By Bob Trask – I’ll admit it; I like Joel Armia. He seems like a first class person who doesn’t rock the boat and accepts his situation with grace. There was no pouting when he was assigned to Laval, quite the opposite in fact. There were no outbursts when he was recalled but not dressed for a game. He is acting in a professional manner.
Yes, his unfilled potential is frustrating but that doesn’t take away from Armia the person. And he can still contribute, though not at the level so many of us expected of him. Having said all of that, his days in Montreal seem to be numbered and I will wish him the best whether he stays or goes on to another team.
That begs the question, “what is a potential landing spot for the big winger?”
Various pundits have subscribed to the theory that Kent Hughes will have to retain salary or add sweeteners in any transaction. I disagree. Armia’s contract is not affecting the Habs’ cap situation so why give up assets for a problem that doesn’t exist.
My theory is similar to that of Blain Potvin of The Hockey Writers.
Montreal may be willing to help a team out that is pressed up against the cap by taking on a larger shorter term contract (expiring at the end of this season) for Armia, who has a smaller longer term contract (expiring at the end of next season).
Such a move would give the team acquiring Armia a little extra breathing room when it comes to the cap… at least for this season. With the cap expected to rise for next season, Armia’s contract would be less of a problem for them at that time.
In identifying potential trade candidates, teams pressing up against the cap would be one qualifier. Another qualifier would be teams that are legitimately trying to make the playoffs and/or advance in the playoffs this year. The final qualifier is that the player the Canadiens would be acquiring would have a larger salary than Armia’s because their trading partner’s goal would be to reduce cap hit, not increase it.
A player with a no trade clause could also kibosh any trade.
If we apply all of those filters on capfriendly.com the list of candidates is narrowed down to Elias Pettersson, Sam Reinhart and Anthony Mantha. Pettersson is going nowhere and it is unlikely that Reinhart is either. That leaves… Mantha.
It seems to be a match for both teams, maybe moreso for Montreal because of the cap room they gain next year. The next step may be to get Armia into few games to showcase where is game is at the moment. A strong showing could lead to at trade or, less likely, a spot on one of the Habs’ four lines. A weak showing could mean any trade talks die completely.
In any case, there is no urgency from the Canadiens’ perspective and while we wait, we can all speculate on the future of the big Finn.