Eggs Bennett 22-06
May 12, 2022
This is the fifth installment of the Killer Contracts series. You’re probably thinking that a team that has five killer contracts on its book is a team in a wee bit of trouble, and you wouldn’t be wrong. When Marc Bergevin was relieved of his duties as GM of the Montreal Canadiens, he left some challenging financial commitments for the new leadership duo of Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton (HuGo) to address.
The Habs season has expired, and with it the HuGo window of assessment to determine who fits for the short, medium, and long terms. There is no question about whether HuGo will try to move some problematic contracts as they approach the draft and free agency, which are the next two windows of change for the Habs. Hughes has recently stated he wanted to get younger, faster, and bigger and we know that with the Habs cap situation, addition can’t begin until some subtraction has occurred. Hughes has also stated he does not want to compromise the future to relieve the cap situation.
In four previous articles I addressed Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron. You can find them all at habather.ca. For this article, let’s turn our attention to Joel Armia.
The Contract Background
Joel Armia, who will turn 29 at the end of the month, has just finished the first and least salary-heavy year of a 4-year, $13.6M contract that has an AAV of $3.4M. The contract has no signing bonuses to consider, but one of the challenges of the contract is that the most expensive years from a salary perspective are the last two years of the deal.
How did this killer contract come to be?
Armia was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the 2011 draft at 16th overall. After another year of development in Finland, he signed his entry-level contract with Buffalo in the summer of 2012. Armia remained in Finland for another year before making the leap to North America.
In the weeks leading up to the 2015 trade deadline Armia was a prospect piece in the Evander Kane trade between the Sabres and the Winnipeg Jets. Armia completed the season and played in Winnipeg for two more years thereafter. In July of 2016, the Jets signed Armia to a two-year contract.
In the summer of 2018, Armia became a pot sweetener for the Jets to move on from the Steve Mason contract. Mason and Armia, along with fourth and seventh round picks went to Montreal for defenseman Simon Bourque. Bourque was released by the Jets prior to the start of the 2018-19 season, and the Habs bought out the Mason contract.
GM Marc Bergevin signed Armia to three contracts: a 1-year deal in the summer of 2018 worth $1.85M, a 2-year deal in the summer of 2019 worth $5.2M ($2.6M AAV), and the current contract.
Inconsistency. That’s the killer. When he is at the top of his game, Armia can win a board battle with a Mack truck, be a big part of a dominant cycle game, and add depth scoring courtesy of a deadly shot. When he is off his game, he is a special kind of maddening.
Armia’s inconsistency issue is compounded by a little bad timing. He is a known playoff performer – the fourth line he formed with Corey Perry and Eric Staal in last year’s playoff was brilliant, cycling the opposition into dust. It was that performance that lured Bergevin into the current killer contract.
The Habs are currently in a renovation period, and it is unlikely that they’ll be a playoff threat soon. That’s where the bad timing comes in. The Habs don’t need Armia for when he is at his best, and when he is not his production simply does not match the contract.
This is one of several killer contracts that HuGo will explore options to move this summer to create some cap space.
The ideal trade partner will be a team who has the space for Armia, perceives a use for him and, in some cases, might be looking for the sweetener that comes with him. I am proposing three types of deals for the big forward. I have offered one team in each scenario as a trade proposal, but several teams may be options in each type of deal.
I expect Armia to be one of the contracts that HuGo finds a way to move this summer to create a little cap space, and the draft floor is the perfect time to make such a deal.