Christmas 2020 has come and gone – thankfully – and now is Boxing Day, with its multitude of deals. People are lining up, in spite of the pandemic, in close proximity, to take advantage of the biggest sales of the year. Forget the money spent on Christmas presents, people feel like they need more. And it’s a competition to get there before stocks run out. One would think that in 2020, with everything that we’ve been through in the world, common sense would prevail but those of us who have lived for a long time, know better. Common sense is no longer common.
With the NHL’s announcement that the 2021 season will be starting its activities in mid-January, many teams have their work cut out to finalize their roster in time for the season to start. Many teams find themselves over the $81.5 million maximum cap limit and must find ways to unload some hefty contracts, while trying to ice the most competitive team possible. There are bargains to be had. You see, on a 56 game season, any team coming out of the gates quickly can hope for a playoffs’ spot and with the new division alignments, new (or old) rivalries will see the day of light.
Habs’ Cap Situation
According to most hockey experts, Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin has done a fantastic job at remodelling his team. Out went disgruntled Max Domi and in came power-forward Josh Anderson. Bergevin also traded a pick for Jake Allen to provide Carey Price with an amazing backup. He signed UFAs Joel Edmundson and Tyler Toffoli, while bringing in rookie defenseman Alexander Romanov. Just recently, he also signed UFA Michael Frolik to a $750,000 one-year contract.
For the first time in many years, the Canadiens are one of the teams spending to the cap. For the most part, fans are happy. According to Elliotte Friedman, Bergevin isn’t done his shopping.
At the time of writing this, the Canadiens find themselves about $370,000 above the cap limit with a roster of 22 players. In order to add to his lineup, money out will have to equal or surpass money in.
It doesn’t take a cap specialist or a GM to see that the Canadiens have a surplus of NHL caliber defensemen. While Shea Weber will be paired with Ben Chiarot and Jeff Petry will have found a new partner in Joel Edmundson, the bottom pairing is extremely congested. Claude Julien believes that rookie Romanov will make the team. Assuming that they will go with seven defensemen, this would leave two spots open for height suitable candidates. Victor Mete, Brett Kulak, Noah Juulsen, Cale Fleury, Josh Brook, Otto Leskinen, Xavier Ouellet and Gustav Olofsson would all want to take one of those two spots. Finding teams in need of defensemen wouldn’t be hard to do.
There is also congestion on the wing. With the arrival of Anderson and Toffoli, combined with the contract extension to Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia, a pending UFA, finds himself on the fourth line. He’s not a fourth line player and you have Jordan Weal there too, although he can also play centre. On the left side, Jonathan Drouin and Tomas Tatar occupy the top-two spots. Then you have Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen on the bottom-six, and newcomer Frolik. At centre, Phillip Danault, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi have the top three spots. The battle for the fourth line centre should be between Jake Evans and Ryan Poehling, although the big American might have to play left-wing.
Boxing Day Sale
Considering the cap situation, the most likely forwards to be moved are, in order:
- Paul Byron (31) $3.4M until 2022-23 (UFA)
- Joel Armia (27) $2.6M until 2020-21 (UFA)
- Arthur Lehkonen (25) $2.4M until 2020-21 (RFA)
- Jordan Weal (28) $1.4M until 2020-21 (UFA)
And here’s the situation amongst the surplus of defensemen, sorted by age:
- Xavier Ouellet (27) $738k until 2021-22 (UFA)
- Brett Kulak (26) $1.85M until 2021-22 (UFA)
- Gustav Olofsson (26) $750k until 2020-21 (RFA)
- Otto Leskinen (23) $925k until 2020-21 (RFA)
- Noah Juulsen (23) $700k until 2020-21 (RFA)
- Victor Mete (22) $735k until 2020-21 (RFA)
- Cale Fleury (22) $772k until 2020-21 (RFA)
- Josh Brook (21) 795k until 2021-22 (RFA)
If Bergevin can somehow unload Byron and Kulak, this would give the Canadiens an additional $5.25 million of cap space without taking away too much from the team depth. This could allow for a pretty good player being added to an already pretty good line-up. Not only can fans be excited about the new season to start, there are also some potential moves coming to fortify the team. That in itself is pretty exciting too! Go Habs Go!