Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes believes that he could still find some solutions on the NHL trade market to help his club gain some much-needed cap flexibility before the start of the season.
On Wednesday, Hughes signed centre Kirby Dach to a four-year deal worth $3.3625M per annum, meaning that Dach is free to join the Montreal Canadiens for training camp in a few weeks. There was, however, one caveat to making the Dach contract official; it meant the Canadiens were over the offseason NHL salary cap. In order to make the money work, Hughes had to put goalie Carey Price and his $10.5M contract on off-season LTIR.
During the off-season, NHL clubs are able to go over the salary cap by up to 10%, meaning that teams currently have the ability to spend $8.25M over the $82.5M salary cap, for a total of $90.75M until the start of the 2022-2023 season. The off-season salary cap of $90.75M can be extended even further with the use of LTIR, meaning that any player placed on off-season LTIR would see their cap hit added to the off-season upper limit of $90.75M if the club was at or over the limit.
Price will still need to fail his physical at the start of training camp on Sept. 22 and be placed on LTIR before the start of the season, and even when that happens, the Canadiens will have only approximately $300,000 of LTIR relief to work with. Being proactive about his current situation, Hughes said that he has already been working the phones to move cap space on the NHL trade market and will continue to do so as camp approaches. However, it was just as important for him and the Canadiens to get Dach locked up and not have to deal with the distraction of not having a contract signed during training camp.
“There hasn’t been a lot going on except for Vegas getting Aidin Hill to address their goalie situation,” Hughes acknowledged when asked about the logjam on the NHL trade market right now. “But we’ve got waivers and different things that are forthcoming. In terms of or from our standpoint and additions to our roster, we’re limited based on the cap, but once we had a general sense as far as where we were going with Kirby, we said, let’s just table this. We’ll revisit and we’re comfortable we can conclude a deal – but if we had done another transaction, maybe we didn’t go into offseason LTIR, that would give us more flexibility during the season – but we just got to a point in the season where we needed to conclude his deal. Get him here; it was more important that he be around the group and not do it during training camp and not deal with the noise that comes with being at camp without a contract so we went ahead and did it.”
According to Hughes, there is some NHL trade chatter right now and he’s confident it will pick up soon.
“We’re having conversations and I always believe deals can happen at any time or point,” Hughes said at the end of the press conference announcing Dach’s new contract Wednesday. ” I don’t believe that it’s impossible to do, so you have conversations, and sometimes they lead nowhere, and sometimes they lead to something. So we’ll just keep working the phones and see where it goes.”
Hughes indicated that he was looking to move some salary for a defenceman or a combination of picks and prospects to gain further flexibility going into the season. As it stands right now, the Canadiens will have very little room to play throughout the season and would be hampered from making in-season trades. With the start of training camps across the league looming, some rival general managers may be prompted to makes moves to fill some roster needs, and one can bet that Hughes will be proactive in taking advantage.