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Canadiens Could Benefit From Non-Qualified Restricted Free Agents



Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens and other NHL teams looking for young and NHL-proven roster players could benefit from what’s expected to be a slew of restricted free agents that may not receive a qualifying offer from their respective teams.

According to Sportsnet Insider Elliotte Friedman players such as Dylan Strome (Chicago Blackhawks), Denis Gurianov (Dallas Stars), Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh Penguins), and Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha (New Jersey Devils), are candidates unrestricted free agents on July 11. Even with the salary going up $1 million to $82.5 million for the 2022-23 season, there are still plenty of teams in salary cap conundrums.

Here’s Friedman in his latest 32 Thoughts:

/There are a lot of eyes on qualifying offers. Cap space is tight, and the arbitration walk-away number this summer is $4,538,958. (Teams can’t “walk-away” from any award below that number.) If they’re not convinced a player’s production matches, teams may choose to let them go free in July rather than risk an arbitration award they can’t escape. Toronto followers were confused by an Ondrej Kase Instagram post where he thanked Maple Leafs fans, taking it as an indication that he might be leaving. That’s premature, I think there are talks underway, but it’s not wrong to think the team would be spooked by an arbitration award in a tight cap situation.

Others to watch include: Ethan Bear (Carolina), Denis Gurianov (Dallas), Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh), Dylan Strome (Chicago), Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha (New Jersey). It’s not to say all of these players are guaranteed to hit the market. It’s more like, teams are watching to see what decisions are made.’

Ironically, the Montreal Canadiens were linked to Dylan Strome and Pavel Zacha ahead of the NHL Trade deadline. However, it should be noted that a Devils source told Montreal Hockey Now that while the Habs were interested in Zacha, no substantial trade talks ever took place between the two clubs.

Dylan Strome, a 25-year-old, 6-foot-3, 200-pound centre and the third overall pick (Arizona Coyotes), from the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, is coming of an interesting 2021-22 season. The final season of a two-year contract for Strome, that carried a $3 million cap hit started off in the doghouse of former Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton. Colliton was fired 12 games into the season after the Blackhawks got off to a 1-9-2 start. Strome played in only five of those games and when he did, he was stuck in the bottom six trios of the forward group. Strome had just one assist in those five games. However, while he still struggled early on when Derek King took over as head coach, he eventually found his stride and finished the season with 22 goals and 26 assists in 69 games.

Zacha, a 25-year-old, six-foot-three, 210-pound centre drafted three picks after Strome in the 2015 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils, just finished a three-year contract that carried a $2.2 million cap hit. Zacha finished the 2021-23 season with 15 goals and 21 assists in 70 games. He too found himself switching lines at times and battling inconsistency.

As Friedman pointed out, both players may not receive qualifying offers and if they don’t, are they not two unexpected UFA’s that the centre-starved Montreal Canadiens should look into?

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