Navigating the Salary Cap is probably one of the more important tasks for any general manager to have. Teams that can avert total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2018-19 season. This will focus more on those players who are integral parts of the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Cap Hit: $71,687,975 (under the $79.5MM Upper Limit)
It’s too early to tell if the Canadiens intend to thrust Kotkaniemi onto an NHL roster. Most people feel that the third-overall pick from this year’s draft still needs another year to get bigger and develop his skills, but Montreal is desperate for help at the center position and could consider the 18-year-old to make the leap. Regardless, whether he comes to the NHL now of in the near future, the team does have a franchise center they can look forward to placing into the top-six soon.
Mete had a turbulent rookie season after surprising many by making the team out of training camp. The 20-year-old was brought in to complement Weber due to his speed and puckhandling skills, but he struggled at times and eventually was moved out of the top four and was almost sent back to juniors. In the end, the youngster played 49 games, but with a year of experience under his belt, he is expected to take on a top-four role this season. Juulsen is another solid prospect who should get some time, although more likely in a third-pairing situation.
Scherbak could be the most interesting player. The 22-year-old was a point-a-game player with the Laval Rocket in the AHL, but when recalled to Montreal, he was immediately injured and wasn’t able to capitalize on his opportunity. Scherbak didn’t get the minutes once he returned, scoring four goals in 26 games. However, he might get a chance to gain a regular role this year if he can make a strong impression in camp this year.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
F Max Pacioretty ($4.5MM, UFA)
F Tomas Plekanec ($2.25MM, UFA)
F Joel Armia ($1.85MM, RFA)
F Paul Byron ($1.17MM, UFA)
D Jordie Benn ($1.1MM, UFA)
G Antti Niemi ($950K, UFA)
D Mike Reilly ($725K, RFA)
D Xavier Ouellet ($700K, RFA)
F Charles Hudon ($650K, UFA)
Much has been said about Pacioretty over the past few months and even in the past week, but as of now, it looks like the 29-year-old is going to end up back on the first line, barring a trade. The team captain is coming off a disappointing 17-goal season after five straight years of 30-goal campaigns (not including the strike-shortened season in 2012-13). The team will have to determine whether they believe last year’s season was a fluke or whether he’s beginning to decline. The team has already committed to several major contracts and adding another one could be detrimental to a team who should rebuild. If he can prove his value with a bounce back season, the team may look to lock him up.
The 35-year-old Plekanec returns after the team traded him away at the trade deadline. He lacks the offense from the old days, but Plekanec still provides an excellent presence as a bottom-six center who has the experience and solid face-off skills, although his six goals and 20 assists is a career low. Byron is coming off a pair of 20-goal seasons for the Canadiens, but is expected to miss part of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in April. However, the 29-year-old has to prove that he can continue his goal-scoring ways.
The team hopes to get a boost from Armia, who came over when the Canadiens took on Steve Mason’s contract from Winnipeg. The 25-year-old got a full season in with a loaded Jets roster and tallied 12 goals and 29 points. With a bigger role in Montreal, he could become a solid 20-goal scorer. The remainder of players will have to prove their value if they want to come back.
Two Years Remaining
The Canadiens gave up a quality player in Alex Galchenyuk in order to acquire Domi. The highly-touted winger has struggled in the NHL over the past couple of years and it probably isn’t a good sign that the Arizona Coyotes gave up on the 23-year-old already, suggesting they didn’t feel that he was going to contribute to their team this year. After a impressive rookie season in which he scored 18 goals and 52 points, he has failed to break double-digits in goals in each of the past two seasons since then. Regardless, Montreal is ready to hand him top-six minutes to prove his value and show that he’s better than Arizona thought he was.
Schlemko provides the team with another depth defenseman, but likely isn’t going to play top-four minutes for the team, while the team has high hopes that Deslauriers can duplicate a 10-goal season on the team’s energy line.
Three Years Remaining
While many players had down years, Gallagher was the bright spot for the Canadiens as the 26-year-old broke the 30-goal mark last season for the first time and has established himself as top right wing on the team. It was a big improvement from his injury-riddled 10-goal campaign the previous year. Suddenly, at $3.75MM over the next three years, his contract is likely the best value on the team. The team also gave Danault a solid three-year extension. The 25-year-old only had eight goals and 25 points, but would be a more ideal third-line center. Unfortunately, with a hole at the second-line center, Danault has been thrust into a role he wasn’t ready for. We’ll see if he can handle that same role this season.
The team is paying a lot of money for Petry, who is one of the team’s most experienced defenseman with the injury to Weber, and the veteran should be able to handle the No. 1 duties for the time being. The 30-year-old blueliner showed off some offensive skills last year, posting a career-high 12 goals and 42 points.
Four Or More Years Remaining
G Carey Price ($10.5MM through 2025-26)
D Shea Weber ($7.86MM through 2025-26)
F Jonathan Drouin ($5.5MM through 2022-23)
D Karl Alzner ($4.63MM through 2021-22)
F Andrew Shaw ($3.9MM through 2021-22)
The timing of Price’s poor season could have been better after the team extended the netminder last offseason. Now after a major drop off in performance after many felt he was the best goaltender in the world, the $10.5MM deal that kicks in this season, suddenly looks quite undesirable. After a season in which he posted a 2.23 GAA and a .923 save percentage in 62 games, Price struggled with injuries and struggled all year behind Montreal’s weakened blueline. He put up a 3.11 GAA and a .900 save percentage in 49 games. The question is which Price will come back this year? If he can bounce back and perform even close to his 2016-17 statistics, that contract wouldn’t look to be quite as bad.
Unfortunately, Weber’s contract is another story. The 33-year-old blueliner still has eight years left on his contract, only managed to play 26 games last season after he was forced to undergo surgery on a torn tendon in his foot and now is expected to miss a large chunk of the season with the possibility of returning in mid-December. While a dominant defenseman when healthy, one has to wonder whether a major foot injury may alter the impact that Weber makes for the rest of his career, considering his advancing age and the way that speed has taken the league over recently. Whether the team can keep him on the ice for another year or two, let alone eight, will be something to closely monitor.
The team has high expectations will be able to bounce back after his struggles to adapt to the center position. Drouin will continue to play there this season and with a full season of experience and a chance to train there in the preseason, Drouin should be much more comfortable, centering the team’s top line. The third-overall pick from the 2013 draft, Drouin has all the talent to make the adjustment and give the team a top-six center. However, his numbers took a hit with the change in positions as he managed just 13 goals and 46 points on the year. The team also has high expectations that Alzner, the team’s big free-agent signing a year ago, will bounce back as well. The veteran defenseman had trouble getting integrated with his new team as well as having to deal with the expectations that came with the contract he signed. However, with a year of experience, he should be able to settle into top-four role this season.
G Mason ($1.37MM through 2019-20)
Retained Salary Transactions
Still To Sign
Best Value: Gallagher
Worst Value: Weber
(Excluding entry-level contracts)
The team has all the contracts of a team trying to rebuild with youth. Unfortunately, it also has two contracts that are going to weigh down the franchise for eight more years, which is a long time, especially when some of the young players begin to develop and will need new contracts of their own. While the contract of Price might not seem as bad if the veteran goaltender can rebound, it’s likely that Weber’s deal will be a major albatross and it’s way too early to even consider trading that contract or buying it out. Regardless, the team needs to rebuild despite their strange salary cap situation. The addition of Kotkaniemi, regardless of when he arrives to the team, is a start to the rebuild, even if the team won’t acknowledge that’s what they’re doing.