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Top-5 Best Value Montreal Canadiens Players Based On Contracts



Montreal Canadiens goaltender Samuel Montembeault

1. Samuel Montembeault. Goaltender. Two-year contract, $1 million AAV.

When the Montreal Canadiens claimed Montembeault off waivers in 2021, he was seen as little more than a stop-gap asset in the wake of the Carey Price injury.

Jake Allen had already been signed to a two-year contract by Marc Bergevin, but the idea of using Michael McNiven and Cayden Primeau as contingency plans to backup Allen was not particularly enticing.

Fast forward to 2022, and not only has Montembeault surpassed all expectations, but he’s also currently trending as one of the best goaltenders in the league.

The Becancour native has saved more than four goals above average in all situations. which places him among the top 10 NHL goaltenders. His 5v5 save percentage of 0.938 also figures among the top 10 goalies that have started three or more games.

It’s worth pointing out that except for Arvid Soderblom (ELC), every goalie that features in the top 10 is receiving much more money from their teams to produce those types of numbers.

At just $1 million per year, Montembeault isn’t just providing good value for the Canadiens, he’s providing great value,

He’s done a fantastic job papering over several of the weak points on the team, which has allowed a roster filled with rookies to play with much more confidence than they would have with an average goaltender minding the net.

2. Kirby Dach, Centre/Winger. Four-year contract, $3,362,500 AAV.

Signing Dach to a four-year extension before he even skated with the team on the Bell Centre ice was certainly a gamble by general manager Kent Hughes.

There was a significant amount of risk involved, but the early-season results point to the Canadiens receiving a fantastic return on their investment.

Every since the 6’4″ centre was placed on the top line to play the wing alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield things have gone swimmingly for all three players.

And it’s not just a matter of producing at a ridiculous pace, though it is worth pointing out his scoring pace jumped from 0.37 points per game last season up to 0.88 points per game this season.

In addition to finding his scoring rhythm, Dach has pushed the top line towards a level of play that is much more likely to sustain offence throughout the year.

Dach’s underlying numbers suggest he can keep up his scoring rate throughout the year, but even if it takes a slight dip, paying him under $3.5 million for the next three years would be a bargain.

3. Johnathan Kovacevic. Defenceman. Three-year contract, $766,667 AAV. 

Kovacevic is the second player claimed on waivers to appear on the list, which leads us to ask why the Winnipeg Jets spent time and money developing him just to unceremoniously discard him once his potential caught up to his overall play.

But Winnipeg’s loss, admittedly a small loss in the grand scheme of things, turned out to be a big win for the Canadiens.

Kovacevic has formed one of the most impressive pairings of the season alongside fellow rookie Jordan Harris and has quickly cemented his spot on the blueline despite being considered expendable following the waiver claim.

With only one point on the season, a glance at his HockeyDb page may lead some to dispute the claim that he brings good value to the Canadiens, but in Kovacevic’s case, we have to dig deeper to get a better idea of his impact.

Kovacevic leads all Montreal Canadiens defencemen in the following statistical categories:

  • Shot share (54.9 percent)
  • Expected goal share (55.4 percent)
  • Scoring chance share (52.2 percent)
  • High-danger shot share (48.9 percent)
  • Goal share (61.1 percent)

4. Cole Caufield. Winger. Three-year entry-level contract. $1,308,333 AAV.

Admittedly, adding Caufield to the best value list is borderline cheating, seeing as he’s on the last year of his entry-level contract, but the fact of the matter is he’s bringing a lot to the table while being paid very little.

He’s due for a significant raise in the near future, but even if he was already getting paid upward of $7 million per season, which will probably be the starting point for contract negotiations, you could argue that he’d still be providing good value.

Caufield has scored more 5v5 goals than almost every player in the NHL. The only exception is Andrei Svechnikov with 9 goals at 5v5, two more than the Canadiens sniper.

He’s also tied for 11th in the league in 5v5 points, alongside players like Evgeni Malkin, Tage Thompson, Nathan MacKinnon and Sidney Crosby.

Perhaps it’s time to stop describing Caufield as simply a sniper¬†because his all-around game has improved by leaps and bounds since entering the league.

5. Nick Suzuki. Center. Eight-year contract. $7,875,000 AAV.

It was very tempting to add rookie Kaiden Guhle to the list, especially since he’s in the first year of his entry-level contract and has produced a very impressive amount of offence since the start of the year. His underlying numbers are far from great, but it’s only fair to point out that the rookie’s usage, both in terms of ice time and quality of opponent, has been extraordinary.

With that in mind, even though he’s signed to the richest forward contract in team history, the Montreal Canadiens captain edges Guhle for the last spot in the top 5.

Yes, we know his shooting percentage is quite elevated.

And yes, we know it will probably drop at some point in the season.

But there’s a point where projections and reality need to be weighed differently. That’s not to say projections are bad. They’re incredibly useful. They give us a great idea of what will probably happen next. But it would be silly to ignore what has actually transpired on the ice.

Should he have scored as often as he has to start the year? Probably not.

But he did, and there’s absolutely no harm in pointing out that he’s off to a great start to the year.

As it stands, the reality of the situation is that Suzuki owns the 40th-highest cap hit among all NHL forwards, a number that is likely to drop as more players sign rich contracts.

However, he ranks among the top players in 5v5 production, tied with the likes of Sidney Crosby (who is also enjoying an inflated shooting percentage) for second in the league with 12 points.

If we filter the results by points per 60 to make it an even playing field for all players involved, Suzuki still ranks among the top 20 in the league, ahead of Crosby and just behind Malkin.

Any way you cut it, Suzuki is providing very good value on his contract for the time being.

Seeing as he’s just entering his statistical prime, it’s fair to speculate his evolution into a dominant player has just gotten underway.

(All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick, All Montreal Canadiens Salary Cap information via CapFriendly)

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