Montreal Canadiens: Five Bad Contracts To Acquire Alongside a 1st Round Draft Pick

Mar 10, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Milan Lucic (17) and forward Sean Monahan. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Milan Lucic (17) and forward Sean Monahan. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mar 31, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Erik Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Erik Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Erik Johnson

The Colorado Avalanche are in a similar position as the Penguins. They don’t have the same star power about to walk out the door, but they have several key contributors who could hit the free agent market this July.

While their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog are locked up through next season, basically their whole second line needs new contracts. Nazem Kadri had a fantastic season, Andre Burakowsky scored 61 points and Valeri Nichuskin had 25 goals and 52 points in 62 games this season.

All three of them are unrestricted free agents in July. So is staring goaltender Darcy Kuemper. They really need to open up some cap space if they want to keep this terrific team together next season.

One way to do that is to move out Erik Johnson. He is a respected veteran and a fine defensive player. But he earns $6 million against the cap and will be behind Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Bowen Byran and Samuel Girard on the depth chart next season. They can find a decent defensive player for much cheaper than $6 million to play on the third pairing.

But getting rid of Johnson’s contract won’t be easy. The Avs already traded away their 2022 1st round pick for Kuemper, so they are going to have to pair their 2023 1st round pick with Johnson to entice anyone to take him off their hands. It could get complicated with his partial no-trade clause where he picks 19 teams he can be traded to.

It would make a lot of sense for the Canadiens to add a veteran right defender if Jeff Petry is dealt somewhere this offseason. Putting Johnson in the top four would allow the young defenders like Justin Barron to develop at their own pace and not rush them into big NHL minutes if they are not ready.

Plus, Johnson was a first overall pick many years ago and would be able to help whoever the Habs pick first overall (Shane Wright) with some guidance from someone who has been in those shoes.