The Montreal Canadiens will have to weigh their options once the NHL’s buyout window opens.
Usually, the buyout period begins on June 15th. If there is still hockey on the schedule, the buyout window will be pushed to 48 hours after the Stanley Cup Final ends. The buyout phase remains open until June 30th at 5 PM ET.
As it stands, due to the Cole Caufield extension the Canadiens have a little less than $1 million in available cap space next season, however, that number does not include the salary cap relief the Canadiens will receive once they place Carey Price on the long-term injured reserve.
Seeing as cap space has become one of the most valuable assets in the NHL, and the Canadiens have no qualms over acquiring an expiring asset in exchange for a healthy return, as we saw when they acquired Sean Monahan, the team may want to alleviate some of their salary cap concerns by taking advantage of the upcoming buyout window.
The three most commonly suggested buyout candidates on the team, Joel Armia, Mike Hoffman, and Christian Dvorak, share something in common: they’re all forwards.
Two of the three are also forwards who were hastily signed by former general manager Marc Bergevin.
Brendan Gallagher, another Bergevin signee, has also been mentioned as a possible buyout target by some fans, but a quick look at his contract structure should dissuade anyone from endorsing the idea, at least for now.
Christian Dvorak, Six-Year Contract, Two Years Remaining ($4.45 million AAV)
When the Canadiens spent a fortune to trade for Dvorak, they were under the impression he would serve as a good replacement option for Phillip Danault.
His underlying numbers with the Arizona Coyotes suggested he still possessed an impressive defensive arsenal, as well as some secondary scoring.
Unfortunately, Dvorak’s defensive numbers cratered with the Canadiens, though he did manage to put up a reasonable number of points during his two seasons with the team.
Buying out the remaining years on his deal, which was signed by former Coyotes general manager John Chayka, would save the Canadiens a little over $3.8 million per season, however, it would also cost them a little over $1.9 million per season in Year 3 and Year 4 of the buyout.
Year 1 – $3,812,500 savings.
Year 2 – $3,812,500 savings.
Year 3 – $1,912,500 cap hit.
Year 4 -$1,912,500 cap hit.
Total Savings: $3,825,000.
Verdict: Dvorak is still relatively young and can provide tertiary scoring. The Canadiens should be a little more competitive by 2025-26, which means this buyout would lead to short-term gain, but long-term pain. Depending on their short-term plans, a Dvorak buyout may fit the bill.
Mike Hoffman, Three-Year Contract, One Year Remaining ($4.5 million AAV)
Before we get into the details about a potential Hoffman buyout, I’d like to mention he’s probably the player on the team that received the most underserved criticism last season.
That’s not to say he did not deserve any criticism, however, the bulk of it was based on negative perceptions from previous seasons.
On that note, Hoffman is a decent buyout candidate, to a certain extent.
The Canadiens lack offensive punch, and we must keep in mind that Hoffman finished tied for fourth in goals and points among Habs players.
Hoffman has just one year left on his contract which carries a $4.5 million annual average value, which means his buyout would only last for two seasons.
The first season would save the Canadiens $3.33 million in cap-hit space, whereas the second year would cost them $1.66 million.
Year 1 – $3,333,333 savings.
Year 2 – $1,333,333 cap hit.
Total Savings: $1,666,667.
Verdict: Unless the Canadiens desperately need to free up cap space, Hoffman’s buyout does make much sense given there’s only one year left until his contract is off the books.
Joel Armia, Four-Year Contract, Two Years Remaining ($3.4 million AAV)
Armia’s albatross of a contract is a great reminder that signing players based on their play during the post-season is rarely a wise choice.
He has dealt with an unfortunate number of injuries in recent years, which has certainly mitigated his production, but it’s rather hard to ignore that he has scored just seven, six, and seven goals in his last three seasons, respectively.
A buyout would alleviate some of the immediate salary cap concerns, which would allow the Canadiens to weaponize their cap space, though it does come with the caveat that they’d lose some of their precious cap space in the third and fourth year of the buyout.
Year 1 – $3,366,667 savings.
Year 2 – $2,366,667 savings.
Year 3 – $1,433,333 cap hit.
Year 4 – $1,433,333 cap hit.
Total Savings: $2,866,667.
Verdict: Seeing as the salary cap is expected to rise significantly by 2025-26, this may be the best buyout option for the Canadiens, especially since it provides savings throughout the next two seasons. It’s similar to the Dvorak breakdown, but it will cost the Habs a little less once they reach the final two seasons of the buyout.
All salary cap and buyout information via CapFriendly.