Montreal – The Montreal Canadiens have been hit hard by the injury bug, but this big negative could be turned into a positive by the NHL Trade Deadline.
As it stands, the Canadiens currently have around $4.4M in available cap space due to Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) thanks to the contracts of Carey Price, Paul Byron and Sean Monahan.
The Canadiens should have Monahan returning to the lineup shortly, as he was seen skating recently during practice in a non-contact jersey.
With Brendan Gallagher and Jake Evans slated to be returning in early March and late March/early April respectively, and Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky out for the season, the Canadiens are in for a salary cap puzzle leading up to the Marc 3 deadline.
What does this all mean? The Canadiens can get pretty creative at the NHL Trade Deadline, and here’s how.
As they currently stand, the Montreal Canadiens have about $4.4M in LTIR space due to Monahan’s $6.375M salary on LTIR.
Activating Monahan will force the Canadiens to make some adjustments, as they would need to shed roughly $2M in salary to be cap compliant.
Thankfully for the Canadiens, they have more than just Monahan returning, which will add to their flexibility.
After the All-Star Break, the Canadiens are expecting the returns of Monahan, Joel Armia, Jake Allen and Jonathan Drouin, meaning they’ll have to send down Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, Alex Belzile, Cayden Primeau and one of Jesse Ylönen or Justin Barron.
By sending down four players back to Laval and activating Monahan off of LTIR, the Canadiens could have roughly $1.39M in LTIR space left.
But, worry not, they could add to that total.
The Canadiens can place both Juraj Slafkovsky and Cole Caufield on LTIR, as both their seasons are over at this time, giving them an extra $1.83M in potential space.
Brendan Gallagher is also expected to return in late February, meaning his return will bump another player back to Laval, saving them close to $1M in cap space as well.
That could give the Canadiens about $4.3M in LTIR space to deal with come the deadline.
The Canadiens could ultimately have close to 4.3M in LTIR space to work with come the NHL Trade Deadline, but there’s a small caveat.
By the end of the day on March 3, they’ll need to be cap compliant, which means that they cannot add more than $4.3M in actual dollars before moving out a player.
That being said, the Canadiens will have the opportunity to retain on the salaries of three players prior to the trade deadline, which could further alleviate their current cap situation.
For example, retaining 50% of Sean Monahan’s contract would save the Canadiens $3.188M, if they were to trade him strictly for draft picks or prospects; thereby increasing their LTIR space even further and allowing them to make more deals before the Trade Deadline is over.
With other pending free agents like Evgenii Dadonov or Jonathan Drouin involved, or even perhaps a surprise Joel Edmundson move, the Canadiens will be able to get creative.
To make the best kinds of deals, the Canadiens will need every penny of fiscal flexibility, as 16 other clubs are using LTIR at this moment.
That being said, the Canadiens were in worse shape in 2022 going into the Trade Deadline from a cap perspective, but it didn’t stop them from being very active all the way up to March 21.
It may be unfortunate that the Montreal Canadiens are experiencing all these injuries at once, but, as you can see, it could provide general manager Kent Hughes with some benefit down the road.