Heading into the first day of free agency, the Montreal Canadiens had about $19 million in cap space. Their main move was to add Karl Alzner to the roster, committing $4.625 million to the former Washington Capitals defender for the next five seasons.
note: Carey Price’s new contract extension isn’t shown because 2017-18 is the final season of his current deal (see the legend at the bottom of the image).
The move leaves them with about $14.6 million in space to sign three players. And the three players in question are all guys who have top-end skill.
Andrei Markov’s situation is a special case because by signing him the Canadiens would probably be bumping one of the players included above out of the lineup. Brandon Davidson and Jakub Jerabek are the main candidates, but the cap hit of David Schlemko coming off the books would help the team out the most from a salary cap perspective. It would mean trading a quality player Marc Bergevin had just acquired to make room for one of his own roster players.
The team would be dropping anywhere from Jerabek’s $925,000 to Schlemko’s $2.1 million commitment by re-signing Markov. Depending on how much The General’s contract requires ($6 million for two years has been determined to be too much), the actual impact on the projected cap space above will be slightly less than the dollar amount.
Assuming the best-case scenario in which Markov settles for $5.0 million, and Bergevin sends Schlemko to his fourth team in a matter of weeks after being an expansion-draft selection, the net result will be $2.9 million of cap space, dropping the available funds to $11.7 million.
Now the team still needs to add three players to get to the 23-man alignment, with Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov being the main options. The third forward will require a minimum of $650,000 of space (the league minimum and smallest contract the Habs have for an NHL-ready player), so the total is $11.05 million to sign both Galchenyuk and Radulov.
Radulov earned $5.75 million on a one-year deal to showcase his talents, and isn’t going to sign for less after being an NHL team MVP and posting 54 points last season. He would be selling himself short for anything less than $6 million, but perhaps he could be encouraged to take the same dollar amount as he did in his first year for a longer term.
In this best-case scenario, the team would be left with $5.3 million to sign Galchenyuk and leave space available for in-season call-ups and other transactions. To leave any space at all, that limits Galchenyuk to a $4.5 million offer, and that’s not going to get a 30-goal forward signed for a substantial period of time. It’s possible he would agree to yet another bridge deal hoping to cash in after a few good seasons. An independent arbitrator probably wouldn’t accept that Galchenyuk had “taken a step back“ when seeing his full-season projection of 60 points to go with the 56 contributed in 2015-16, so the savings via that course of action aren’t going to be the solution.
With a second two-year bridge deal, you’re looking at potentially having to sign a top-line centreman at the same time as your best winger, Max Pacioretty, after just having added a $10.5 million contract for the league’s top goaltender, and that’s a precarious situation for a general manager to put his team in.