The Montreal Canadiens have signed restricted free agent forward Ryan Poehling to a two-year contract. In 2021-22, Poehling will receive $750K at the NHL level and $225K at the AHL level. In 2022-23, he will receive $750K as the contract will be one-way.
It seems like a long time ago that Poehling burst onto the scene with a hat trick in his first NHL game. That was only at the end of the 2018-19 season after he signed out of St. Cloud State, but so much has changed in terms of the Montreal depth chart that it might as well be five years ago. Poehling now enters this season having spent the entire 2020-21 campaign at the minor league level and is certainly not a lock for NHL playing time out of the gate.
The fact that he is still waiver-exempt likely means he’s on his way back to the AHL to start the season, and given the young talent up the middle for the Canadiens it’s not clear when he’ll really get another chance. Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Jake Evans all have more experience at this point and figure to be on the opening day lineup, not leaving a ton of room for someone like Poehling.
That’s not to say his career in Montreal is over though. The 22-year-old forward is still exactly what they drafted him to be, a big-bodied center with some scoring upside. He had 25 points in 28 games last season for the Laval Rocket and should post strong results in that league again if he does end up in the AHL. A $750K cap hit will actually help him in his quest to earn NHL playing time as the Canadiens navigate a flat cap, but he’s still likely going to need some breaks to go his way.