Today was the deadline for teams to submit qualifying offers to RFA players. This process gives an initial contract offering according to standardized rates to RFA players which they may accept or reject and then negotiate a new deal. Failling to qualify players results in their team losing exclusive rights over them and the players becoming unrestricted free agents on July 1st.
The following players in the Canadiens organizations were not qualified and their rights were released.
Mike Blunden and Petteri Nokelainan were disappointments as poor options for bottom sixth depth this last season. As replaceable parts its doubtful they will be missed. The rest are AHL/ECHL players that were part of a lack luster Hamilton team. They will be likely be replaced by new professional prospects from CHL/NCAA as well as new organization depth signings. The most notable AHL player dropped is Andrew Conboy who some were seeing as a potential future enforcer/tough guy for the big club.
This also frees 8 contract spots from the 50 contract limit to pursue new players, coincidentally the same number of new prospects already signed for next year (Gallagher, Holland, Bournival, Ellis, Beaulieu, Tinordi, Quailer and Pateryn).
All other RFA’s were qualified except for Carey Price, whose QO was made unnecessary by club-elected arbitration.
Top AHL/NHL tweener players Engqvist, Palushaj, Geoffrion, St. Denis and Nash were all qualified. Speculation is out there that Engqvist may return to Sweden but most sources agree that he would prefer to remain in North America and making the NHL is his primary goal.
Montreal currently stands at 41 contracts, leaving 9 spots open. Two UFA players are reasonably likely to be re-signed in Darche and Moen and one spot may be left open for Alex Galchenyuk if he proves NHL ready right away. So the Canadiens will have space to add about 6 new players to the organization in Montreal or Hamilton by free agency. This includes both NHL free agents and prospects signed from amateur or European professional leagues.