Facing Reality

By Bob Trask – The Montreal Canadiens have a handful of veteran players currently on the roster who consume a lot of cap space and who create a roadblock for prospects who are trying to make the team. There was hope that at least one of these players would fetch a 1st round pick or the very least a 2nd or 3rd round pick. With others there may have been the hope that they could slide a contract to another team without the need to retain salary or add assets.

All that seems to have changed. Many teams in the league are facing their own salary cap challenges and have little or no ability to absorb another contract.

Faced with this dilemma, Kent Hughes may have to adjust his sights.

Joel Edmundson

As teams were gearing up for the playoff run, Edmundson seemed like he would have been a reasonable addition for a team looking to add some muscle and playoff experience. But injuries struck and Eddie’s somewhat mediocre play saw that opportunity quickly dry up.

Those who envisioned a Ben Chiarot kind of trade came away disappointed and the market for Edmundson may have slipped down to a 2nd round choice or even later.

Mike Hoffman

Hoffman came to the Canadiens with the reputation as a power play specialist but that never materialized in Montreal. Combined with his less than average defensive play and his contract, the demand for his services evaporated.

One positive that may work in Hoffman’s favor is that he only has one year left on his contract but Hughes may have to retain salary if he is going to move him. If Edmundson slips down to a 2nd round or later pick, Hoffman might only bring a 3rd round or later pick… and that is with salary returned or a sweetener added in the form of a prospect. But NHL general managers have been known to do crazy things; let’s hope Hughes can find one of them.

Joel Armia

The fact that Armia has two years left on his contract could make him harder to move in a trade. Other options available to Hughes are to keep Armia in the hopes of a rebound, buy him out or trade him with salary retained. With two years left on his contract, the salary retained option seems unpalatable and the buyout option isn’t much better.

For better or worse, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Armia begins the season with the Habs, and depending upon his play, is made available at the trade deadline.

Jake Allen

Goaltending is a position where the Habs need to tread carefully. Allen had an underwhelming season but if he were to be traded, the depth chart could be something like Montembeault, Primeau and Dobes. If he isn’t traded, the depth chart could be Allen, Montembeault and Dobes, assuming that Primeau could be lost on waivers.

Neither of these situations look ideal but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Allen is traded despite his leadership qualities and his preference to play in Montreal. Once again, however, expectations need to be tempered as goaltenders rarely seem to bring an outsized return in a trade. A second round pick may be the best that Hughes could do if he decided to move Allen… unless the goaltender became part of a package deal.

Another option would be to trade Primeau in order to avoid losing him on waivers but he would bring even less in a trade than Allen.

Regardless of who makes the starting lineup in Montreal, the Canadiens could be in need of goaltending depth for the 2023-24 season. Look for them to add one in the off-season in addition to drafting at least one, if not two, in the upcoming draft. But don’t hold your breath if you are waiting for the acquisition of a big name starting goaltender. At least not for this off season.

Christian Dvorak and Josh Anderson

These are two players who could be in demand; Anderson moreso than Dvorak. If either of them are traded it would have to be part of a package that includes a high quality player and/or a very good prospect in return.

Hughes may be actively looking at opportunities to move Dvorak if Monahan re-signs with the Canadiens or if the Habs were able to pry Pierre-Luc Dubois out of Winnipeg. In fact, Dvorak could be part of a package in a trade for Dubois if Winnipeg felt they needed some depth at center.

Anderson would command a higher price and Hughes would likely have to be overwhelmed before accepting an offer for the big right winger. The Habs are already thin at RW and Anderson’s size/speed combination are welcome attributes to have in the lineup.

David Savard

Savard is the longest of longshots to be lacing up his skates for a new team next season but Kent Hughes would likely look long and hard if an offer came along that blew him away. According to all reports Savard is well respected by his teammates and has been a steadying influence on the young defensive corps. While he has his shortcomings, many of those can be attributed to being thrust into a role that he is not well suited for.

The timing seems to be perfect for him to play at least one more year with the Habs while they analyze whether Logan Mailloux is ready to step into the lineup. If he was traded, Hughes would likely see at least a second round pick and a reasonable prospect in return. Right handed defensemen are always in demand and should bring above market value in any trade.

The Lesser Lights

This group includes bottom six players and prospects with a year or two of pro experience under their belts. One or more of these players could be included as sweeteners in a trade simply because Montreal is running out of roster room to keep all of them. I would expect Hughes to use his currency of excess players judiciously in an effort to replace quantity with quality. On their own, their trade value is marginal but could serve as the icing on the cake in a package deal.

