The Montreal Canadiens are set to sign another one of their restricted free agents, agreeing to terms with Joel Armia on a two-year contract. The deal will carry a $2.6MM average annual value and keep him in the organization through the 2020-21 season. Armia will be an unrestricted free agent when the contract expires, but avoids his scheduled arbitration hearing later this month.
Armia, 26, was acquired by the Canadiens last year in a deal with the Winnipeg Jets that saw them assume the rest of Steve Mason’s contract. Losing Armia was the price the Jets had to pay for the Canadiens to perform the buyout on Mason, which will pay him another $1.37MM this season. While it looked at that point like they might be losing just a depth forward, Armia actually took another step forward in Montreal and posted 23 points in just 57 games with a career-high 13 goals. A force on the penalty kill, the 6’4″ forward was a versatile option that likely would have set new highs in basically every category if he hadn’t suffered a knee injury in November that forced him out of the lineup for nearly two months.
The Canadiens haven’t changed the makeup of their team dramatically this summer, moving in and out depth pieces instead of pursuing the top UFA names. They did attempt to nab Sebastian Aho from the Carolina Hurricanes with an offer sheet, but now sit with many of the same faces—save for Andrew Shaw, who was flipped to Chicago for draft picks—as the summer stretches on.
There still might be more coming for GM Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens, but even just experiencing a little more health and a bit of development from young players like Victor Mete, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling may push them up to a playoff spot this season. Armia is a real part of those hopes, and if he can play all 82 there’s no doubt he can be a reliable contributor.