Miller: Canadiens are built to win - this year

Gord Miller

11/13/2008 1:22:02 AM

This is a season to celebrate in Montreal and for good reason.

The Canadiens host the NHL All-Star Game, the NHL Entry Draft and have a team that just might be good enough to to compete for the Stanley Cup next spring.

None of this happened by accident. The Canadiens were building for years towards this, their 100th anniversary season.

But there is one problem - has anyone thought of the seasons beyond?

Next year, there are storm clouds gathering in Montreal. Ten players on the roster will become unrestricted free agents next summer, including forwards Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Alex Kovalev, Robert Lang and defenceman Mike Komisarek.

And that list doesn't include Christopher Higgins, Tomas Plekanec and Guillaume Latendresse, who will become restricted free agents looking for big raises.

The Canadiens are already a capped team now, so no matter what happens next summer they're going to have to make some tough decisions. And no matter who they decide to keep, they're going to have to let some important players go.

Of the players mentioned, seven of them account for Montreal's top eight scorers this season. So there are going to be some big holes left behind.

But in Montreal right now, they would rather talk about the present. And why not?

The Canadiens haven't won the Stanley Cup in 14 seasons - the longest drought in franchise history. And who knows - maybe next spring, Canadiens players will be sipping champagne from the silver trophy.

Whether they do or don't, there will be a major hangover for the team's 101st season.