Tuesday: Alzner has cleared waivers as expected, and is on his way to the minor leagues.
Monday: The Montreal Canadiens had to make a decision about their defense corps as they prepare to welcome captain Shea Weber back, but it wasn’t going to be easy. Today, they have placed Karl Alzner on waivers with the intent of sending him to the minor leagues. Alzner is not at practice with the Canadiens today, and will almost certainly clear waivers thanks to his hefty contract.
Alzner, 30, is less than two years removed from signing one of the largest contracts of the 2017 offseason, a five-year $23.125MM deal with the intent of him shoring up the Montreal blue line. The former Washington Capitals player was meant to be another physical, veteran presence alongside Weber and allow the team to develop their young defensemen slowly. Unfortunately, Alzner’s game took a quick and decisive downward turn and he started this season in head coach Claude Julien’s dog house. Scratched on opening night and several more since then, Alzner has played just eight games this season despite previously playing all 82 games (or 48 in the case of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season) in his previous eight years.
Suddenly, not only does Alzner look like he’s headed for the minors but his NHL career could potentially be over. With a $4.625MM cap hit he would have to substantially improve his play to be appealing to any team in the league, and with three more seasons still left on his contract after this year he’ll be 34 before he could be back up with a lower cost. That is, unless the Canadiens buy out his contract at the end of the year.
Unfortunately, that buyout option doesn’t look very appealing at the moment. While the Canadiens would get more than $3.5MM in cap savings for the 2019-20 season, that benefit wouldn’t last because of the structure of Alzner’s deal. In fact, in 2020-21 they’d still have to carry a $4.2MM cap hit because of his low base salary. That’s more than the $3.6MM cap hit he’ll cause by playing in the minor leagues. Alzner also has a seven team no-trade clause, if the Canadiens hope to move him somewhere else for some cap relief.
Remember though, Alzner’s cap is not dead money like a player who has suffered a career-ending injury. With him healthy, the team still owes him his full $6MM salary this season, and though that decreases in the future, a team like Arizona who has been known to take on injured contracts in the past likely wouldn’t have much interest. There’s no insurance paying Alzner’s deal, meaning he’ll be a very expensive minor league asset for Montreal going forward.