Cap Going Up: Impact On The Habs

By JD Lagrange – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman informed the league Board of Governors yesterday that the salary cap is on track to reach $87.7 million for 2024-25. The cap is currently at $83.5 million and has been flattened since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The $4.2 million increase is in line with the “lag formula” contained in the 2020 Memorandum of Understanding between the NHL and NHL Players Association coming out of the pandemic. The two sides can negotiate for a higher formula, something NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh hinted at during a recent interview with Frank Seravalli.

Canadiens’ position

While this increase will affect each and every NHL team, the Montreal Canadiens, who have been struggling with cap issues for several years now, could finally find some breathing room. And that’s not only due to the cap being raised.

Tanner Pearson ($3.25M), Sean Monahan ($1.895M) and Chris Wideman ($762,500) are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents (UFA) at the end of the season.

However, Samuel Montembeault’s $3.15M contract will be kicking in next season, up from the $1M he’s currently making. And as there will only be one year left to Joel Armia’s contract, Kent Hughes could decide to buy him out if he can’t find a trade partner.

Let’s also not forget that the Canadiens are retaining $1.75M off Joel Edmundson’s contract, and are still paying $833,333 for Karl Alzner’s buyout. Both those end at the end of this season.

Jesse Ylönen, Justin Barron, Arber Xhekaj, Gustav Lindström, Mattias Norlinder and Cayden Primeau are the organization’s only pending restricted free agents (RFA). Off of those, only Xhekaj and Barron aren’t entitled to arbitration but Barron is the one right now in the best negotiating position due to his great start to the season.

What does this all mean for the team? Let’s have a look…

Salary Cap$83.5M$87.7M+ 4.2M
Tanner Pearson$3.25M+ $3.25M
Sean Monahan$1.895M+ $1.895M
Chris Wideman$762,500+ $762,500
Sam Montembeault$1M$3.15M– 2.15M
Joel Armia$3.4M$866,667+ $2.53M
Joel Edmundson$1.75M+ 1.75M
Karl Alzner$833,333+ 833,333
+ 13.07M

That’s right. The Canadiens would add $13 million in additional cap space for next season, with a handful of RFAs to sign. Now talk about a good chunk of change for Hughes to go shopping with, either through trades or via the free agency market. And that includes the possibility of re-signing Monahan if he decides to do so.

That is also not counting Carey Price’s LTIR money, with the potential of adding another $10.5M!

When you see names like William Nylander, Sam Reinhart, Jake Guentzel and Teuvo Teräväinen and Elias Lindholm as pending UFAs, it makes things rather interesting, doesn’t its it?

And as you can see, Brendan Gallagher and Josh Anderson’s contracts won’t be hurting the team too much, will they?

Six Years And Counting

By JD Lagrange – How long does it take to turn a franchise around in the NHL? Depending on who you ask, you will get different answers. Many will blow smoke trying to convince you that they know what it takes. But there is no set blueprint to turn a team around through the draft.

When it all started

For the Canadiens, the reset, rebuild or re-whateveryouwannacallit started in the Summer of 2018. That’s when then GM Marc Bergevin started piling up his draft pick and revamped his scouting and player-development. Whether he did enough on that aspect is a topic of discussion but what is not, is the fact that he did revamp it.

Then, of course, there was this change in management, and eventually leading to the hiring of Martin St-Louis as head coach. All of this brought a much needed wind of fresh air after nine years under previous management. Even those who liked Bergevin, like yours truly, were behind this new management.

Now, we are now days away from turning the calendar to the year 2024. So this upcoming Summer, it will be six years since the re-thing started. A first and fifth overall draft pick later, a few trades completed in the process, and we must admit that what the Canadiens have to show for is rather disappointing to fans.

Lack of progress

Where is the progress, many fans ask? I would venture to say that there are only a couple of solid progress stories so far. Kaiden Guhle has been phenomenal and we’re potentially looking at a solid top-pairing defenseman for years to come. The second is another defenseman, Justin Barron. Since being called up from Laval, Barron has played some pretty solid hockey.

Let me ask you this. Where is the progression from Nick Suzuki this season? What about Cole Caufield? Prior to getting injured, where was the progression from Rafaël Harvey-Pinard? Or Jesse Ylönen and Jake Evans? Jordan Harris and Mattias Norlinder?

And as much as we want to defend Juraj Slafkovsky, he is not performing to the expectations rightfully placed on the first player selected in his year of the draft. To make matters worse, he is playing at the easiest position on the ice, on the wing. As we all know, defensemen and goaltenders will take longer to develop, and young centers often need to adapt, particularly in the faceoffs’ circle.

With that being said, it’s way too early to give up on Slafkovsky and he may still end up being the best player selected in his draft year. Understand that I’m not pounding on the kid as I had him going first at the Draft that Summer.

The reasons why I’m bringing him up is because of his very slow progression. I feel like by now, we should start seeing him put up some numbers at the very least. Did the Canadiens do the right thing by keeping him in Montreal last season, and preventing him to play at the World Junior Championships? I believe so but who am I to criticize, right? It’s working out so well.

Then of course, there are prospects doing well in their respective leagues but every season, you will find that. The reasons why I don’t follow prospects from too close is because… they are just that: prospects. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a prospect, as good as he may be at his level, is only a prospect as long as he’s not having an impact in the NHL. As much as some want us to believe that they know what they’re talking about, truth is that no one truly knows when he will reach his ceiling in development… no even the team.

All in all, fans should be starting to get disgruntled with the lack of success, or at the very least, the lack of progress on the ice. Yes, injuries have played a role in the team’s struggles. But by now, the young guys should be able to step it up more than they have thus far. At least, that is one man’s opinion…