Navigating the salary cap is one of the more important tasks for any GM. Teams that can avoid 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 heading for the 2021-22 season and beyond. 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: $90,481,370 (over the $81.5MM Upper Limit)
Caufield joined Montreal late last season and wound up playing in their top six pretty much the rest of the way including for most of their playoff run. Viewed as a possible contender for the Calder Trophy, expectations are quite high for the 20-year-old who is a candidate to bypass a bridge contract and sign a long-term pact. That’s what happened with Suzuki (we’ll get to his extension later) who is quite the bargain this season before his next deal kicks in. Both players have very good chances of hitting their bonuses.
Romanov played a regular role during the regular season but hardly played during the playoffs. This season, he has moved up and down early on and hasn’t really locked down a spot in the top four. That has him trending towards a bridge contract while he could hit one or two of the three ‘A’ bonuses in his deal.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
F Adam Brooks ($725K, RFA)
D Ben Chiarot ($3.5MM, UFA)
D Brett Kulak ($1.85MM, UFA)
F Artturi Lehkonen ($2.3MM, RFA)
G Sam Montembeault ($750K, RFA)
D Sami Niku ($750K, RFA)
F Cedric Paquette ($950K, UFA)
F Mathieu Perreault ($950K, UFA)
D Chris Wideman ($750K, UFA)
Lehkonen has been an effective checker for Montreal for the past few seasons but his price tag is approaching the point where he’s getting too expensive for that role. If he winds up on the fourth line for a good chunk of the season, he becomes a non-tender candidate. Otherwise, if he scores enough to stick around, his raise shouldn’t be too substantial. Paquette and Perreault signed as unrestricted free agents back in July and have had limited roles so far this season. With the cap crunch that’s looming, this is the price tag they’ll need their fourth liners to have, if not a little lower. If they take something like that next summer, a return is possible. Brooks was added on waivers and will need to have close to a regular role to avoid Group VI UFA status. At this point, he should be able to get a small raise – particularly if he becomes UFA-eligible – but should still be in the six-figure range.
Chiarot’s contract with the Canadiens was a head-scratcher when he signed it in that it seemed to be well above his value but he has established himself as a top-four blueliner and his performance in the playoffs certainly helped his value. A raise next summer certainly isn’t out of the question although it’s doubtful it will come in Montreal with their cap situation. Kulak has played well at times and struggled at others, shifting him to a lower rung on the depth chart. His spot is one they’ll likely want to carry someone a little cheaper in moving forward. Wideman and Niku were added to try to add some firepower from the back end though both have struggled in their own end in the past which has hurt their value. If one of them becomes a regular, there’s a case to be made for a raise next summer but if they’re in and out of the lineup, another contract close to the minimum is likely.
Montembeault was brought in as extra depth in the preseason and is basically a short-term placeholder as the backup right now. It’s certainly not ideal from a development scenario – he turns 25 next week and has only 130 career professional appearances – and that will hurt his next contract unless he winds up being the number two option all season long. At this point, another two-way deal near the NHL minimum is likely.
Two Years Remaining
Drouin’s return has been a positive one after taking a leave of absence late last season. On the whole, his production with Montreal hasn’t lived up to the price tag which would have him seemingly heading for a pay decrease unless he is able to establish himself as a consistent scoring threat over the next two seasons instead of being consistently inconsistent. Byron has been one of the better waiver pickups in recent years but with where he is on Montreal’s depth chart when fully healthy (the fourth line), it’s a deal that’s well above market rate. It’s a premium they could once afford but this contract will cause them some issues next summer.
Allen opted not to test the free agent market this past summer, instead inking a two-year deal shortly after being acquired and putting him on what appeared to be a pathway to Seattle until he wound up being protected. Viewed as an above-average backup, he’s making a bit less than what typical second-stringers have recently landed on the open market. They’ll get good value from this deal.
Three Years Remaining
Hoffman didn’t have much luck in free agency a year ago, having to eventually settle for a one-year deal. However, he fared much better this time around, signing this contract within a few hours of the market opening up. A consistent scorer, Hoffman should fill some holes offensively for the Canadiens but his limitations otherwise make him a bit of a curious fit. Toffoli, who is more of a two-way player, is a better fit for Montreal and is coming off a surprisingly strong first season with the Canadiens that saw him finish seventh in the league in goals scored. That was a nice return for someone making the money of someone on the second line.
Edmundson’s first season with Montreal was a good one, as he earned a spot in their top four while logging over 20 minutes a game during the regular season and more than 23 minutes per night in the playoffs. He doesn’t produce much offensively but players like him have been in the $3.5MM to $4MM range over the last couple of offseasons.