Marc Bergevin has spent his summer adding contracts that appear to be team-friendly deals, getting roster players for much less than their expected value.
Mark Barberio will take up just $750,000 of the $73 million salary cap the team has to work with this season. Daniel Carr and Sven Andrighetto will occupy even less. Yesterday, Bergevin signed Phillip Danault for under $1 million. He has also added some defensive depth with Zach Redmond, who will earn just north of the league-minimum salary.
The Montreal Canadiens general manager has been able to get players to agree to such deals by forgoing the usual approach of signing them a two-way contract, with a relatively high NHL salary, but a low AHL amount to be paid if they are sent down to the minors. By giving these players one-way deals, they will earn NHL money even if they wind up in a lesser league, and are willing to accept a lesser dollar figure as a result. The only issue is that the owner, Geoff Molson, is on the hook for a lot more money in 2016-17 than he’s been accustomed to, but that’s not really a concern for the average fan.
What could be a concern to fans is that Bergevin now has 25 of those one-way contracts on the roster, and only one player — Daniel Carr — can be sent down to the minors without needing to be exposed to waivers.
Before the regular season starts, the roster needs to trimmed to a maximum of 23 players. With 13 forwards, eight defencemen, and three goaltenders all waiver eligible, at least one player needs to be either traded or made eligible to be claimed by another NHL club.
|Salary cap hit||Type||Waivers Eligible|
One (or possibly both) of Mike Condon and Al Montoya will need to be removed from the roster by the time of the first game in October, and, given that Bergevin went out to get Montoya in free agency, it’s possible that he’s seen as the front-runner, though he is a more expensive option. Condon can probably get through waivers fairly easily, and join the AHL affiliate in St. John’s for the start of the year, while the veteran status of Montoya may make that more of a question in his case.
After that, the team is left with just one player to make a decision on, and have the option of going with 13 forwards and eight defencemen (as they did to start the 2015-16 season with both Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi relegated to the press box for the first part of the year), or the normal alignment of 14 forwards and seven defencemen.
On defence, the answer is probably to expose recently signed Zach Redmond to waivers and send him to St. John’s if he clears. He cost next to nothing to acquire, and wouldn’t be a huge loss if he were claimed. There’s always the possibility for a trade of one of those other seven blue-liners, but Redmond’s demotion is the most likely.
The forward option has a simple solution from a contract standpoint. Daniel Carr can be sent to the minors outright without needing waivers, and is the most obvious candidate for removal.
If that is the decision, it would be a poor one from a talent perspective, as Carr proved himself to be an NHL player in his rookie season. There’s no debate to be had whether he’s a better player than Stefan Matteau or Brian Flynn, so the solution should be to move one of those redundant depth players (either to a new team or with a minor-league demotion) rather than reduce the talent pool of those that make the cut.
That also doesn’t take into account the fact that Charles Hudon and Artturi Lehkonen could prove to be NHL-ready players in training camp. Lehkonen has the type of all-around ability that should see him challenge for at least a third-line role, while Hudon was probably good enough to make the team last year, but was excluded because of the number of bottom-six players already committed to.
Bergevin has stated repeatedly that he will make room if a prospect shows he’s ready to play at the top professional level. Up to this point, that hasn’t really been the case, with the general manager more often than not choosing experience over talent in the last round of training camp cuts.
If the team is serious about addressing the issues that plagued the team last year, the 2016-17 iteration of the Montreal Canadiens will be skewed more heavily toward offence at the forward position, and that means Carr, Lehkonen, and Hudon should all receive fair shots at making the team and forcing established players out.
Even after all the transaction made by the GM so far this summer, he should still have a lot of work to do before the new season begins. With lots of time to go before the roster is finalized, you can expect some more transactions to be made before October 13.