Montreal Canadiens Still Need To Clear Significant Amount Of Cap Space, But How?

Jun 28, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Montreal Canadiens Shea Weber Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 28, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Montreal Canadiens Shea Weber Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Montreal Canadiens made a big trade last week when they dealt Shea Weber to the Vegas Golden Knights for veteran winger Evgeni Dadonov. It keeps the Habs out of long-term injured reserve but it doesn’t solve all of their salary cap issues.

Weber has four years remaining on his contract with a cap hit just below $8 million. However, he is not going to play another game in his career, so that money will be stashed away on LTIR for the duration.

Dadonov meanwhile, has just one year left on his contract with a $5 million cap hit. While it is less money on paper, he will actually play next season so his money can’t be put aside on LTIR and kind of hidden away next season.

While this trade has removed many possible complications long term, it does make the Canadiens salary cap situation a little more delicate for the 2022-23 season. Instead of going over the cap and not having to worry about Weber’s contract, they actually need to fit Dadonov into their plans.

Factor in that Nick Suzuki’s huge contract begins next season, and the Canadiens still need to clear out space next season.

Of course, that hinges on Carey Price’s status. If he can’t play and is on LTIR, the Habs are just fine. But they don’t know that yet and can’t wait until October to figure out if they have enough cap space for Price to play on opening night.

Right now, the Canadiens have 12 forwards signed to NHL deals next season, as well as six defencemen and two goaltenders. That’s the minimum required for a full roster, so there will be a couple of players added to that lineup. But those 20 players, plus Karl Alzner’s buyout penalty, plus the bonus overage from last season add up to a combined cap hit of just over $80.5 million.

That gives the Canadiens just under $2 million before they hit the $82.5 million upper limit for next season. That’s not great when you consider that is the minimum amount of players, and they still have to sign restricted free agents Rem Pitlick and Alexander Romanov.

Pitlick had a solid season for the Canadiens after being picked up off waivers. He scored nine goals and 26 points in 46 games after compiling 11 points in 20 regular season games with the Minnesota Wild. That’s 36 points in 66 games or a 45 point season over a full 82 games.

He is likely going to cost the Habs about $2 million on his next contract. That would put the Habs right up against the salary cap with 13 forwards and just six defencemen on the roster.

Which means, they are going to need to clear out more cap space. And they will need to clear out enough to re-sign Romanov, plus add another extra skater to the lineup.

What’s that going to cost? Romanov is just 22 years old and was one of the Canadiens most used defenders late in the season. He was one of the lone bright spots on the Habs roster last season and worked his way up from playoff healthy scratch in 2021 to top four mainstay.

The Canadiens could probably get the Russian defender to sign a cheap cap hit on a very short term deal. However, they would be wise to lock up the youngster long term when they have the chance to do so at a decent rate. He has a lot of potential, so a $4 million cap hit on a long term deal might make sense for both sides.

If that is the case, the Habs need to ship out at least $5 million from the current roster to make room for Romanov’s contract and a couple of depth parts to fill out the lineup.

How are they going to pull that off? Jeff Petry’s name is in the rumour mill once again, but will another team take on his full contract without sending money back Montreal’s way?

Joel Armia is a popular candidate for a trade, but will anyone take on the final three years of his contract with a $3.4 million cap hit? Jonathan Drouin has one year left on his $5.5 million annual salary, but he hasn’t played a lot in the past two seasons so can the Habs find a taker? Could Paul Byron be bought out to save just under $2 million next season? Mike Hoffman has two years left at $4.5 million but didn’t have a great 2021-22.

One player that has a lot of value is Josh Anderson. He makes $5.5 million per season and the Canadiens are apparently taking a lot of calls on the right winger. They would ideally like to keep him, but if the right offer comes along, he could be the next one shipped out.

The most likely scenario is still the Petry trade, considering his cap hit is $6.25 million for the next three seasons. But if the Habs can’t get someone to take on the entire cap hit, they will desperately need to move out a veteran winger.

That could be difficult because a lot of the Habs veteran wingers are on bad contracts and aren’t living up to the annual cap hit that comes with them. If Petry is traded for a prospect and a draft pick, everything is fine. If not, the Canadiens could be forced to move a player like Anderson.

Keep an eye on the Canadiens, because they may need to get creative to find some cap space after acquiring Dadonov. One thing is for sure, the Weber trade is not the last big deal coming out of Montreal this offseason.

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