The Art Of Sweetening The Pot

By Bob Trask – As the trade deadline approaches and rumours swirl around the Montreal Canadiens, we are all waiting to see what Kent Hughes will do. In the current environment of a relatively flat salary cap combined with several high-priced, long term contracts, he is facing a monumental challenge.

In order to make any personnel moves to overhaul the roster he may have to sweeten the pot in any potential trades involving high priced veterans.

Retain Salary

Retaining salary is certainly one approach. The problem with it is that some contracts are not only high-priced, but also long term. It would put the Canadiens at a salary cap disadvantage for a long time. Combined with the already disadvantageous tax situation in Quebec, it is not an enviable position to be in.

Perhaps the Canadiens could retain “some” salary on one veteran but retaining 50% on two veterans on long term contracts seems out of the question. For those on expiring or shorter term contracts, it is an entirely different situation.

For arguments sake, retaining half the salary of Jeff Petry and Brendan Gallagher would eat up $6.375M of salary cap for the next three years and $3.25M for an additional 2 years. That is a big bite out of the salary cap for an extended period.

Taking on Bad Contracts

There is some merit in this idea even if the contracts of the players acquired in a trade have the same cap hit as the player being traded. The kicker is that the newly acquired contract would have to be shorter term than the contract of the departing player. It’s financially better to bite the bullet for a year or two than for four or five years.

A second consideration when taking on a bad contract is the potential for a buyout. Each player contract is unique and depending upon the structure, one contract could have a substantially higher or lower cap hit on the buyout than another. With his background, it is highly likely that Kent Hughes is fully aware of this situation.

Adding assets

In order to make a deal more palatable the Canadiens may also consider adding assets in the form of prospects and/or draft picks. This is where a comprehensive analysis of the organizational depth chart is imperative.

Alexander Romanov

As a hypothetical example consider the position of LD. It may be one of the deepest positions in the organization with players like Alex Romanov, Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Arber Xhekaj, Mattias Norlinder, Gianni Fairbrother, Otto Leskinen and Jayden Struble.

There isn’t room for all of them on the roster. Jeff Gorton and Hughes will be taking a long, hard look at how they want their defense to be built. Some puck movers and some defensive specialists will be needed and two or three of these guys are probably untouchable at the moment. But it isn’t inconceivable that two or three of them could be included in trades if that is what it took to consumate the deals.

The same situation applies to draft picks. In a second hypothetical situation, the Habs could acquire a draft pick(s) for someone like Ben Chiarot. That would leave them with a glut of picks in the upcoming draft and the management team could consider including a mid-round pick in another trade if it made sense.

Conclusion

There is no single approach that is right or wrong when trying to transform your team by participating in the trade market. It is conceivable that all three approaches could be used over the next few months.

As the trade deadline approaches the path(s) that Hughes takes will become more clear. As we’re already in February, we’re that much closer to the trade deadline, and seeing some cards in Hughes’ hands.

More reading…

Prediction Time: Where Will They Go?

The Unfortunate Case of Jeff Petry

The Bergevin Legacy