With 24 hours left until NHL Trade Deadline, the Montreal Canadiens aren’t done working the phones.
With the market now shifting to second and third-tier players, of which the Canadiens have plenty to offer, Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes can sit back and field even more offers and as promised explore every avenue to improve his team for the long haul. With the exception of working with Jeff Petry to facilitate the trade he requested earlier this season, Hughes has remained open-minded about who to trade and who to keep, as well as what he can gain on the NHL Trade market.
We continue our list of Canadiens players that could be moved to help the Habs get some much needed cap flexibility, stockpile picks, replenish the prospect system, and in some cases even improve the current roster:
Shea Weber’s contract is going to be a problem if the Canadiens and Hughes are going to want some flexibility under the Cap, and moving that contract would likely be Step 1 for Hughes in relieving the Canadiens of their fiscal limitations.
“We’re pursuing opportunities to give us more flexibility under the Salary Cap. I can’t say how we’re going to do that, but we’ll try to do that,” said Hughes when asked about trading Weber’s contract.
According to our friends at Puckpedia, Shea Weber’s contract has a Cap Hit of $7.857M for another four years after this 2021-2022 season but only has to be paid a total of six million in actual dollars during that span. That’s extremely attractive to a team like Arizona, whose new arena deal with Arizona State University will inhibit them from being able to spend much higher than 60M in player salaries for the foreseeable future.
The discrepancy between Weber’s Cap Hit and actual salary will allow the Arizona Coyotes ownership group to save millions on their payroll while their revenue potential remains low due to limited attendance 5000- fan capacity at Arizona State University. With Arizona set to be a bottom-feeder for the next couple of seasons, they will likely stay away from the unrestricted free agent market for a while, and acquiring high Cap Hits with low salaries is likely what gets them through the next couple of years until a new arena deal can be reached.
Jeff Petry has played much better for the Montreal Canadiens since they brought on Martin St. Louis as head coach, but the plan hasn’t changed leading up to the NHL trade deadline. With Petry returning to his offensive ways, putting up 7 points in his last 8 games, there will be no shortage of interest in the veteran defender. Due to his inspiring play and renewed offensive prowess, it’s looking more and more likely that Hughes will be able to find a new home for Petry before the start of the season next year.
Adding fuel to the NHL trade chatter surrounding Petry, TSN Insider Pierre Lebrun said that the plan for the Canadiens was still to move Petry should a team step up and offer them an adequate offer for their veteran blueliner, a sentiment that was echoed by Hughes earlier this week. Lebrun believes it may be difficult to move Petry’s $6.25M contract before the NHL trade Deadline, but that there would be no shortage of suitors in the summer when teams will have more financial flexibiility. Hughes can afford to be patient in this situation, as Petry’s improved play since St.Louis’ appointment as head coach can only improve his value down the stretch and leave a much better impression in the eyes of pro scouts headed into the offseason.
Pierre Lebrun on Petry: There hasn't been a change of heart. If they get a good offer, they will move him.
— Marco D'Amico (@mndamico) March 4, 2022
With the Montreal Canadiens likely heading toward a very unique rebuild, moving out salary, like the high Cap hit on Petry’s deal will be necessary if they wish to be aggressive during free agency this summer. Petry’s improved play will surely prompt a few contending teams to reach out for the veteran defender, as his mobility and the scarcity of right-handed shot defenseman available on the market will make him a well sought-after asset during the offseason.
Joel Armia is another darkhorse to be moved before the NHL Trade Deadline, as teams have expressed interest in his services over the last week. Armia has had an underwhelming season so far, but seems to have really picked up his game in the last two weeks, and it couldn’t come at a better time.
“Do I know that teams have called and asked about him? Yes, I know that,” said TSN Insider Darren Dreger on the subject of Armia during a recent episode of the Montreal Hockey Now podcast. ”Managers aren’t blind to the idea that Armia hasn’t posted the numbers were expected, but they also recognize that he’s not that far removed from being an important piece in Montreal.”
With a $3.4M Cap hit over the next three seasons, it might be challenging to move Armia without retaining salary or taking back a contract in the process, but stranger things have happened. Teams may be willing to take on his contract at full value because they believe he will be worth it once he’s put back in an optimal environment. If the Canadiens can get an asset without having to sweeten the pot leading up to NHL Trade Deadline, it should be a no-brainer to move on from Armia and utilize that precious cap space elsewhere in their lineup this summer.
That's a big goal for Joel Armia, it breaks his slump and puts the Habs up 4-1 pic.twitter.com/Ik29u72m9M
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 20, 2022