With just two assists in 21 games this season, Montreal Canadiens forward Joel Armia has entered the 2022-23 season with the momentum of a broken-down combine harvester.
It’s not a matter of giving a poor effort, either.
Armia is well known for giving his all on every shift, and his affinity for winning board battles is well known around the NHL.
But the fact of the matter remains the 29-year-old is on pace to earn fewer than 10 points this season, which is simply unacceptable for a forward that’s in the second year of a four-year contract that carries a $3.4 million annual average value (AAV).
In an ideal world, the Canadiens could find a team willing to acquire Armia on the NHL trade market, but even if Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes retains 50 percent of Armia’s salary, there’s little to no chance the Finnish forward garners any interest around the league.
The Canadiens could assign him to the Laval Rocket. That would lead to some relief on the salary cap. The cap relief the Canadiens would receive from assigning a player to the Rocket is the NHL’ Minimum Salary + $375,000 (Buried Threshold).
This means sending Armia to the AHL would lead to $1.125 million in cap relief on his $3.4 million AAV, and would leave $2.275 million on the books for a player no longer providing any value in the NHL.
Alternatively, Martin St-Louis could attempt to place Armia in a position that’s conducive to scoring, and hopefully inject the winger with a significant dose of confidence.
Of course, that option leads to a few issues.
Not only would the team be modifying its approach with the sole goal of helping an aging veteran find his rhythm, but it would also lead to fewer opportunities for younger players, players that will be an important part of the Canadiens’ rebuild.
It’s also worth factoring in Armia’s underlying numbers. Much like his overall production of just two points in 22 games, his underlying numbers leave much to be desired and do not indicate an uptick in production is on the horizon.
Let’s Get Down To Brass Tacks
We’ve danced around the logical choice, but it’s time to get serious, and rather blunt.
Joel Armia isn’t just a possible buyout candidate, it’s the only solution that makes sense.
If the Canadiens are unable to move his contract from now to the opening of the next buyout period, the decision will be an easy one to make.
The Canadiens would save over $3.36 million next season, as well as $2.36 million in 2024-25.
Armia’s buyout would then cost them $1.43 million over the following two seasons, ending in 2026-27.
By buying out his contract, the Canadiens would save a total of $2.86 million, the vast majority of which would be available upon the first year of his buyout.
And unlike burying him in the minors, which would lead to a negative perception throughout the league, the Canadiens would also free up a contract spot, seeing as Armia would no longer count toward the 50 contract limit.
It may be harsh, but such is life as a professional athlete, and such is the reality of the situation faced by Kent Hughes and Joel Armia.