The Montreal Canadiens find themselves with 15 NHL-calibre forwards on their roster and very little cap space; something has got to give before training camp.
The Montreal Canadiens currently sit at 14 forwards on their roster with about $250,000 in cap space with Kirby Dach left to sign. Currently, the Canadiens have $51.5M of their possible $82.5M cap expenditure locked up on forward, which is about 62% of their money going towards its forward core. That number could increase once they are able to find the money to sign Dach to his extension, which is likely to be a bridge deal. It’s concerning that the Canadiens have such a high percentage of their total expenditure dedicated to forwards, as the group was one of the least efficient in the NHL last season.
Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes recently expressed a desire to continue tweaking his roster, specifically as he looks to add another defenseman to his group.
“If we can find, and we believe that there will be, either via trade or the waiver process, right-shot D that become available to us, then we’re going to continue to study that,” said Kent Hughes in his desire to add another right-shot defenceman before the start of the season. “In the interim, we feel like, even if we have an injury, we do have the capacity to put one of our guys on that right side.”
Executive vice president Jeff Gorton echoed the same desire to make more moves during his recent visit to the Bob McCown Podcast.
“Yes, you can always do more. We’d like to add a few things before the start of next season,” said Gorton when asked if the Canadiens were done moving players this offseason. “Whether that happens, I don’t know. We have 15-16 forwards up front already and we have some young players we want to take a look at on defence and at forward. We could do something in the next little while too.”
Clearly, at this junction, something will have to give, as the Canadiens cannot hope to add a defenceman to this group, sign Kirby Dach and remain cap compliant throughout the process. Gorton even expressed the desire to give younger players a chance to show what they can do at training camp, which would be moot with all the contracts and money currently dedicated to the Canadiens’ current forward group. There will have to be a cap casualty, it’s just a question of the Canadiens being able to find the right deal to ensure the short-term and long-term well-being of the club.
Montreal Canadiens To Shop Some Forwards
According to various NHL sources, the three Canadiens forwards being talked about as available on the trade market are Christian Dvorak ($4.45M), Mike Hoffman ($4.5M) and Joel Armia ($3.4), with varying degrees of interest surrounding each player. Out of the bunch, Dvorak is the name that has gotten the most amount of attention around trade circles in recent weeks, as his strong finish to the 2021-2022 season has many believing his slow start in Montreal was simply just an aberration. Armia has also increased his stock since the second half of the NHL season, as his play largely improved under new head coach Martin St. Louis, and he took that momentum with him to the World Championships, where he was a standout for Team Finland.
Of the three, Dvorak is the most intriguing piece in the bunch and could serve as a solid trade piece to contenders looking to shore up their centre line. Montreal will likely try to push Dach in a top-6 setting, which would put Dvorak in the 3rd line centre role. However, for such a trade to work, the Canadiens must try to receive a capable 3rd line center in return to fill the gap left by Dvorak, making the move a lateral one at best.
The Canadiens shouldn’t be trading centres just yet, as they currently have 11 wingers on contract for next season. With teams usually carrying eight to nine wingers on their 23-man roster at a time, there’s not enough room for all of them on the main roster. The Canadiens could send Juraj Slafkovsky to the minors to start the season and buy the Canadiens some time, but ten wingers on a starting NHL roster is still a very risky proposition; as it leaves the Canadiens extremely thin at centre and wouldn’t absolve them of their current cap issues.
The Canadiens’ excess on the wing could prompt them to move on from Hoffman or Armia in trades similar to that of Jeff Petry earlier this month; giving them some much-needed cap space, and taking back a contract to make it work. The Canadiens would likely try to fill two needs with one deed by trading one of their many wingers for a right-shot defenceman that could complement their defensive brigade in the short-term; a strategy that will likely be revisited in late August.