With their acquisition of Sean Monahan from the Calgary Flames, the Montreal Canadiens looked to have concluded the main portion of their offseason business. Now, they just have a few smaller items of business to complete, namely agreeing on new contracts with their two restricted free agents: center Kirby Dach and Cayden Primeau.
Dach, 21, was acquired earlier in the offseason by the Canadiens as part of a stunning three-team deal that was announced on the draft floor. According to Eric Engels of Sportsnet, the Canadiens and Dach are in contract talks, and “one of the options being discussed” is a four-year pact carrying a $3.5MM AAV. As Engels notes, the deal would carry Dach to within one season of eligibility for unrestricted free agency.
If this is the deal that is ultimately signed between Dach and the Canadiens, a possibility Engels “wouldn’t be surprised” to see, it will certainly be an interesting one to unpack. At this current moment, the body of work Dach has put forth in the NHL is not of $3.5MM AAV quality. Last season Dach scored 26 points in 70 games, and he has not been able to stay consistently healthy in his NHL career.
That being said, though, in surrendering young defenseman Alexander Romanov to acquire Dach, the Canadiens are signaling that they believe there is still significant upside to be mined from the 2019 third-overall pick. There are those who believe Dach was “rushed” to the NHL, and that his playing in the NHL immediately after he was drafted, rather than him having another season to develop in the WHL, has derailed his development.
If the Canadiens are right in their assessment of Dach, and coach Martin St. Louis can help Dach find his footing in the NHL the way he did for Cole Caufield, a $3.5MM cap hit could quickly look like a steal.
But if the Canadiens cannot find a way to develop Dach, or Dach simply isn’t as good as many believe he can be, a $3.5MM hit for four seasons could age somewhat poorly. It’s obviously too early to say, and the Canadiens and Dach could still ultimately go in another direction with his next contract. Regardless, the Canadiens have an important decision to make as to how they want to proceed with Dach’s next contract.