Montreal Canadiens Will Have Narrow Window To Sign Alexander Romanov

VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 28: Alexander Romanov. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 28: Alexander Romanov. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens have a short window to sign Alexander Romanov if they want him to burn a year off his contract.

The Montreal Canadiens made an off the board but fortuitous draft choice in the 2018 NHL Draft. With the first of their three second round picks, they elected not to look at anyone’s list but their own and took Alexander Romanov.

The Russian defenceman was taken way off the board, surprising many in attendance. While he was an unknown commodity at the time of his draft, he has become a well know and hyped prospect around the NHL.

Romanov was just 18 when he made the KHL’s CSKA Moscow roster in 2018-19. He was excellent at the World Juniors that year, winning the award for tournament’s best defenceman while helping Russia win a bronze medal. He was just as good the following year, once again playing a huge role for Russia on the blue line, bringing plenty of offence while dominating defensively.

After two years in the KHL, the 20 year old agreed to terms with the Montreal Canadiens. However, since the agreement took place in the midst of an NHL shutdown due to a global pandemic, it technically couldn’t be registered with the league. There has been a lot of speculation about whether he could play this year or not in the past several weeks.

It turns out, Romanov can sign his contract with the Habs in the coming days. However, he is still not eligible to play in the Habs play-in series with the Pittsburgh Penguins starting on August 1.

According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, the Canadiens have a narrow window to sign their Russian prospect. Specifically, they have from 12 PM EST on Monday until 5 PM EST on Wednesday to sign the defender. Seeing as how they already agreed to terms, it shouldn’t be a tough negotiation on Monday afternoon.

Unless, the team decides they don’t want him to burn a year off his contract when he isn’t allowed to play.

If the Habs do sign Romanov next week, it sounds like he can join them for Phase 3 which is training camp. However, he is still not eligible to stick around for Phase 4 which is game action.

It is an odd wrinkle in this Return to Play protocol. Why can’t he just suit up since he was drafted by the team two years ago and has been on their protected list ever since? I don’t have an answer for that, because the league never really explained their reasoning.

However, the Canadiens and Romanov will have to decide early next week if they want this contract to have a start date of 2020-21 or 2021-22. It may seem foolish for the team to agree to use up a full year of his entry-level contract just for a short summer training camp when he isn’t allowed to play games.

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But what is it they say? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? Maybe it’s best to just sign the contract now and keep the player happy. Otherwise, he will have a long time to think about a contract extension in the KHL, since the 2021-22 season isn’t likely to start before December 1st.