Cap-Clearing Moves to Help the Habs

Segue Issue 22-07

February 25, 2022

On Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens announced the promotion of John Sedgwick to Assistant General Manager. Sedgwick has been with the Canadiens since 2013, most recently as vice president of hockey operations and legal affairs. He’s been involved in contract negotiations and navigating the collective bargaining agreement, but we primarily know him as the salary cap guy.

Increasingly, I have a sense that Sedgwick is about to become an important figure as Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes try to navigate their way out of the salary cap tangle they inherited from Marc Bergevin, and into a reconstructed, competitive roster.

In a recent (February 24th) segment on TSN Insider Trading, Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun caused a bit of a stir when he suggested the Montreal Canadiens would be aggressive when free agency opens on July 13th. LeBrun raised the possibility that the Habs were engaging in a “roster transformation” as opposed to a traditional rebuild – while they continue to covet picks and prospects and get younger in their “roster makeover”, they also would like to “lure a big star or two to Montreal.” You can listen to the entire segment by clicking the link below.

https://www.tsn.ca/video/~2389855

Considering who the Habs might be targeting is an article for another day when we have a better idea of which UFAs might make it to market. The task for now is getting ready for free agency, and if the Habs want to make a splash they will need to clear significant cap space.

The work has already begun. In the Tyler Toffoli deal, they brought back two picks, an expiring contract and an entry-level contract on a player developing in Europe. That deal equals cap space, and we can expect several more deals just like it as we approach the trade deadline and then the draft.

Not every deal will return a haul like Toffoli did. Some players will be moved for little, with the preferred return being cap space. Here are some cap-clearing deals to help the Habs in their roster transformation.

Cap-Clearing Deal #1 – Jake Allen

This morning Allen was on the ice for 30 minutes. I’m calling it now. He will play games and be moved before the March 21st deadline. Adding Allen to back up Price was brilliant at the time, but much has changed. At this stage we don’t even know if Price will return. If he does, winning immediately is not the priority it was. If necessary, Samuel Montembeault serves as an adequate back-up.

The Colorado Avalanche have two pending UFAs defending their net. Darcy Kuemper has played 36 games for them this season with a .919 SV% and a 2.47 GAA. Pavel Francouz has played 10 games and has a .923 SV% and a 2.35 GAA. I know what you’re thinking – both have better numbers than Allen. Here is the thing – neither of them has stolen a playoff series or owns a Stanley Cup ring.

Cap-Clearing Deal #2 – Joel Armia

Joel Armia had a brilliant post-season for the Habs last year, and Bergevin rewarded him like he won the Conn Smythe. I have no doubt that he could help a playoff team again this season, but it is highly unlikely any team will be willing to take on that contract. HuGo will look to lose this contract and won’t be concerned what comes back.

The Arizona Coyotes currently have six forwards on their NHL roster who are under control for next season. They will need to ice a team and reach the cap floor.

Cap-Clearing Deal #3 – Mike Hoffman

The Habs don’t need to move Mike Hoffman, but they may prefer to use that cap space on a higher-level talent in free agency. If there is a playoff team willing to take him on it will be because of his power play prowess.

The Washington Capitals have the lowest ranked power play efficiency amongst playoff teams, performing at just 15.72%. They recently scouted a Habs game and HuGo is reportedly interested in Samsonov.

When the deals are done…

The premise of this exercise was that the primary gain for the Canadiens would be cap space. In the proposed deals, the only return that represents cap hit for next season is Ilya Samsonov. Let’s pretend he is re-signed by the Habs for $3.4M, which is more than generous.

The net gain for the Canadiens is a younger platoon goalie, a 2nd round pick, and a 5th round pick, and get this – $7.375M in cap space.

If you were HuGo, what would you do on July 13th with $7.375M?

Published by Lori Bennett

Hockey is my hobby. I love a respectful hockey chat or debate, but it stops being fun if we're jerks.

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