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The Montreal Canadiens’ salary-cap situation heading into free agency

For the first time in a long time, Marc Bergevin won’t carry a large chunk of cap space into the new season.

A day before the free-agency period opened, Marc Bergevin got his prized restricted free agent under contract, inking Josh Anderson to a seven-year contract; one of the longest he’s committed to in his tenure as general manager. As a result, the Montreal Canadiens have used up most of their available cap space, and head into free agency with a little more than $3 million to work with.

Salary cap data via CapFriendly
Justin Blades/EOTP

Note: Future years for Jeff Petry’s extension (4) and Karl Alzner’s buyout (3) aren’t represented by lines in the chart because amounts differ from the current cap hits

Recent deals for Joel Edmundson (another player acquired without a contract in hand) and the buyout of Karl Alzner’s final two years put Montreal close to the salary cap. Not as close as many other teams around the league struggling to get under the flat cap for 2020-21, but significantly closer to the ceiling than the club has been in recent seasons.

That means that there can’t be any outright signings of big-name free agents, like, say, Taylor Hall, without moving out a key player from last year’s roster. Instead, Bergevin may just try to upgrade his bottom six with some of the young players forced to go unqualified by cap contraints on other teams.

That little slice of cap room may not look like much, but there are several teams that would love to have that much wiggle room as they attempt to get their roster set for another season, and other clubs have had operating budgets reduced internally by the pandemic. So while a major name may not be joining the Canadiens on the first day of free agency, there’s still a chance that a good player gets added to the roster.