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Canadiens Taking Calculated Risk, Buying Time By Waiving Pitlick

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Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens placed Rem Pitlick on waivers, which was met with widespread confusion, but it’s a calculated risk focused on future dividends.

The Canadiens’ roster crunch, owing to an overabundance of players both among forwards and defence, came to a head this week. The Josh Anderson’s suspension not only left without one of their most expensive wingers, but they also lost a roster spot, seeing as suspended players count towards the player limit.

On top of that, Evgenii Dadonov‘s imminent return from the injury reserve complicated matters even further.

Something had to give, and it’s an issue head coach Martin St-Louis has discussed at length, explaining that it can be difficult to manage morale, especially among veterans.

The move should alleviate the pressure for the time being, but also provides general manager Kent Hughes with more runway to eventually prepare the landscape for more trades down the line.

 

Montreal Canadiens Buying Time

As it stands right now, the veteran rotation hasn’t allowed pending free agents like Dadonov or Jonathan Drouin to get consistent repetitions in, something St-Louis has called out as being a problem for the team.

By cutting down their forward ranks by one, there will be more consistency for the above players, giving them time to gain their bearings and increase their value as the season goes on.

Already in the handful of games Drouin has played in for the Canadiens, he’s looked much more comfortable on the ice and is showing a more polished all-around game in general.

Even Dadonov showed signs of rounding out his even-strength game, but needed that extra spark to get him going.

St-Louis is working hard with his veterans to get them to diversify their game to make them more useful for the team. By giving his bench boss more time to work with these underperforming veterans, general manager Kent Hughes is effectively betting on his coach to help push the play of his pending free agents upward throughout the season.

With Hughes living by the mantra of “selling high and buying low”, it’s evident to see that he didn’t like the market for his veterans and felt he had more to gain by waiting it out and making the calculated risk of waiving Pitlick instead.

More on that!

Calculated Risk

The decision to waive Pitlick is a calculated risk right from the get-go.

Pitlick is currently signed to a two-year contract with a $1.1 million annual average value.

Teams can now bury up to $1.125 million ($750,000 + $375,000) in the minors, meaning that the Canadiens would save all of Pitlick’s cap hit if he clears waivers.

On the flip side, Pitlick’s low cap hit and offensive success last season may tempt some underperforming teams across the league to take a shot at him on waivers. If Pitlick were to be claimed, the Canadiens would gain $1.1M in cap space, while also gaining a contract spot, bringing their total down to 44 contracts. The cap space gained and the contract slot offer the Canadiens some more wiggle room to not only take on salary, but more contracts later on to maximize the value of his late-season trades.

There are healthy odds the 25-year-old may end up being claimed by an NHL team looking to fill their roster with a low-cost winger, but, in the event that he does clear waivers, the Canadiens could always keep him around the team for 30 days before assigning him to Laval as an insurance policy.

It, unfortunately, needed to happen to keep Juraj Slafkovsky on the roster and give the Montreal Canadiens some definitive breathing room. It will be interesting to see what comes of Pitlick’s fate at 2 PM today.

 

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