On the surface, Michael Frolik joining the Montreal Canadiens is a depth addition. The current forward depth of the team, outside of the expected top 12 forwards, includes Jordan Weal, Alex Belzile, Lukas Vejdemo, and Ryan Poehling, among others.
For a team that is expecting to contend for a playoff spot, that isn’t an ideal place to be when you may have to deal with injuries. Frolik definitely helps in that aspect as a veteran with 850 games that will not look out of place in any team’s bottom six.
But that’s not where my first thought went when I saw the signing. One number stuck out for me: $750,000.
For the first time in a few years, when you go to Cap Friendly the Canadiens were very close to the Salary Cap of $81,500,000 with only 12 forwards before Frolik was signed, and that was without Jake Evans — the projected fourth line centre — on the NHL roster.
That could have been fixed by sending Jordan Weal down and bringing Evans up, but if Weal were to get claimed on waivers, that’s one of your top injury replacements gone which makes that replacement depth even thinner.
With Frolik, the Canadiens can have built-in Weal insurance even if he gets claimed on waivers, and they can also have the ability to carry 13 forwards, seven defenders, and two goaltenders with Evans included.
Montreal Canadiens Salary Cap situation
|Gallagher, Brendan "A"||$3,750,000|
|Byron, Paul "A"||$3,400,000|
|Weber, Shea "C"||$7,857,143|
You’ll notice that Frolik and Evans are on the roster, and with the $325,000 of Weal’s buried cap hit, the team is just over the cap of $81,500,000.
They could also trade Weal, knowing that they have an additional NHL veteran to call upon should any injury hit.
This means that the Canadiens can have an extra forward and defender available should something happen at the last minute, and there’s no additional salary cap manipulation required — which can get tricky, especially at the last minute. They could also use Noah Juulsen or Belzile’s cap hit of $700,000 instead of Frolik’s which would put them under the cap.
Someone like Ryan Poehling could still be with the team on the taxi squad and are available if needed, but if they weren’t playing anyways, it provides Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin with options. He doesn’t need to save cap space for his extra forward, and he doesn’t have to sacrifice a roster spot just to save on the cap either.
This arrangement would allow one extra roster space, with 22 players on the active roster of the 23-player maximum but that’s a lot better than going with a roster of 21, or even 20 players.
We have already seen teams play with 11 forwards or 17 skaters out of necessity due to salary cap management. This signing allows the Canadiens the flexibility to not put themselves in that situation.
In the worst case scenario, Frolik is a shrewd bit of cap management, but he’s still a serviceable NHL player who will be able to fit in and contribute. It’s a no risk move, and it has the potential for a nice little reward to boot.
It also could provide the Canadiens general manager with the ability to make a trade to free up even more cap space.
In these unprecedented times, and a positive COVID-19 test keeping players out of the lineup for 10 games, flexibility is paramount and Frolik provides that at a very minimal cost.