Some of the biggest stories of the off-season so far have revolved around the Montreal Canadiens. First, Shea Weber’s hockey future was thrown into doubt by reports of a serious injury, and the belief now is that his career is “probably” over, according to general manager Marc Bergevin.
The key bit of news when the Seattle Kraken expansion draft was approaching was that Carey Price was dealing with a less serious injury, but would nevertheless potentially miss the start of the new season. As a result he waived his no-movement clause and was available to be selected by the new team.
Seattle shied away from the $10.5-million cap hit, however, leaving Price unclaimed and free to re-enable his NMC to stay in Montreal.
That cap hit remains the largest on the team. Technically Weber’s is the second-highest on the books at almost $8 million, but he will likely be put on long-term injured reserve. For the intents and purposes of this graphic, removing his slice from the chart serves the same purpose; that cap space is free to be spent on other players.
There are six defencemen under contract for next season who played on the team in 2020-21, but Bergevin will want someone more of Weber’s calibre to take top-four minutes. Expect that to be one of his top priorities, and the first-round pick in tonight’s draft could be in play to acquire such a blue-liner.
He also needs to get a centreman to take big minutes against top players, because it’s sounding like Phillip Danault won’t be back with the team. Nick Suzuki has established himself as the top offensive option down the middle, but the team will be trying to add a number-two to back him up.
We also heard on Thursday that Jonathan Drouin is expected to play next year, so there are now eight forwards signed for next season, with five to six more to go. Restricted free agents Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen can probably be re-signed relatively inexpesively, the former getting a birdge deal hoping to cash in a few seasons from now, and the latter a reliable bottom-six player. Corey Perry may also be offered a deal, but his interest in sticking around may depend on how Bergevin is able to restore the team’s contender status via his other moves.
There is a bit more than $21 million available to make this all happen. A small portion of the available space is eaten up by a bonus overage penalty the Canadiens were handed, but having your young players perform too well in the post-season is far from the worst problem an NHL team is facing. There are more young prospects who could step into lesser roles without needing big financial commitments, so there could be a major splash — or two — made in the coming days.