Jun 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addresses the media during a press conference before game one of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Lauren Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Next Year's Salary Cap Makes It Difficult For Montreal Canadiens To Improve Via Free Agency

The NHL and NHLPA have finally set the salary cap for the coming season, the day the draft begins and just four days ahead of the biggest spending day of the year, July 1st. The announced upper limit of 69 million dollars is slightly lower than they expected 71 million, so where does that leave the Montreal Canadiens?

The Canadiens currently have 11 forwards, (Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Daniel Briere, Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais, Alex Galchenyuk, Rene Bouruqe, Travis Moen, Brandon Prust, Michael Bournival and Dale Weise) signed.

The Habs also have five defensemen (Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, Alexei Emelin, Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi) locked in for next season, as well as goaltenders Carey Price and Peter Budaj.

May 22, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban takes a shot against the New York Rangers during the first period in game three of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

These 18 players count for $54,285,000 against the salary cap, leaving the Habs with just over $17,500,000 in cap space for next season.

The Habs will in all likelihood sign either two more forwards and three more defenders, or three forwards and a pair of blue liners for next season’s 23 man roster, while dealing a backup goaltender.

A couple of restricted free agents who are sure to be locked up for next season are defenseman P.K. Subban and center Lars Eller. Say Subban pulls in a cap hit of $8,250,000, and Eller costs the Habs $2,750,000 next year, there goes another 11 million of their cap space, leaving the team with 6.5 million to sign three players.

Since the Canadiens are breaking in a pair of youngsters on the blue line in Beaulieu and Tinordi, and have a fairly experience group of forwards, I would say they elect to go with 13 forwards and 8 defenders to start next season. This means after signing Subban and Eller, they still need one more forward and two defenders,and have 6.5 million to play with.

The Habs could still decide to go after one of the big free agents next week, but may have to move a contract in order to sign a big ticket like Jarome Iginla on the open market. My guess is they get Subban and Eller done and then focus on finding a few veterans who can help on a short term deal at under 2 million per season.

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