With the Montreal Canadiens looking to make room under the Salary Cap and the Arizona Coyotes needing to keep real dollar expenses to a minimum, the two clubs make for excellent trading partners.
Trading Weber’s contract has been something that general manager Kent Hughes has openly discussed over the last three months now, and Arizona would be a logical destination. Hughes claimed to have come very close to moving the contract at the NHL Trade Deadline, which we now know to have been with the Coyotes, but that the deal ultimately fell through. Hughes doubled down on his desire to move Weber’s contract this summer during the Canadiens’ exit meetings, claiming that Weber’s playing days are over.
“I think it’s highly unlikely that Shea Weber is going to be physically capable of playing again,” said Kent Hughes during his press conference on April 30.
With Hughes repeating on multiple occasions his desire to gain flexibility under the Salary Cap, moving Weber’s contract is likely Step 1 of that plan.
Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes Make Ideal Trading Partners
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 the Arizona Coyotes, 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.
Although the Coyotes could simply just spend the money on new contracts, be it for their restricted free agents or via Cap-dump trades, there isn’t a contract in the NHL right now that has a bigger discrepancy between salary and Cap hit than Weber’s. That discrepancy would allow the Arizona Coyotes ownership group to save millions on their payroll, as their revenue potential remains low due to the limited attendance of their new home 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.
As for the Montreal Canadiens, moving a contract like Weber’s would give them some breathing room under the Cap for next season, all while finally giving them the flexibility of being able to accrue Cap space throughout the season. Over the last two seasons, the Canadiens have been operating over the Salary Cap due to relief afforded by putting some key players on Long-Term Injury Reserve (LTIR), as has become customary in the current “Flat Cap” era. By trading Weber’s contract, the Canadiens, who are already projected to be $171,309 over the Cap next season, would be able to work with over $7M this summer. There could be other players moved to make additional room under the Cap, like Jeff Petry for example, but trading Weber’s contract would be a good start for the Canadiens on their quest for fiscal flexibility.
Revisiting Talks in the Summer
TSN Insider Darren Dreger confirmed to the good folks at TSN 690 earlier in May that paperwork regarding
“It does get a little bit more complicated as Kent Hughes alluded to in reference to Shea Weber because of insurance attachments,” said Dreger on why Shea Weber wasn’t moved prior to Trade Deadline. ” That’s really the reason Weber’s contract didn’t get moved to the Arizona Coyotes. Just because there was more paperwork that needed to be done and more money that needed to be paid out.”
Dreger went into detail pointing out that both Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens were ready to make a deal, but Arizona grew impatient and decided to go another route to acquire the contract of a player on career-ending Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) in the form of Bryan Little from Winnipeg.
“All parties felt very strongly that they were going to get something done (at Trade Deadline),” said Dreger on a Weber trade falling through prior to March 21. “It’s just insurance-related, and Kent Hughes kind of nibbled at it. They just needed more time and Arizona had other interests out there at the time and clearly moved on it.”
Dreger concluded his segment with the belief that it’s only a question of time before Weber’s contract is moved to Arizona, who has many contracts coming off the books this summer, or other interested teams who need the LTIR relief.
“It got to a place with Montreal and Arizona specifically where they just couldn’t close it off,” said Dreger. “I don’t think it’s certain, but it’s pretty likely they’ll revisit it.”
With NHL Free Agency less than six weeks away, it wouldn’t be surprising to see these talks pick up again, as teams begin to set up their fiscal structure for next season.