Opening Day Roster Analysis

By JD Lagrange – As yet another NHL season is upon us, hockey “experts” and fans have pulled out their crystal balls to make predictions on the upcoming season. Ignoring the fact that they’ve set records for man-games lost to injuries two years in a row, downplaying the changes made both on the ice and to the medical staff, few are giving the Montreal Canadiens any chances of improving this upcoming season. And that’s not counting on the young players developing and improving…

Canadiens’ head coach Martin St-Louis has prepared his team during training camp and he seems to have made some decisions when it comes to the opening night’s line-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. Here is what the combinations look like and a quick assessment from yours truly.


22 Caufield – 14 Suzuki – 17 Anderson

Is Josh Anderson the perfect winger for the Canadiens’ dynamic duo of Caufield and Suzuki? Maybe not. But what he does bring is speed and physicality. He will create space for the team’s two most talented forwards and is capable of imposing respect if opponents want to take liberties against them. He has also been scoring 25 goals per 82 games since joining the Canadiens. This line has a lot of potential.

15 Newhook – 77 Dach – 20 Slafkovsky

It seems like at times, Dach and Slafkovsky had developed some chemistry. Adding a speedy and gritty winger appears to be a smart move by coach St-Louis. If these three can find each other on the ice, it could be an interesting combination. It is a very young line however. Newhook, a natural center, can help Dach take some faceoffs on his strong side as well.

70 Pearson – 91 Monahan – 11 Gallagher

Monahan had an excellent camp. With six points in four games, only Suzuki provided more points for the Canadiens. This will definitely be the team’s “veteran line”, with a combined total of 1,946 regular season’s games amongst them. All three, however, have been struggling with injuries as of late. Gallagher only played 37 games last season, while Monahan (25) and Pearson (14) have played even fewer games. If healthy, this line does have some potential as well.

49 Harvey-Pinard – 71 Evans – 56 Ylönen/55 Pezzetta

Harvey-Pinard has the ability to move up and down the line-up during in-game situations. This will be an energy line that will be defensively responsible. Evans’ progress has been stagnant, particularly on offense, but he’s a sound player for the most part. Ylönen has finally done enough to earn a spot and it’s up to him to prove that he belongs, while we know what Pezzetta brings to the table.

* 28 Christian Dvorak (injured) is skating with his teammates in a non-contact jersey


8 Matheson – 58 Savard

Mike Matheson is proving his worth not only to the Canadiens, but to the NHL in general. Since coming to Montreal, he has become a different player, taking his game to the next level. We all know that Savard is not a top-pairing defenseman but like last season, he’s playing in a chair that’s not his while the team’s young right-handed defensemen with a higher ceiling are developing. They should do okay.

21 Guhle – 26 Kovacevic

In spite of his young age, Kaiden Guhle is a stud and has proven to be able to take on big minutes against the opposition’s best. While Kovacevic was a surprise – he also had a great camp – he is not a top-4 defenseman and at times, the team will suffer from having Savard on the top pair, and Kovy on the second pairing. I was hoping that Barron would be ready to step into that role but he hasn’t seized that opportunity… yet.

72 Xhekaj – 54 Harris/52 Barron

Xhekaj is continuing to defy all logic by being a very capable defender while bringing this heavyweight presence in case it’s needed. Both Harris and Barron are young players who will continue to develop as the season progresses.


34 Allen / 35 Montembeault / 30 Primeau

Once again, goaltending will be the team’s Achilles. Their performances at camp did nothing to reassure anyone both within, and outside the organization. While the Canadiens have drafted a few goalies at this past NHL Draft, they will need time to develop and I’m convinced that Kent Hughes must make it a priority to improve the goaltending position as soon as possible. Concerned about losing Cayden Primeau if they tried sending him through waivers, the Canadiens have decided to start the season with three goaltenders.


I will not go into details about who’s playing on special teams but I do want to share something that coach St-Louis has told Eric Engels of Sportsnet in a recent interview. This clearly shows the organization’s mentality about winning, in spite of what some fans claim.


