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After a last place finish in the 2011-12 season, new GM Marc Bergevin has a lot of work cut out for him. Not only does he have to prepare for the upcoming draft but the club has to make decisions on the 28 players whose contracts expire on July 1st. This is the second article of our series discussing some of the pending unrestricted free agents.
The 2011-12 season saw bad starts for many players but pending free agent Travis Moen wasn't one of them. He was on pace to set career highs in all offensive categories until, like many others, the injury bug struck. What effect, if any, will that have on his value as we approach July 1st?
Inside the Numbers
Playing in just 48 games (the second lowest of his career) didn't negatively affect Moen's scoring numbers as he tallied the second most goals of his career with nine while equalling his 2010-11 point output in 31 fewer contests. He sat second among forwards in hits per game (Michael Blunden was first) while logging over two minutes per game shorthanded which also ranked second, this time behind Tomas Plekanec. His offence tailed off toward the end of the season though as he collected points in just four games after the month of November (a span of 23 contests).
Argument to keep him
Moen has brought some important elements to the table over the past three years. He is one of the few physical forwards the team has, he plays a quality defensive game, can play a scoring role in a pinch (he certainly is used to that), and has a knack for scoring some timely goals. At 29 years old, he's not at the age where he'll be playing one year at a time with retirement on his mind while still having the valuable playoff experience that every team covets (68 GP including a Cup championship with Anaheim). If Montreal gravitates towards playing a bit more of a pugilistic style, Moen can also hold his own against the NHL's middleweights.
Argument to let him go
With the Habs looking as if they'll once again be right up near the cap next season, can they afford to keep Moen around especially if he slots in as a 4th liner/PK specialist? Economically speaking, they may be better off letting Ryan White take on more of a physical role while plucking one of the cheaper defensive forwards out there to cover the penalty kill duties. Contract term could also be a deterrent. Three years ago as a first time UFA, there wasn't much hesitancy to give him a multi-year pact but should the Habs be willing to go three years again given his style of play and where his age would be at the end of the deal (33)?
Having paid close attention to the cap and player salaries since the lockout, I usually have a bit of a feel towards a general sense of what a players' market value may be. With Moen, I'm stumped. The free agent class is extremely thin particularly when it comes to players who have Moen's credentials. On the surface, statistically speaking, he should be due for a contract around what he was getting this season ($1.5 million). As we've seen for the past three years though, he brings a lot to the table that the stats don't show. We've seen in past years that teams will overpay significantly for the player who brings the right 'intangibles' to the table (Sami Pahlsson, Manny Malhotra, and Joel Ward come to mind). In that case, I wouldn't be surprised if a team paid well over what most would perceive to be his market value.
With the cap going up and the thin UFA class, Travis Moen is well set to cash in. As much as fans hope he'll sign for around the $1.5 million he made the past three seasons, it doesn't seem to be realistic. I don't think he'll get Ward money (4 years, $12 million) but a contract similar to that of Pahlsson (3 years, $7.95 million) isn't completely nuts in my opinion. I think his contract will ultimately come in a bit below that but that will still be an amount that Marc Bergevin will more than likely not want to match. As much as the Habs will want to keep him, I think he will price himself into another uniform for 2012-13.
- UFA Assessment: Mathieu Darche posted by B. La Rose