Adjusting Expectations

Without being privy to conversations between NHL GMs, it is hard to know what kind of value they will put on players this off season. However all signs point to a buyer’s market which means Kent Hughes may have to adjust his expectations when it comes to what he will be able to get in return for any trades.

Fifty Contract Conundrum

By Bob Trask – Each NHL team is restricted to having 50 players under contract at any given time. The Montreal Canadiens currently have 48 players under contract leaving them little room to add more bodies but that will change when some contracts expire on July 1st. Let’s dive in a little deeper.

Expiring contracts – UFAs

Canadiens’ players in this group include Jonathan Drouin, Sean Monahan, Paul Byron, Alex Belzile and Chris Tierney, all of whom were on the season ending roster or on the injury list. There is also a handful of Laval Rocket players who will become UFAs this year. They include Anthony Richard, Otto Leskinen, Frederic Allard, Corey Schueneman and Madison Bowey.

That is a total of 10 players and should the Canadiens decide to walk away from all of them, they would have 38 players remaining under contract. But many of those players would need to be replaced so it is a bit of a mirage to claim they would have room to add 12 players. For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume that there are up to 12 contracts available.

Expiring contracts – RFAs

The biggest name in the RFA group currently on the Canadiens’ roster is Cole Caufield and you know his going to be re-signed. The picture is not as clear for Denis Gurianov or Michael Pezzetta, but you would have to think that Hughes would re-sign Pezzetta even if he wasn’t expected to make the NHL roster out of training camp. Signing two out this group of three would expand the number of contracts available to 13.

The Laval Rocket have a larger number of pending RFAs led by Jesse Ylonen and Rafael Harvey-Pinard. Both seem likely to be re-signed. After that, there is Lucas Condotta, Mitchell Stevens, Joel Teasdale and Nicolas Beaudin. It would not be a stretch to see three of this group re-signed leaving the Canadiens with 14 available contracts.

Graduating Juniors

So far we have looked at players who may not return, thus opening up rosters spots. But the Canadiens have a handful of graduating juniors. Under NHL rules they are allowed to let those contracts slide (not count against the cap or the 50 man roster limit) but that will change next year when they turn pro. The three forwards and one defenseman in this group are Joshua Roy, Riley Kidney, Filip Mesar and Logan Mailloux. Mesar could return to junior but there is a good chance he plays in Laval. Those four contracts reduce the cushion to 10 available contracts. Owen Beck is a long shot to crack the NHL and can’t play in the AHL next year so I have left him out of the equation. His contract will likely slide again next year.

Signed for Next Season

Three players are also signed to entry level contracts for next season. They are Xavier Simoneau, Jayden Struble and Jakub Dobes. With those contracts taking effect on July 1st, the available contracts is whittled down to 7 and suddenly the roster space is getting tight.

Wiggle Room

No NHL GM likes going into a season with his full complement of 50 roster spots filled. It limits the opportunity to make multiple player trade and given where the Canadiens are on the road back to respectability, it is an option that they undoubtedly want to keep open. A reasonable amount of wiggle room might be 4 contracts leaving the Canadiens with only 3 available spots in this hypothetical scenario where Ylonen, Harvey-Pinard and maybe Condotta, Teasdale and Stephens or Richard are re-signed.


This glut of players points to a few things possibly happening.

The most obvious is that a large number of the UFAs will likely not receive contract offers. However, if the Canadiens did want to roll the dice one more time with Monahan the team is suddenly down to 2 roster spots.

The second thing that is likely to happen is that the Canadiens attempt trade quantity for quality allowing them to offer contracts to the remaining RFAs and UFAs who they feel would round out the Laval roster.

The Canadiens could also trade a player or two who counts against the 50 man limit for a draft pick or for a player who doesn’t yet count against the 50 man limit. Players in this group included drafted players who have not yet signed an ELC with the club that drafted them. These could be players drafted out of the CHL last year or unsigned draftees still playing in the NCAA or in Europe.

One way or another, Kent Hughes will have to deal with the glut of players who are currently part of the organization. Evaluations will be made and decisions taken on those evaluations. The management team faces a lot of work over the next 2 months.

Complex Situation

As we can see, the 50 man roster limit creates challenges for NHL general managers. It is not a simple matter of acquiring boatloads of talent; there are limits to deal with on many fronts. The salary cap is one of them but the 50 man roster limit is another.