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Bartlett: Attention in Montreal now turns back to the ice

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John Bartlett
1/6/2013 6:09:37 PM
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The wait for hockey fans in Montreal is about to end, as the new era for the Canadiens can finally begin. And for the Habs, it has been more than just fans waiting; it's a whole new front office.
 
With the lockout over, attention in Montreal will now turn back to the ice as the Habs will aim for a playoff spot again in a shortened season with new faces and a familiar one behind the bench.
 
While the off-season moves by Marc Bergevin were key to the Habs adding some grit to their lineup, the work was not all done prior to the lockout starting. Priority number one for Bergevin will be the contract of P.K. Subban. The new general manager has not hid the fact that a new contract would be a prime concern at the end of the work stoppage, and with a short training camp and no time for a slip-up in the regular season, expect talks between the two parties to begin as soon as they are allowed.
 
Even with the change in the salary cap over the next two years, the Canadiens find themselves in a decent situation. With several core players locked up long-term and the ability to use the compliance buyouts at some point, either this summer or next, and depending on how the team wishes to use them, the Habs could open up as much as $11 million in cap space. With 23 players currently under contract at a cap hit of $63.9 million, there is still room to ink Subban and slide in under the allowed $70 million mark for this year. Then, come the off-season, Bergevin would be able to use the compliance buyouts to adjust roster and cap space if need be.
 
Newcomers Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong and Francis Bouillon are also excited to wear the red, white and blue. In fact several Habs players took to Twitter on Sunday. 
 
Brandon Prust ‏@BrandonPrust8 
Is anybody ready for some hockey? Man this is gonna be good 
 
Colby Armstrong ‏@armdog
A dream come true
 
Josh Gorges ‏@jgorges26
I just want to say thanks to all the fans who have supported us thru this and been waiting patiently... You guys are the best!!
 
Even Canadiens owner Geoff Molson added a simple note. 
 
Geoff Molson ‏@GMolsonCHC
On joue au hockey! Let's play hockey! #GHG! 
 
Michel Therrien will have a short camp to prepare his new squad but said during an interview with TSN 690 back in December that he and his staff would be ready to go for a camp as short as five days.
 
With a healthy lineup, there is no doubt that Therrien and his staff have had plenty of time to contemplate line combinations and bounce around some ideas.
 
Health might be one of the biggest additions for the Canadiens this year, who will start the season with Andrei Markov back on the blue line, after playing in Russia this year. Travis Moen returns healthy, as does Brian Gionta and Ryan White, all who missed significant time last season.
 
With a short camp and many decisions to be made, one of them may include deciding whether or not OHL Player of the Month and World Junior gold medalist Alex Galchenyuk is ready for NHL duty or not. But that is a discussion for another day, which has everyone excited because all the discussions are back to what's on the ice and not in the boardroom.
 
And finally, not only are fans in all 30 cities happy to be over with the business talk of the game and back with the game itself, so are several workers and business owners who have suffered through the 113 days of no NHL. From concession stand workers, ushers and employees in buildings across the league, to parking attendants, servers, bartenders, restaurant owners and sports stores, there is a collective sound of joy coming from all those folks today, and that might be the most joyous cheer of all to hear.
 
Welcome back NHL, we missed you old friend. Now drop the puck; its game time!
Michel Therrien (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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