Canadiens Big Decisions Looming On Pending RFAs
The Montreal Canadiens have some big decisions on some upcoming restricted free agents that could alter their off-season strategy.
The Canadiens go into the summer with some work ahead of them, as they look to set up their financial structure prior to the 2023 NHL Draft and free agency.
They have a group of restricted free agents (RFAs) that will not only need to be qualified in order to maintain exclusive negotiation rights, but also extended to short or long-term deals.
At the very top of the list is none other than Cole Caufield.
Eight Or Bridge, That Is The Question
Cole Caufield has proven to be the Montreal Canadiens’ most prolific goal-scorer for the foreseeable future, and that puts him in a rather advantageous situation.
With 26 goals on the season, Caufield tied with linemate Nick Suzuki for the lead in goals, while having played 36 fewer games than the captain.
Heading into the summer, it’s not a question of qualifying Caufield, but simply the type of deal that will be signed between both parties.
From the Canadiens’ perspective, they know that Caufield will be part of the core long-term, meaning they’d love to lock him up to a max-term contract as quickly as possible, as it could end up becoming a bargain down the line.
For Caufield’s camp, he could push for a shorter deal to truly break the bank after a few solid seasons, while taking advantage of the rising salary cap.
The 22-year-old wants to play in Montreal, so it’s simply just a question of time before the details are ironed out.
The Montreal Canadiens took a gamble prior to this season’s NHL Trade Deadline when they rolled the dice on Denis Gurianov.
Acquiring him from the Dallas Stars for Evgenii Dadonov, general manager Kent Hughes wanted to take a chance on an NHL player, rather than secure another mid-round pick for his pending free agents.
Although Gurianov showed some interesting flashes, his momentum dwindled in the late stages of the season.
To retain Gurianov’s services, the Canadiens would need to qualify Gruainov, which means they’d have to present him with a minimum offer of $2.9M for next season; a price that may be too rich for Montreal.
There is an outside chance that the Canadiens could come to a backdoor deal where they decline to qualify Gurianov and then sign him during free agency to a more team-friendly contract; like the Canadiens did with Rem Pitlick last summer.
With the Canadiens looking to weaponize their cap space this offseason, $2.9M is simply just too much to give up.
All Aboard The RHP Train
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard exploded onto the scene this season, potting 14 goals and six assists for 20 points in just 34 games.
It’s not a question of whether or not Harvey-Pinard will be back, but more a question of contract structure.
Harvey-Pinard performed extremely well, but in an albeit small sample size with exceptionally high usage.
Given the lack of experience, the Canadiens could either opt for a short deal with a low cap hit, or try to offer Harvey-Pinard more security with a three-year deal at a lower cap hit.
Either way, it seems like Harvey-Pinard has convinced both Canadiens management and Martin St-Louis that he belongs on the Habs moving forward.
Like Harvey-Pinard, Jesse Ylönen has more than earned a contract for next season, but the numbers game could complicate the matter among the Montreal Canadiens’ forward group.
There are currently 11 forwards signed for next season, which doesn’t Caufield, Harvey-Pinard and Ylönen in the mix.
It could make things very interesting for the Canadiens, but also tempt them to give Ylönen a shorter deal as a “show-me” contract at the NHL level to see exactly what his role could be.
It’s also not outlandish to think that, given their logjam at forward, and their important wave of youngsters coming to Laval next fall, that Ylönen could also be used as trade bait in a larger deal.
He could likely find himself a home on the Canadiens’ bottom six next season, but options remain fluid.
Michael Pezzetta is in a bit of a weird spot with the Montreal Canadiens this spring, as he has been passed on the depth chart by quite a few players.
Starting the season riding the bench before injuries struck, it can be argued that Pezzetta would likely find himself on waivers next season if the roster doesn’t get shifted around.
Giving Pezzetta another one-year deal isn’t the problem, but the fact that Harvey-Pinard and Ylönen are no longer waiver-exempt means that the clock could be ticking on Pezzetta’s time with the Canadiens.
It would be a shame, as he is a beloved member of the Canadiens locker room and often stands up for his teammates in times of need. There’s a bit of a hunch that the Canadiens could make room to retain Pezzetta as a 13th forward.
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It would be nice to keep them all, but I think one of them gets the squeeze. If not, then 2 of the 3 named Anderson, Armia, and Hoff need to go this offseason.
I disagree about Guri…at $2.9M for one season, that is not an issue. We are splitting hairs with this, making a stink over a few hundred thousand dollars. He’s def a third line winger, at worst, I see about 30 pts – so for $2.9M, that’s fine.
Why are we so concerned about Guri’s cap hit and value when Anderson is making nearly double that, but won’t get anywhere near double Guri’s production???
Because letting Anderson walk isn’t a choice at the moment
Anderson did get more than double Guri’s production?
Point production isn’t the only qualifier. Anderson is a beast. He loves Montreal. I will feel terrible if he gets dealt. Some guys up their game in the playoffs. He’s one of those guys