With loss, Habs must quickly get down to off-season business

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist makes one heck of a blocker save against the Montreal...

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist makes one heck of a blocker save against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference final last night, good enough to at least rank in the top five of these playoffs, says Mike Zeisberger. (Adam Hunger /USA Today Sports)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:03 AM ET

P.K. Subban. Thomas Vanek. Andrei Markov. Brian Gionta.

The Montreal Canadiens will have some key decisions to make in the upcoming off-season regarding these four players, among others.

Over to you, Marc Bergevin.

In trying to deal with the heartache of his Habs season-ending 1-0 defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers on Thursday, the Canadiens general manager will quickly have to turn his attention to the cache of off-season business that awaits him.

Priority No. 1 should be to get Subban, a restricted free agent, inked to a long-term deal, one that likely will be in the $8.5 million-$10 million US range. True, Subban was not as dominant in the Eastern Conference final as he was in the first two rounds, but the Habs would not have gotten this far without the young franchise blueliner. And don’t forget that he has only just turned 25.

The choice concerning Vanek, a pending unrestricted free agent, should be just as easy. Don’t bring him back. His disappearing act in the latter stages of the post-season should have set off warning signs in the Habs front office, particularly since he’ll likely command an asking price of more than $6 million on the open market.

Contract talks between Markov and the Habs were reportedly going well as of last month. Represented by former Maple Leaf Sergei Berezin, Markov, 37, looked as if he was running out of gas at times in the post-season. Having said that, the Canadiens were said to have offered a one-year, $6 million pact earlier this year, with a second season a possibility.

Gionta is 35. Yes, he’s the captain of hockey’s most storied franchise. But as he packs his bags for the summer, he must live with the fact that he did not score in the team’s final 16 games during a Stanley Cup run that came to a screeching halt Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

This much is certain: Gionta earned $5 million this past season. If the Habs want to keep him, it has to be for less cash than that.

Here is a look at the Habs free agents entering 2014-15, according to capgeek.com:

n Restricted: Subban, Lars Eller, Dale Weise, Ryan White.

n Unrestricted: Vanek, Gionta, George Parros, Markov, Francis Bouillon, Douglas Murray, Mike Weaver.

A TALE OF TWO GOALIES

Memo to Dustin Tokarski: Outstanding job, kid. If some of your teammates had the heart and the stones you showed in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers on Thursday, your team might still be playing hockey right now. Given the lack of urgency many of your fellow Habs exhibited in that game, they hung you out to dry. Hold your head up high, Dustin ... As for The King, if Henrik Lundqvist’s second-period acrobatic blocker stop off a deflected Vanek shot isn’t the best save of these playoffs, it ranks in the Top 5. Had he not dropped his stick to free his blocker, the puck goes in. Coach Alain Vigneault’s description of that highlight-reel stop: “Wow” ... And how about Lundqvist heading a puck away with less than two minutes left? Must be his Swedish soccer roots ... By the way, anyone still wondering how Lundqvist would rebound from being pulled midway through Game 5? Nah, didn’t think so.

CROSS CHECKS

It has to be said: Somewhere Gary Bettman must be smiling. After all, the Stanley Cup final will feature the biggest U.S. market (New York) against either the second (Los Angeles) or third (Chicago). Listen closely, and you can hear the sound of money ... When the Rangers last appeared in a Stanley Cup final back in 1994, Bill Clinton was the U.S. president, Jean Chretien was the Prime Minister of Canada and the Blue Jays were the defending World Series champions. Just wanted to put things into perspective, folks ... Oh, and Pat Burns was the coach of the Leafs while Patrick Roy was between the pipes for the Habs ... One final note on that: Avs budding star Nathan MacKinnon hadn’t been born yet ... The Rangers were 1-1 versus the Kings and 2-0 against the defending champion Blackhawks this season ... On May 29, 2013, John Tortorella was fired as the Rangers coach. On May 29, 2014, those same Rangers, with Vigneault behind the bench, punched their ticket to the final for the first time in 20 years. Discuss ... By the way, how do you think loyal Canucks fans are feeling about that Vigneault-for-Torts coaching swap right now? Ya, we know it wasn’t a 1-for-1 trade or anything. But you get the point.

LAST MINUTE OF PLAY

Almost 17 months ago, Dominic Moore’s wife, Katie, passed away from a rare liver cancer at the young age of 32.

Earlier this month, the mother of Martin St. Louis died unexpectedly at age 63.

In their grief, these two teammates have gained strength from each other.

“He’s been there for me and obviously now I’m there for him. The entire team is,” Moore told the Sun on May 17, the day a service was held for St. Louis’ mom France in Laval, Que.

Together, they are big reasons why the Rangers are going to the final.

In Game 4 against the Habs, St. Louis scored the overtime winner.

In Game 6, Moore scored the only goal.

Maybe now, their heavy hearts will be just a bit lighter.

And that’s a good thing.


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