The Montreal Canadiens, like every NHL team, had a deadline yesterday to qualify their restricted free agents or let them become unrestricted free agents who can sign anywhere they want on Wednesday.
The Canadiens made a bit of a head scratching decision when they chose not to qualify RFA Rem Pitlick. A qualifying offer, for a player like him who made less than a million dollars last season is a one year contract offer with a 5% raise.
Pitlick earned $917,831 last season, so a qualifying offer from the Canadiens would have needed to be $963,722.55. Maybe it was the 55 cents that was just too much, but Pitlick’s production last season definitely was worth 963 grand.
Pitlick was picked up off waivers from the Minnesota Wild in the middle of the season. He had 11 points in 20 games for the Wild and earned himself some ice time on the Habs first line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield down the stretch. He scored 26 points in 46 games in a Habs jersey last season.
So, why didn’t the Canadiens just extend him the qualifying offer for less than a million bucks? Why lose him for nothing instead of keeping his rights?
Well, Pitlick doesn’t have to “take of leave” the qualifying offer. He could have rejected it, remained an RFA and continued negotiating with the Canadiens management. Where things could have gone poorly for the Canadiens would be in arbitration.
If an RFA and a team can’t come to terms on a contract, they can head to a third party arbiter to determine the terms of the next pact. Pitlick would have had a decent argument, considering he scored at a 46 point pace last season. That isn’t Johnny Gaudreau territory, but it would have put him in second place on the Habs last season.
Based on that evidence alone, an arbiter could have conceivably handed Pitlick a one year contract at $2.5 million or so. If it got that far, the Canadiens would not have been able to walk away from the decision and would have been forced to keep Pitlick next season at whatever cap hit the arbiter decided.
So, to avoid that possible uncertainty, the Canadiens chose not to extend him a qualifying offer at all. They could still talk contract and come to an agreement before next season, but this removes the possibility of a third party getting involved and forcing the Canadiens into a corner they don’t want to go near.
Want your voice heard? Join the A Winning Habit team!