Navigating the salary cap is one of the more important tasks for any GM. 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 for the 2020-21 season. This will focus more on players who are regulars on the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Cap Hit: $81,454,506 (under the $81.5MM Upper Limit)
F Jesperi Kotkaniemi (one year, $925K)
F Ryan Poehling (one year, $925K)
D Alexander Romanov (two years, $894K)
F Nick Suzuki (two years, $863K)
F Cale Fleury (one year, $772K)
What makes the Canadiens team so strong is the impressive play down the middle from two top young players in Suzuki and Kotkaniemi who are both expected to play big roles this season. The 21-year-old Suzuki had an impressive rookie season, scoring 13 goals and 41 points and more importantly four goals in 10 playoff games last year. He has picked up where he left off, posting six points in six games early this season. Kotkaniemi did struggle last year in his sophomore campaign, but looked more impressive in the playoffs with four goals in 10 games. He has three points in six games so far this year, but both look to have bright futures in Montreal.
The team also looks to have drafted a gem in Romanov, who was a second-round pick in 2018. The 20-year-old looks like an impact player already after just six games on the ice and looks to play a big part in the future of Montreal’s defense. Poehling and Fleury are still trying to establish themselves in Montreal’s lineup, but should have a role down the road.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
F Tomas Tatar ($4.8MM, UFA)
F Phillip Danault ($3.08MM, UFA)
F Joel Armia ($2.6MM, UFA)
F Artturi Lehkonen ($2.4MM, RFA)
F Jordan Weal ($1.4MM, UFA)
F Corey Perry ($750K, UFA)
F Michael Frolik ($750K, UFA)
D Victor Mete ($735K, RFA)
The team will have to make a decision on Tatar, who has scored 50 goals in two-plus seasons since being acquired from Vegas in the Max Pacioretty deal (Suzuki was also part of that deal too). The 30-year-old will see his contract expire and the Canadiens will have to decide on whether they want to extend him for a few more seasons or let him go. However, after posting a 22-goal, 61-point season last year, the team may not want to allow him to leave.
Montreal will also have to make similar decisions on several other forwards, including Danault and Armia. All three have been quite useful to the team over the years, but must prove their worth this season. Despite being a valuable middle-six center, the team hasn’t begun discussing any extension with the 27-year-old center, especially with the emergence of both Suzuki and Kotkaniemi. Armia could be primed for a big year despite struggling with injuries the last few seasons.
Lehkonen and Mete will both be restricted free agents next year and should receive extensions.
Two Years Remaining
D Ben Chiarot ($3.5MM, UFA)
D Brett Kulak ($1.85MM, UFA)
F Jake Evans ($750K, RFA)
Many people seemed surprised when Montreal grabbed Chiarot off of the free-agent market after the 2018-19 season and handed him a three-year, $10.5MM deal. The blueliner had been a third-pairing piece in Winnipeg, but has blossomed into a solid top-four defenseman, who is averaging more than 20 minutes per game. Evans has slowly forced his way into the lineup as a solid bottom-six player, who can provide some physicality and a little offense and should become a regular for the team over the next few years.
Three Years Remaining
F Jonathan Drouin ($5.5MM, UFA)
F Paul Byron ($3.4MM, UFA)
G Jake Allen ($2.88MM, UFA)
Drouin was brought in three years ago to be the team’s leading scorer and maybe even the face of the franchise. Despite being one of the top young forwards in the game, his numbers haven’t translated very well as he’s never duplicated the 21-goal season he had in Tampa Bay back in 2016-17. Of course, injuries have been one of the biggest culprits, but Drouin is only 25 and can still be an impact player. So far, he has six points in his first six games, so the team has to hope that the long-term deal they gave him might still pay off down the road.
Byron has been one of the biggest disappointments as injuries have played a major role in his availability over the last two seasons. The 31-year-old has missed 79 games over the previous two seasons and a player who looked to be a solid 20-goal scorer when he signed his four-year, $13.6MM deal back in 2018, has scored 19 goals since signing that contract and still has two more years after this year at a $3.4MM AAV. Allen is another interesting player, who looks to be the perfect complimentary backup netminder as the Canadiens have to start thinking about spreading out the goaltending workload.
Four Or More Years Remaining
G Carey Price ($10.5MM through 2025-26)
D Shea Weber ($7.86MM through 2025-26)
F Josh Anderson ($5.5MM through 2026-27)
D Jeff Petry ($5.5MM in 2020-21; $6.25MM from 2021-22 through 2024-25)
F Tyler Toffoli ($4.25MM through 2023-24)
F Brendan Gallagher ($3.75MM in 2020-21; $6.5MM from 2021-22 through 2026-27)
D Joel Edmundson ($3.5MM through 2023-24)
Many people knew that the eight-year, $84MM deal that Price signed back in 2017 (and didn’t start until the 2018-19 season) might prove to be challenging for the team. Price has been solid, but hasn’t been the dominant goaltender that he was several years ago. The problem now is that there are six years remaining on that deal, which could be a problem as Price gets older. Already 33 years old, he will be 38 years old in the final year of his contract. The team has to hope that he will keep being solid for a number of years to come. Price’s contract will end the same year that Weber’s contract lasts. Weber signed a ridiculous 14-year, $110MM contract back in 2012 with the Nashville Predators. Even at age 35, Weber still remains the team’s top defenseman and has aged amazingly well so far, although injuries have been an issue from time to time. Can Weber still be productive this year and five more years after that? That’s a different question.
Montreal has also invested quite a bit in their team. The Canadiens locked up Anderson to a seven-year deal this offseason after acquiring him from Columbus for Max Domi. Anderson scored just one goal in 26 games last year due to injury, but will be counted on to be an impact forward over the long haul. Gallagher and Petry have also been extended with both players getting a significant boost to their salary, starting next year when both will make more than $6MM per season for the long-term future. Both have been impact players and should continue to be so.
Toffoli, signed to a four-year deal this offseason, should also provide top-six offense as his game has improved over the last couple of years, while Edmundson will be counted on to play a big role in Montreal over the next few years.
D Karl Alzner ($3.96MM in 2020-21; $1.96MM in 2021-22 and $833K in 2022-23 and 2023-24)
Retained Salary Transactions
Still To Sign
Best Value: Gallagher
Worst Value: Byron
The Canadiens have put their money in on a core of players who they will need to continue playing at a high level. What the team has going for it is a number of impressive youngsters who have stepped in and contributed quickly to fill those gaps left by the veterans and there is still plenty of talent in Montreal’s farm system to potentially keep the team going for many years to come. Contract-wise, however, the team should always be right up against the cap with Weber and Price’s contract weighing on them for six more years.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.