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?

Summer of Lateral Moves for Hughes

By JD Lagrange – Well here we are, all set for yet another hockey season. For Habs’ fans everywhere, it’s a time of dissension once again. Some wish for the team to go through another miserable season to, hopefully, get another high draft pick. For most (my assumption here based on social media), fans wish for some kind of improvement over the past two – miserable- seasons.

Canadiens’ General Manager Kent Hughes has completed a few trades to adjust his roster, prospect pool and draft picks. But how successful of a summer was it for the second year GM? Let’s dive right into it, shall we?

Summer of 2023 – Trades

Hughes has completed five NHL trades this off-season.

June 27, 2023:

In their biggest trade of the summer, the Canadiens acquired Alex Newhook for prospect defenseman Gianni Fairbrother, a 1st round pick (#31) and early 2nd round pick (#37).

Analysis: Fairbrother had no chance in Montreal but the two picks were good ones. Newhook better work out…

July 1st, 2023:

Hughes then traded veteran defenseman Joel Edmundson (50% cap retained) to the Washington Capitals for a 3rd round pick and 7th round pick. 

Analysis: Perhaps Hughes’ best trade of the summer and here’s why: he created a spot on defense while shedding $1.75M of cap space. Definitely a good trade.

August 6, 2023:

The Canadiens’ GM convinced his counter-parts in Pittsburgh and San Jose to be the third wheel to facilitate a big trade, one involving Erik Karlsson. Hughes ended up trading Mike Hoffman and Rem Pitlick and received Jeff Petry, Casey DeSmith, Nathan Légaré and a 2nd round pick.

Analysis: When the dust settled on this trade, the Habs added $890,000 to their cap.

August 15, 2023:

It quickly became evident that the Canadiens had no intention in bringing back Petry, who had requested a trade from Montreal just a few months earlier. So Hughes traded the veteran defenseman to his home state of Michigan, getting defenseman Gustav Lindstrom and a 4th round pick from the Red Wings.

Analysis: The Canadiens had to retain 50% of Petry’s salary ($2.34M) to make this happen. Ultimately, it’s like getting Lindstrom for $3.29M instead of the $950k he’s making, to gain a 4th…

September 19, 2023: 

In a trade consumed a few days ago, Hughes traded newly acquired goaltender Casey DeSmith to Vancouver for Tanner Pearson and a 3rd round pick. 

Analysis: So the Canadiens traded a goalie they didn’t need and took on a forward that they didn’t need either, while adding $1.45M to the cap… for a 3rd.

Value of draft picks

Of course, you will always have those who value draft picks more than they should, ignoring the statistical analysis of the value (or lack of thereof) of any pick outside the first round. So allow me to refresh your memory.

According a research done by Dobber Prospects (in 2020), here are the odds of draft picks making it to the NHL and playing at least 100 games, per round selected:



So when the dust settled at the start of training camp, here’s what the big picture looks like for the Habs and Kent Hughes:

Alex NewhookFMike Hoffman
Tanner PearsonFRem Pitlick
Gustav LindstromDJoel Edmundson
Nathan LégaréProspectGianni Fairbrother
2024 3rd (MIN)2023 1st (#31)
2024 7th (WSH)2023 2nd (#37)
2025 2nd (PIT)
2025 3rd (VAN)
2025 4th (DET)

No matter how we try to twist this, Hughes made one good trade (Edmundson). The others are heavily hinging on Alex Newhook becoming a good NHL player, let’s face it.

While the number of picks acquired may seem impressive, the Canadiens traded away the best two picks (and odds of becoming NHL players) and received a bunch of picks that aren’t as likely to play in the league one day.

Last but not least, if the goal was to create roster spots or shed salary, the Canadiens’ GM has not accomplished any of it. At least not at the time of writing this. So while many are still on the honeymoon stage and feel like everything management does is gold, on the big scheme of things, this was a very underwhelming summer for Hughes and the Canadiens. But the off-season isn’t quite over yet… fingers crossed.