Both the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals are over $10M over the salary cap, so a trade between the two will be tricky.
With the recent news that general manager Kent Hughes has been working the phones as of late, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan seems to have been one of his more substantial callers.
Having recently lost forward Connor Brown to a season-ending injury, the Capitals are in need of another top-9 forward with experience in their lineup. They’re currently testing youngster Connor McMichael and free-agent signing Sonny Milano in that role, but if neither can stick, they’ll be getting on the horn rather quickly, given the incredibly competitive landscape of the Metropolitan Division.
The main issue is that the Capitals and Canadiens find themselves in a very similar Cap situation, but, in the Capitals’ case, theirs might not be permanent. Unlike the Canadiens, who know Carey Price is to miss the entirety of the season, the Capitals don’t yet know whether Nicklas Backstrom, and his $9.2M cap hit, will return this season or if he’ll be ready for the playoffs.
The Capitals have used up $12.225M of their $15.555M Long-Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) relief space, but, when injured players like Backstrom and Carl Hagelin do return to the active roster, they’ll have to shed that $12M in salary right away. The way the Capitals’ cap structure looks right now, they would have just enough space to fit everyone back on the roster when healthy, meaning any trade would have to be a “money-in/money-out” kind of deal.
Montreal Canadiens Have Flexibility
For the Montreal Canadiens, moving a player like Evgenii Dadonov or Jonathan Drouin, whom are on expiring deals, seems to be the easiest solution, because the Canadiens have the flexibility to retain those contracts.
An NHL club can retain salary on up to three contracts at the same time, and the Canadiens have all three retention slots available at this time. If they feel like they would rather bite the bullet and retain 50% on Dadonov ($5M) or Drouin ($5.5) now, rather than the trade deadline, they could make that move. The other point here is, for teams like the Capitals or the Canadiens, who are using LTIR, making a trade now or later in the season changes nothing to their cap space, because they don’t accrue extra space while on LTIR like you normally would if you were cap compliant.
So, to make such a deal work with the Capitals, the Canadiens would need to retain 50% of the salary on the forwards mentioned above, and likely take back a contract to make the money work for the Capitals.
However, using one of their valuable retention slots means the Canadiens will be looking for a pick or prospect in return from the Capitals.
The Canadiens theoretically don’t need to make a trade, nor retain on any player at this time, because their issue is roster spot availability, not cap space. Kent Hughes could simply waive either player and immediately save $1.1M in cap space, while gaining back a valuable roster spot to allow youngsters like Juraj Slafkovsky to continue their development in the NHL.
The Montreal Canadiens have shown a penchant for being creative and pouncing on the needs of their rivals in the league since Kent Hughes has taken over.
There is certainly potential for a move of this magnitude right now; as many teams are beginning to get antsy about their position in the standings.
With Washington playing .500 hockey as of late; you can expect that they won’t wait too long to remedy their depth issues right now, as reinforcements aren’t due back for a little while longer.