Montreal Canadiens: Will Karl Alzner Be Bought Out This Year?

LAVAL, QC - DECEMBER 28: Karl Alzner (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC - DECEMBER 28: Karl Alzner (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens would like to get rid of the Karl Alzner contract. Will they opt to buy him out?

The Montreal Canadiens dreadful offseason of 2017 continues to bite them. They traded Mikhail Sergachev that summer and let Alex Radulov leave as a free agent. Those two players are playing rather large roles in the Stanley Cup Final right now.

They also used a fairly large contract to lure Karl Alzner to town. The big, physical, defensive defenceman was showing signs of slowing down after a long career with the Washington Capitals but that didn’t stop Habs general manager Marc Bergevin from reaching out.

Alzner and Bergevin would agree to a five-year contract with an annual cap hit of $4.625 million. Alzner is now three years into that contract and the former ironman of the NHL hasn’t played 100 games in a Habs sweater.

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The Burnaby, British Columbia native did play all 82 games for the dreadful 2017-18 Montreal Canadiens. He had one goal and 12 points, but far more concerning was his trouble with keeping up with the pace of play. Brought in to be a shutdown guy, Alzner struggled to play against any competition and couldn’t be trusted to play against the opponent’s best players like he was expected to do.

He did play every game for the eighth straight season but that streak was ruined when he was a healthy scratch in the 2018-19 season opener. Alzner has played just 13 NHL games since then, mostly serving as a veteran presence on the AHL’s Laval Rocket for the past two seasons.

He has two years left on his contract, though the Habs could decide to buy him out. The window for buying out players opens today, so it is possible we could see Alzner cut from the Habs organization in the coming days.

If the Habs do buy out his contract, he would count as a $3.958 million dead cap hit this season. That is less than his $4.625 million contract, but the Habs would be afforded about a million dollars of relief if Alzner was playing in the minors. So, it would actually cost them a little more against the cap this season to buy him out now.

However, future seasons would be a little more palatable if he were gone this week. The 2021-22 season would have a cap hit of $1.958 million if Alzner is chopped now. If the Canadiens wait a year and then buy him out, he will cost $2.291 that season. The 2022-23 season will be just a $833,333 cap his if he is cut immediately. If the Habs wait a year to buy him out, that goes up to $1.166 million.

If he is bought out this offseason, Alzner would have a cap hit of $833,333 again in the 2023-24 season. If the Habs wait a year and buy him out, there would be no cap hit at all in 2023-24.

Basically, the differences are negligible whether Alzner is bought out now or in a year’s time. Buying him out now would cost a little but more in 20-21 and 23-24 but a little less in 21-22 and 22-23. We are talking a difference of about $333,333 each season.

Another wrinkle to consider is Alzner can not be bought out if he is injured. He has been one of the healthiest hockey players of his generation, but anything could happen next season. The Habs could consider using LTIR at that point but it can get complicated, especially if Alzner just has a broken finger or something at the end of next season. He would be injured during the buyout window but perfectly healthy at training camp.

The Canadiens have plenty of cap space for the upcoming season. They are going to need to pinch every penny after that with a plethora of big name players becoming free agents in 2021.

Alzner has been a great leader for the young players on the Laval Rocket. However, with so many left defencemen already in the organization, it might be time to buyout the remaining years on Alzner’s contract. Otto Leskinen, Gustav Olofsson, Xavier Ouellet and Alexander Romanov could all be with the Rocket next season.

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Alzner has never complained, and has been a great role model for the young players in the minors, but it is time to cut him loose.