If this team stays relatively healthy, and if Hughes addresses the immediate glaring need in net, I think that this team will surprise most people in hockey. The Boston Bruins are weaker, and so are the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Florida Panthers have remained at a similar level, losing toughness. The Leafs might have improved a bit, but… they’re the Leafs. Detroit, Buffalo and Montreal have all improved, in my opinion. This will make for a tighter division where any team can beat their opponent on any given night. As Claude “Piton” Ruel once said: “Y’en n’aura pas d’faciles…

Habs Salary Cap – A Deep Dive

By Bob Trask – Now that the NHL salary cap has been set at $83.5 million for the 2023-24 season, we can take a closer look at the situation for the Montreal Canadiens. For the purposes of this article, I have taken the salary cap information for signed players from Cap Friendly and the projected contracts for unsigned players from AFP Analytics.

The first thing you might notice is that this list consists of 27 players and a full NHL roster is only 23 players. The second thing you might notice is that the salary of Carey Price is included in the totals. With that in mind, it is important to remember that teams can be 10% over the cap during the summer pushing the limit to $91.85 million over the summer months.

Don’t worry too much about positions. Left wingers can often play right wing and vice versa. And some players listed as wingers here also play center.

Here are the cap numbers:


Carey Price$10,500,000
Jake Allen$3,850,000
Samuel Montembeault$1,000,000

Left Defense

Mike Matheson$4,875,000
Kaiden Guhle$863,333
Arber Xhekaj$828,333
Jordan Harris$1,400,000

Right Defense

David Savard$3,500.000
Justin Barron$925,000
Jonathan Kovacevic$766,667
Chris Wideman$762,500


Nick Suzuki$7,875,000
Kirby Dach$3,362,500
Christian Dvorak$4,450,000
Jake Evans$1,700,000

Left Wing

Cole Caufield$7,850,000
Sean Monahan$1,985,000
Juraj Slafkovsky$950,000
Michael Pezzetta$812,500
Rafael Harvey-Pinard$1,100,000
Mike Hoffman$4,500,000
Rem Pitlick$1,100,000
Alex Newhook (estimated)$2,260,000

Right Wing

Josh Anderson$5,500.000
Brendan Gallagher$6,500,000
Joel Armia$3,400,000
Jesse Ylonen (estimated)$875,000


Joel Edmundson (retained)$1,750,000
Karl Alzner (buyout)$833,333
Bonus Overage$1,170,000


The total for all of these cap expenses, including Price’s contract and the estimates for Newhook and Ylonen, is $87,244,166 which is well within the 10% overage limit for the off-season. Moving Carey Price’s contract to LTIR would drop the total salary commitment down to $76,744,166 and well within the $83.5M salary cap for 2023-24.

However that would still leave the Habs with 26 contracts and the regular season limit is 23. If Montreal demoted their 3 smallest salaries in order to reach the roster limit, the cap hit would be reduced by another $2,341,667 to $74,402,499 – well within the $83.M cap limit.

Another approach could be to bury three veteran salaries in the AHL. If, for example, those were the salaries of Mike Hoffman, Joel Armia and Chris Wideman, Montreal could bury $1.15M for each of Hoffman and Armia while they could bury the full $762,500 for Wideman. In this case the cap hit would be reduced by $3,062,500 to $73,681,666.

All of these moves can be made without the need for a trade. Ideally, Montreal would like to get under the $83.5M including Price’s contract for the season opener. That can provide some benefits on how LTIR is applied to the cap. In order to achieve that, however, would require a trade or two that would see the Canadiens shed some salary without taking back too much in return.

These ideas are just an example of the wide range of options available to the Canadiens as they try to manage the salary cap to their advantage. Over the next 3 months expect to see Kent Hughes use this cap flexibility in an effort to improve the Canadiens in the short term and the long term.

The good news is that Kent Hughes faces minimal cap challenges this year but he also needs to keep an eye on contracts he will have to negotiate in the following years.