Montreal Canadiens Have Huge Advantage Heading Into Free Agency

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 07: Taylor Hall against Alex Pietrangelo (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 07: Taylor Hall against Alex Pietrangelo (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens have a huge advantage over most teams heading into free agency.

The Montreal Canadiens have not been the biggest attraction for most of the big name free agents over the years. Some of the biggest contracts signed by the Habs during free agent frenzy have been extensions given to their own players like Carey Price.

Even the players they do find a way to lure to Montreal don’t always work out. Karl Alzner was the team’s biggest free agent signing in years and he finds himself stuck in the minors.

This year could be a lot different though. We are in a different financial landscape and it is one the greatly favours the Montreal Canadiens.

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There is no question that the Habs are one of the biggest revenue generating teams in the league. They, like the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs have some of the deepest pockets in hockey. With the salary cap putting constraints on team’s spending, these big markets haven’t been able to exploit smaller markets in the same way they did in the past.

However, that could change this offseason. The Canadiens are certainly not immune to the financial impacts of the global pandemic, but they can be more certain they will bounce back in the future than many other teams. This, combined with their cap space, will allow them to take bigger risks than most teams in free agency this year.

Teams around the league haven’t had their typical income since March, and have no idea when it will get back to normal. As a result, the Arizona Coyotes were not able to pay bonuses on time. Did anyone hear Carey Price complaining about being shortchanged on his $8.75 million bonus? No. Because the Canadiens can afford to pay it.

The Canadiens are one of the few teams around the league that can offer a star player a significant signing bonus on the day the contract is signed. The St. Louis Blues are rumoured to be at an impasse with their best defenceman because they don’t want to give Alex Pietrangelo signing bonus money. It has been rumoured they offered him $8 million per year for eight years.

That’s a heck of a lot of money, but the Habs can offer him the same amount of money, but give him an $11 million bonus on October 9th if they wish.

In the midst of a global pandemic, what teams have both the finances and the cap space to offer a player a long-term contract with a big cap hit and tons of signing bonus money. The Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers for sure. Anyone else? I can’t think of any.

This doesn’t mean the Canadiens can sign all the free agents they want. But, it does mean they are one of the few teams that can offer the type of contract that the best free agents will want.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are paying their best players $15 million in signing bonuses and a minimum wage salary. The Canadiens can copy that contract format and offer Pietrangelo an eight-year contract with an $8 million cap hit, but offer him $10 million in signing bonus for each of the first two years. Then he would get most of his money up front.

Not many teams can take that kind of risk in free agency this year. However, the Canadiens definitely can. Will this lead to them landing a big free agent like Taylor Hall of Pietrangelo? Even a second tier guy like Evgeni Dadonov or Sami Vatanen?

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We will have to wait and see, but their ability to structure contracts whatever way they want right now should give them a significant advantage over most teams in the league.