MONTREAL – Much has been made of the 10 current Canadiens players staring down the barrels of unrestricted free agency as of July 1. While their futures will be determined in the weeks and months ahead, a few of them already know where they belong.
After packing up their things for what will be an unexpected long summer, the Habs were at the Bell Sports Complex picking up the pieces of their disappointing season. Still stinging from their playoff loss to the Bruins, a few potential free agents made their feelings quite clear about where they would like to end up.
“I loved playing for the Canadiens,” said a still-ailing Alex Tanguay. “I’m a Quebecer. I’m close to my family, I like it here, I’m comfortable here and I feel at home. So the answer is yes, I’d like nothing more than to stay here in Montreal.”
“There is no other place in the NHL where fans are as active, loud and understand the game like here in Montreal,” continued Tanguay, who has clearly buried the hatchet from his days as a die-hard Nordiques fan. “I’d love to come back and give it another shot with the group we have here. Once you experience what it’s like to play here, you understand this is the ultimate hockey town. There’s nothing like it.”
Also acquired via trade by the Canadiens in the offseason, Robert Lang didn’t sound like a guy who was eager test the free agent waters, either.
“I really loved it and had a great time here this year. The people are great and the fans are fantastic,” agreed the 38-year-old, despite suffering a serious Achilles tendon injury that cost him the second half of the season. “I really want to come back. I don’t think the pressure here is a distraction; I actually like it and fed off the energy that exists in Montreal.”
Joining Lang and Tanguay on the list of potential unrestricted free agents are: Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Francis Bouillon, Tom Kostopoulos, Mathieu Schneider, Mike Komisarek, Patrice Brisebois, and Mathieu Dandenault.
On the bubble for much of the campaign and often a victim of the numbers game, Dandenault bounced back and had a strong finish to the season. The last player to leave the ice after Game 4 against the Bruins, Dandenault knows his days in Montreal could be over.
“I just wanted to cherish it for maybe the last time. For those on the outside, playing here might look tough, but it’s different once you live it,” he explained. “I knew the challenge that awaited me when I signed here in 2005. Is it worth all the extra stuff to play in Montreal? You bet it is. It was a dream come true to get to play for the Canadiens.”
Coming off one of the most difficult seasons of his career, Alex Kovalev should have every reason to seek another NHL address, but leaving the 514 area code doesn’t seem to be in the big Russian’s immediate plans.
“There’s no doubt that I’d love to remain a part of this team, a part of this city,” admitted Kovalev. “But it’s not only up to me.”
As a 36-year-old inching toward the twilight of his career, a guarantee of raising the Stanley Cup somewhere isn’t what will tip the scales as Kovy surveys his potential destinations.
“Sure any player can just go to a team they think is on the edge of winning the Cup, but where is the fun and the challenge in that?” asked Kovalev rhetorically. “To me it’s more interesting to be with a team that isn’t expected to win and does great things. It just means more and it’s more fun that way.”Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.comRead also:In control