The Montreal Canadiens will be without Paul Byron for the start of the 2021-22 season after the veteran forward underwent hip surgery earlier this week. Though expected to make a full recovery, Byron is facing a recovery timeline of five months.
It was a difficult regular season for Byron, who was placed on and cleared waivers three separate times. The Canadiens were doing it in order to move him back and forth between the active roster and taxi squad to accrue cap space, but he was still technically available to the rest of the league for nothing. Instead of changing addresses, he remained with the Canadiens and played in 46 of the team’s 56 regular season games, scoring five goals and 16 points. His role on the team at even-strength has diminished, but Byron was still a regular on the penalty-kill, providing speed and fearlessness at the bottom of the lineup.
On Montreal’s underdog run to the Stanley Cup Finals, he averaged 14:35 through 22 games. He scored two game-winning goals, including an incredible short-handed effort from his knees at the very beginning of the postseason.
Now, as he works his way back from major surgery, it’s unclear if there will even really be a spot waiting in the Montreal lineup. The team added Mathieu Perreault and Cedric Paquette in free agency for the bottom-six, not to mention Mike Hoffman taking a spot somewhere. Cole Caufield should be with the team from the start of the regular season, meaning it’ll be a crowded group upfront. Perhaps injuries will have taken their toll by the time Byron is ready to return, but he could find himself on waivers once again.
Of course, Byron’s $3.4MM cap hit is what protects him from being nabbed off waivers, especially since it extends through the 2022-23 season. The Canadiens will actually be able to move him to long-term injured reserve for the early part of the year, giving some added flexibility, but would need to have that much cap room left when he’s healthy enough to continue his career.