Sorting Out The Canadiens Contract Situation

The Canadiens have ten contract slots remaining after the signing of Jared Davidson.
Montreal Canadiens RFA Arber Xhekaj
Montreal Canadiens RFA Arber Xhekaj / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens have a dilemma after signing Jared Davidson to an entry-level contract this week. They now have just ten contract slots remaining to use, with a pile of restricted free agents left to sign and a need to bolster their forward group with some signings in free agency. The Canadiens feel comfortable enough with their situation to sign Davidson, so they have a plan for their remaining RFAs and contract spaces. The team relinquished the rights to three prospects on Saturday to save some room, as June 1st was the deadline. Let's look at some moves the Canadiens have left to make to get their roster compliant before next season.

Restricted Free Agents

Arber Xhekaj

One contract slot will be Arber Xhekaj. Surgeries on both of his shoulders are a cause for concern, but there would be a revolt if they didn't sign Xhekaj. Kent Hughes will likely sign Xhekaj to a short-term deal to ensure he is past his injury concerns, as we can't forget that Xhekaj ended up playing games in Laval this season amidst struggles. Xhekaj won't break the bank with his deal, but the Habs will happily pay him more in a few years if he is a force on the backend.

Justin Barron

Barron is another player who spent time in Laval this season to shore up his defensive game. It's a funny situation for the Habs, as if you combined Xhekaj and Barron's biggest strengths you'd get a great defenseman. Barron is a valuable defenseman at the offensive end, but his defensive mistakes became too much for the big club's coaching staff. Barron will be qualified or offered a contract, but don't be surprised if either Xhekaj or Barron are going the other way in a trade for a forward at some point this offseason.

Jesse Ylonen

Ylonen hasn't been able to carve out a niche with the Canadiens, averaging around ten minutes per game after a hot start to the season. Ylonen may be better off looking for work elsewhere, and with the number of veterans in the bottom six and forwards in Laval knocking on the door, the Habs may not qualify Ylonen. It'd be unfortunate to lose a former 35th overall pick, but the numbers game doesn't look good for him.

Mattias Norlinder

Norlinder has fallen well behind in the Canadiens depth chart, and it'll be hard for him to crack the NHL lineup. We broke down the Canadiens blueline situation, and Norlinder wasn't even a name we considered in the equation. Will the Canadiens waste a contract on a defenseman destined to spend his career in Laval?

Lias Andersson

Andersson isn't doing himself any favors with what he's doing with the prospects in Laval. Andersson has been a great mentor for some of the Canadiens' prospects, who then make their NHL debuts while Andersson stays in the AHL. He had 45 points in 53 games this season, but his dream of returning to the NHL may be a pipedream in Montreal. The Canadiens would love to keep him and he's worthy of a contract slot, but letting him walk could offer him a chance to make an NHL roster again.

Filip Cederqvist

There isn't a decision to be made here. Cederqvist signed a long-term contract to return to Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League, and the Habs would be wise to leave a slot open instead of re-signing Cederqvist.

Remaining Slots and Free Agency

We'll assume that the Canadiens sign Xhekaj, Barron, Ylonen, and Andersson. That leaves six spots for the Canadiens to go big-name hunting in free agency. As Tyler Major-Mcnicol revealed in his article about Pierre Mcguire's claim, the Habs have made big splashes in the last two offseasons with Alex Newhook and Kirby Dach, so they may be looking to make it a three-peat with a good offensive player in unrestricted free agency.

The Canadiens could also trade a defenseman to acquire a forward, keeping some flexibility with their contract situation. Kent Hughes won't want to go into the season with all 50 slots used, so there's only room to add two or three more if they use four on their restricted free agents.