By JD Lagrange – Marc Bergevin has done a lot of good things during his nine plus years as the Canadiens’ GM. But like any other man in his position, he has messed up in a few occasions. We won’t get into his trades and signing records as it’s been done over and over again. Let’s focus on his contracts negotiations skills instead.
People look at the current cap situation and feel like the former GM was brutal when negotiating contracts. They easily forget the contracts to Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, both 30-plus goals’ scorers. Pacioretty signed for six years at $4.5 million cap hit. Gallagher was also signed for six years at a cap hit of $3.75 million. Jake Allen made $4.35 million when Bergevin acquired him. He re-signed him for two years at $2.875 million… while in his prime! Allen just signed for another two years at a million more per season, at the tail end of his career.
It’s easy to look at today’s situation out of context and blame Bergevin. I won’t sit here defending him as it’s not going to change anyone’s opinion anyway. I’ll just say that a lot of the issues with the current contracts have to do with the toll the COVID pandemic took on the team. Price, Weber, Edmundson, Gallagher, Byron and even Drouin are only a few who have suffered through the short schedule and a long playoffs’ run, through a rash of injuries.
Moving forward… Regardless of what happened in the past, we must live in the present and that’s exactly the way Kent Hughes is looking at the situation. There were – and still are – a few trouble contracts on the Canadiens and it’s somewhat hampering their ability to do what they want to do.
You will notice that I’m not including Joel Edmundson in those contracts because when healthy, he’s worth every penny. But if his back issues don’t get resolved, he will be added somewhere in the following categories.
The Canadiens have over $20 million potentially coming off the books just in pending UFAs by the end of the season at the latest. A lot of it should be gone by trade deadline, if the team is not fighting for a playoffs’ spot by then, as everyone expects they won’t be.
Dadonov – $5M
They have traded Shea Weber’s LTIR contract, he who will never play a game again. To do so, they had to pick up Evgenii Dadonov’s one year, $5 million contract. So in sort, it’s a good deal for the long term, but it is handicapping the team at least until trade deadline, while contributing to the clutter in the forwards group.
Drouin – $5.5M
There is still a slim glimmer of hope that Martin St-Louis can turn Drouin around this season but most fans have given up all hopes to see the player we all wanted to see. The good news is that he is in the final year of his contract, but his $5.5 million weighs heavy on the payroll. Like Dadonov, he could very find another home by trade deadline.
Monahan – $6.375M
As if the contracts situation wasn’t bad enough, Hughes decided to take on Monahan’s contract in order to get another first round pick. That one is not on Bergevin. Like Dadonov and Drouin, the former Flames is on the final year of that contract and if his hips hold out, his stay in Montreal could be short lived. If he can rebound, perhaps Hughes will be able to manage another pick at trade deadline for him? In the meantime, will it cut on Kirby Dach’s ice time at center?
Byron – $3.4M
Ti-Paul was a blast to have on the Habs… when healthy. Perennial 20-goals’ scorer, fast, exciting and great to see killing penalties. But his hip is giving him serious issues, so his $3.4 million contract has become a problem. This is also his final year and due to his health, he has absolutely no trade value. It’s too bad for such a honest worker and genuine good guy.
Then, you have some trouble contracts with term left. Admittedly, some would be harder than others to move although at this point, none would be easily dumped elsewhere.
Gallagher – 5 years at $6.5M
Potentially the biggest issue due to both the length of the contract and the cap hit. Gallagher is hoping to rebound this season after a season which saw him score only seven goals in 56 games, after four 30 (or on pace for) goals seasons. This contract is currently impossible to move and the Canadiens can only hope that Gally returns to form.
Hoffman – 2 years at $4.5M
Mike Hoffman has been in the rumour mill ever since Bergevin was fired, or so it seems. Yet, he’s still on the team in spite of the surplus of players, which pretty much tells us that there hasn’t been any offer worth taking if you’re the Canadiens. Hughes might need to add a sweetener like he did for Petry (including Poehling) in order to make a trade happen.
Armia – 3 years at $3.4M
Perhaps one of the most frustrating players to watch, Joel Armia shows flashes of who he could be. But then, he disappears for games at a time. In the playoffs’ Cinderella run, he was dominant on a line with Corey Perry and Eric Staal. At the Worlds’, he was one of the best players in the tournament. But he simply can’t find the consistency needed at the NHL level. Very serviceable however, he is poised for fourth line duties this year and his contract becomes expansive for that.
Last but not least, you have the LTIR money and as it stands, only one name… but it’s a big one!
Price – $10.5M
We all know the story. In the recent playoffs’ run, Price proved to everyone in the hockey world that when healthy, he’s still a dominant force out there. But his knee simply won’t heal up and that has become a serious source of concern both for the team and mostly, for the player himself. After missing all season, he only played five games at the end of last season and he could be out all season again. This could very well be another Shea Weber situation, unfortunately.
As you can see, that’s a lot of money being classified as trouble contracts. In total, we’re talking about just over $45 million in cap space, or 55% of the $82.5 cap limit! And the team won’t be competitive in large part because of the production – or lack of thereof – from those players.
To make matters even worse, there are some very good young prospects trying to make a push for a spot on the team, but because of those bad contracts, there is simply no room for them to crack the NHL roster, and very little ways to trade to make room for them.
The positive? By trade deadline, there should be a bit more breathing room. Up until then, managing the cap will be like walking through a mine-field.