By JD Lagrange – The NHL’s annual Buyout window is opening today and it runs up until June 30th, at 5:00 pm Eastern Time. Every year, teams use this feature to unload unwanted, cumbersome contracts for players that they can’t trade.
Trying to pry information from the Canadiens is like pulling teeth so there is no way to know if team General Manager Kent Hughes is even considering using this option available to him, let alone planning on using it to free up not only some cap space and some roster spots for the young players ready to make a push at the NHL level.
Such is the case for several young players in the organisation. Since former GM Marc Bergevin’s reset in the summer of 2018, where he started piling up draft picks, the Canadiens have drafted around 50 young prospects, in addition to the ones they’ve acquired through trades and those, like Arber Xhekaj, whom they’ve signed as free agents. These “kids” are just starting to push hard for NHL jobs, with many more to come.
As the Canadiens beat the record for most man-games lost to injuries two years in a row, the organization suffered on the ice, which allowed them to select first overall a year ago, and provided them with the opportunity to pick fifth at the upcoming NHL Draft this coming June 28th.
Injuries have also provided younger players the opportunity to not only get their chance in the NHL, but to play in roles that they would have otherwise never been placed into had it not been for the rash of injuries to key players. Call it a silver lining.
Arber Xhekaj, Johnathan Kovacevic, Jordan Harris, Justin Barron and Kaiden Guhle all jumped at their opportunity to not only prove that they were NHL-ready, but that they were able to have a positive contribution on the Canadiens. Samuel Montembeault has progressed nicely, benefiting from Carey Price’s misfortune and Jake Allen’s injuries as well.
While the defense (particularly on the left side) is rather crowded with quality players, it’s at the forward position that things get a bit complicated, and where the buyout becomes an option. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard had 14 goals in 34 games (34 goals pace) since being called up. He has proven to not only being willing to pay the price, but he has shown a flair for scoring big goals. At 24 and having spent two seasons in the AHL, he seems ripe to make the NHL roster this upcoming season.
Jesse Ylönen, while not as flashy as RHP, has shown to be a very responsible player for his age. His six goals and 16 points in 37 games are nothing to write a book about, but his defensive awareness and skating abilities stood out. He is definitely knocking at the door.
Emil Heineman came to North America after a solid season in the SHL. He opened the eyes of many, with seven goals and nine points in 11 games with the Laval Rocket at the end of the season. To the point where head coach Jean-François Houle said that the young Swede was very close to being NHL-ready.
Before we look at potential buyout candidates, let’s remind everyone of the rule of thumb of the buyout. The penalty to buy a player out carries over twice the length of the remaining years of the contract being bought out. So if a player has one year left, the buyout penalty will be of two years. If he has two years remaining, the penalty will be on four years. And so on.
Some fans on social media suggested buying out Brendan Gallagher. That makes absolutely no sense solely based on the amount of the penalty, but also with the fact that Gally has four years left to his contract. That’s right, this means that the buyout penalty would be carried over eight long years. It’s not going to happen folks. That’s silly talk.
This leaves two candidates at the forward position, really. Joel Armia has two years left with a cap hit of $3.4 million. The other is Mike Hoffman, who has only one year left at $4.5 million. If Hughes and the Canadiens are exploring buying anyone out, it would be these two under-performing forwards.
Let’s look at what a buyout penalty would look like on the Canadiens’ salary cap for both players, according to Capfriendly.com.
Truthfully, I just don’t see Kent Hughes wanting to handicap the team for four years so I would be shocked if the Canadiens bought out Joel Armia. Further, he is a very serviceable veteran who can play up and down the line-up, a big body and he can kill penalties for you.
But when Hoffman doesn’t produce offensively, he’s basically useless. I can see Harvey-Pinard exactly in his role.
What will happen? Your guess is as good as mine. Many fans feel like the Habs should keep Hoffman and hope that he can have a good season, and have value at trade deadline. That’s a position that makes sense and is totally defendable. Myself, I’d rather not waste six months of a young player’s development by taking a spot on the roster, preventing a rookie from progressing.
I’m thinking that Hughes will give it one last ditch effort to trade Hoffman, even if it means keeping some salary for the season. If that fails, a buyout by June 30th is a very valuable option for the Canadiens, particularly if they manage to trade for Pierre-Luc Dubois and need the cap space to re-sign the big center. Stay tuned…