pacioretty not only made a complete recovery but, at 23, he's looking to take his place among the elite players in the league. In his first full season in the NHL, he scored 33 goals and led the Canadiens in scoring with 65 points. In his first 124 games spread over three seasons, he scored only 20 goals.

MEDICAL WATCH

--G Carey Price is out for the rest of the season with a mild concussion and his condition will be monitored into the summer.

--D Yannick Weber suffered a left knee injury in the March 23 game against Ottawa and may require surgery.

--RW Brian Gionta tore his right biceps in the third period of the Dec. 10 game against St. Louis and underwent surgery. He missed the rest of the season but is expected to be at full strength by training camp.

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Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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