The Montreal Canadiens have avoided arbitration with Joel Armia, signing the restricted free agent to a one-year deal worth $1.85MM. Armia was scheduled for a hearing on July 25th, but will no longer need to travel to Toronto to negotiate with his new team. Armia was acquired earlier this offseason along with Steve Mason from the Winnipeg Jets, and will get an opportunity to prove himself with the Canadiens in 2018-19.
Armia, 25, was originally selected in the first round by the Buffalo Sabres in 2011 but only just finished his first season as a full-time player. In 79 games for the Jets last season he scored 29 points despite playing fewer than 13 minutes a night, and just ten of those were at even-strength. The big winger can contribute on the powerplay and penalty kill, and in Montreal could get an even bigger opportunity to show off his offensive skills. The Canadiens could be without both Paul Byron and Andrew Shaw to start the year, leaving ice time for other players like Armia to step into a brighter spotlight. A potential Max Pacioretty trade would only push the offensive burden even further down the lineup.
Whether Armia can handle an increased offensive role isn’t clear. Though he did perform well in Finland even as a junior-aged player in the highest league, he failed to post outstanding numbers in the minor leagues and has just 58 points in 180 NHL games. Luckily, Montreal isn’t paying him enough to demand huge offensive numbers, making a bottom-six role more than reasonable. There is obvious reward here if the 6’3″ forward can develop into a top-six option, but the risk is extremely minimal. Armia will also still be a restricted free agent at the end of the contract, keeping him under Montreal control for another year.