The Montreal Canadiens have reportedly had interest in Ottawa Senators centre Colin White and could look to add him to their roster, especially if the Senators were to buy him out.
NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman once again linked White to the Montreal Canadiens in his most recent 32 Thoughts blog, hinting that the Canadiens would likely circle back on discussions they had previously had with the Senators in the early spring.
“Prior to the deadline, there were some conversations between the Senators and Canadiens on Colin White,” wrote Friedman in his blog. “We’ll see how things unfold, but it’s not impossible to see White beginning anew in Montreal. GM Kent Hughes was his agent.”
Friedman originally reported on the Canadiens’ interest in White shortly after the NHL Trade Deadline in his 32 Thoughts blog, stating that the Canadiens had been in advanced talks with Senators general manager Pierre Dorion about White.
Although the interest seems real, acquiring a player like Colin White, who is basically a 3rd line Centre at this point, might be a little difficult considering the Canadiens do not currently have much cap space and are actually looking to shed salary, not add any.
The interest in White has left many fans perplexed, as White has underperformed quite a bit since signing his six-year deal with a $4.75M AAV. With the Canadiens are seeking to unload salary off their books in order to gain further Cap flexibility, acquiring a player like White makes very little sense at the moment, especially with Christian Dvorak still on the team. Dvorak has been the superior player over the last couple of seasons, and thus represents a better value than White at this current stage.
Even if Hughes is able to move Dvorak this summer and clear his $4.45M cap hit off the books, the Canadiens could likely sign a stop-gap, 3rd line centre for much cheaper on the open market this summer. Strapping themselves in for another three years at that cap hit simply doesn’t add up; unless, of course, the Senators were to rid themselves of White’s contract via buyout.
A Buyout Reclamation Project For the Montreal Canadiens?
The Ottawa Senators have $23M in Cap space and have some key restricted free agents to sign in Josh Norris, Alex Formenton, Mathieu Joseph and Erik Brannstrom coming up this summer. Moving a White, who is surprisingly the 3rd highest paid forward on the club at the moment, would make a lot of sense for the Senators if they wish to add to their core. However, it would make very little sense for the Senators to engage in trade talks for White’s contract and attempt to offer a sweetener to other clubs with his buyout penalty being so low.
Since the buyout period began on July 1, NHL clubs could buyout players up until right before free agency opens, and a player like White has an advantageous situation for the Senators. Because White is under the age of 26, his buyout penalty would be a maximum of $875K per season, as only 1/3 of his total salary would count toward the penalty. This would help the Senators free up a substantial $3.875M in cap space over the next three seasons, while only being penalized $0.875M for the subsequent at a time when the salary cap is going to be increasing on a yearly basis.
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If the Senators do decide to buy out White to give themselves that extra cap space to be aggressive in signings and trades this summer, that would be the perfect scenario for Montreal to swoop in and sign White to a far more advantageous contract. Given the nature of the situation, White would more than likely cost less than half of his current $4.75M cap hit, and could sign on the short term to prove he is worth another long-term contract.
This kind of scenario would help the Canadiens create a stopgap at centre, as the youngsters continue to improve, all while ensuring the long-term fiscal flexibility that Kent Hughes has been seeking since he’s taken over as general manager.