Getting a jump on the free agent market, the Montreal Canadiens moved to secure their centre ice position via trade, making a deal with the New York Rangers Tuesday and taking on a whole lot of salary in the process.
The Canadiens acquired centre Scott Gomez, winger Tom Pyatt and defenceman Mike Busto from the New York Rangers in exchange for winger Chris Higgins and defencemen Doug Janik, Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko.
Gomez, 29, is coming off a down season for the Rangers, finishing with 58 points, his lowest total since 2002-2003.
"We are extremely pleased to have acquired a player of the caliber of Scott Gomez. He is an outstanding playmaker and an excellent skater. Having won the Stanley Cup twice with the New Jersey Devils, he brings to our team a lot of playoff experience. Scott is an elite player who will certainly contribute to the success of our team for years to come" said Canadiens GM Bob Gainey.
A two-time Stanley Cup winner with the New Jersey Devils, Gomez was a blockbuster free agent signing for the Rangers in the summer of 2007. Gomez is signed through 2013-2014, at a salary cap hit of more than $7.35-million, so he represents a significant investment.
In 706 career games, Gomez has 148 goals, 430 assists and 578 points, adding 81 points in 114 career playoff games.
Higgins, a 26-year-old restricted free agent winger, also struggled in 2008-2009, scoring a career-low 23 points in 57 games as he missed a combined 25 games with hand and groin injuries.
Prior to last season, however, Higgins recorded three straight seasons of at least 20 goals and he'll be a more economical option for the Rangers as he earned $1.7-million last season.
McDonagh, 20, was Montreal's first-round pick in 2007 and recorded 16 points in 36 games as a 6-foot-1, 212-pound sophomore at the University of Wisconsin in 2008-2009.
Valentenko, 22, has good size at 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, but left the Canadiens' farm team in Hamilton early last season to play for Moscow Dynamo in the KHL, where he finished with one assist in eight games.
Janik, a 29-year-old journeyman acquired from Dallas last season, will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The minor leaguers coming to Montreal aren't considered elite prospects. A six-foot, 185-pound forward, Tom Pyatt is a 22-year-old who put up 37 points in 73 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL last season and was a fourth-round pick in 2005.
23-year-old Busto is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds and registered 11 points and a minus-7 rating in 54 games with Charlotte of the ECHL.