The Montreal Canadiens currently have around $1.8M in LTIR relief space to play with, but they’ll likely wait a bit before weaponizing it, just like they did this summer.
On Monday morning, the Montreal Canadiens were over the salary cap by $11.1M (a total cap hit of $93.5M) with a 23-man roster. They used Carey Price‘s full 10.5M cap hit on LTIR in order to allow them to go over the offseason salary cap, but they needed to shed about $600,000 to be compliant.
By sending down Arber Xhekaj‘s $828,000 cap hit on Monday evening (in what is called a paper transaction), the Canadiens were able to drop their total cap hit to $92.7M, leaving them roughly $300,000 in LTIR relief space before 5 pm.
The Canadiens then put Byron on LTIR on Tuesday, thereby adding his full $3.4M to their LTIR relief pool, and were then able to call up Xhekaj (and his $828,000 cap hit) immediately after as if nothing ever happened. What this did was maximize the LTIR relief they get from Byron’s contract, a difference of about $830,000 in cap space, which will be extremely valuable to them if Byron doesn’t return this season from his hip injury.
The $1.8M in LTIR relief space that the Canadiens now have, and the potential 3.4M in space they could have when everyone returns to health, could become extremely valuable for the purposes of trades, especially as the Canadiens get closer to the trade deadline, as they’ll look to weaponize any little bit of money they have in order to get the most out of every deal this season.
The Montreal Canadiens will have some enviable flexibility to rotate their youngsters in and out of the lineup while being at liberty to make easier roster decisions down the line.
With the Canadiens not being able to accrue cap space while using LTIR, the club will dispose of $2.6M in LTIR relief space until Armia or Edmundson return, and they are forced to send down two bodies to Laval to fit under the 23-man roster limit. As for Byron’s return, things aren’t looking good.
“Short-term to medium-term, it doesn’t appear Paul will be able to return,” said Kent Hughes on Byron’s status earlier this week.
If Byron were not to return, one could expect Hughes to weaponize every penny of his available space, just as he did in the Sean Monahan trade. However, since that $2.6M in space doesn’t increase as the season goes along, they’ll have to pick their spot wisely.
It would seem likely that, given Byron’s health and their current situation throughout the season, the Canadiens would likely hold off until the trade deadline to fully utilize this space, as cap space will be even more valuable by then as teams look to gear up for the playoffs. For the Canadiens, holding off also gives them the ability to gain clearer visibility from a health and performative perspective.
Similar to last season, if the Canadiens do become sellers, not only will they have to ability to retain 50% on up to three contracts they move out, but they’ll also be able to increase the value of trades by being more flexible on the amount of salary they take on.