The Montreal Canadiens are reportedly discussing the possibility of offering two of their upcoming free agents a contract offer.
According to Arpon Basu, the Canadiens have decided not to qualify pending restricted free agent Denis Gurianov, however, they are mulling over the idea of offering him a contract once he becomes a free agent.
Basu also noted the Habs are interested in bringing back unrestricted free agent Sean Monahan for a season.
Let’s take a look at how the Canadiens should approach contract negotiations with both players.
Despite getting off to a great start with the Canadiens, Gurianov faded down the final stretch of the regular season.
Another way of putting it would be that Gurianov didn’t just fade down the stretch, he was invisible, going scoreless in his final 10 games in a Habs uniform.
— NHL (@NHL) March 3, 2023
The major issue with Gurianov is when he’s not scoring, he’s a significant negative drag on the team’s overall performance. And when we consider the Canadiens performed quite poorly last season, it’s a major red flag.
With Gurianov on the ice, the team controlled just 44.6 percent of the shots (CF%), 36.7 percent of the goals (GF%), 41.7 percent of the expected goals (xGF%), and 39.3 percent of the high-danger chances (HDCF%).
Gurianov did manage to improve the overall shots for per 60 relative to his teammates, but for the most part, his relative numbers are negative, indicating that he was far from outperforming his fellow Canadiens players.
And yet Gurianov does bring some value to the table, especially on a team like the Habs.
He has a penchant for taking a lot of shots and he generates a lot of second-chance scoring opportunities, two things the team could stand to improve.
It’s also worth noting he’s one of the better shooters on the team, though that doesn’t mean much considering the Canadiens clearly lack elite shooting talent beyond players like Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield.
Seeing as he just turned 26 years old, you’d be hard-pressed to argue he will improve significantly, even with the help of Martin St-Louis or Adam Nicholas, however, he’s a couple of years removed from the inevitable and steep statistical decline that negatively impacts most players around the time they hit 28 or 29 years old.
Final Verdict: Approach with caution. A one-year ‘show me’ contract would be in order for the inconsistent power forward, one that would account for very little of the salary cap. If Gurianov insists, a two-year deal is feasible, but it must come with an incredibly reasonable salary cap hit, one that could be buried in the minors.
Best Montreal Canadiens Options: One-year, $1.75M contract offer, or a two-year, $1.5M contract that brings him directly to unrestricted free agency upon the conclusion of the deal.
While Gurianov certainly presents significant red flags on the ice, the issue with Monahan is how much time he’s spent off the ice.
Injuries have played a big role in his recent history, and we all know the Canadiens have had their fair share of problems in the health department.
The team went as far as firing their head athletic therapist and head physiotherapist on Tuesday.
Assuming Monahan’s injuries are in the past, we can take a look at what he brings to the table.
He managed to play just 25 games for the Canadiens last season, earning six goals and 11 assists in the process.
But his impact went well beyond his relatively impressive production.
Sean Monahan’s goal tonight pic.twitter.com/09c3pxq0yx
— Habs Fan TV (@habsfantv_) November 23, 2022
Much like Kirby Dach, Monahan made a positive impact on every line on which he featured, including the top line.
When Monahan was played alongside Suzuki and Caufield, the line controlled upward of 55 percent of the shots. It’s a rather small sample size, but it spoke to Monahan’s ability to help the Canadiens in transition.
As an experienced centre, the 28-year-old used his experience to create time and space through the neutral zone for his linemates, and the results were quite encouraging.
In fact, no other player made a bigger impact in the shots column while they were on the ice than Monahan, who led the Canadiens with a 53.1 CF%, the only regularly used player on the roster that finished above the 50 percent mark.
And yet, the Canadiens cannot afford to give him a multi-year deal, nor can they afford to break the bank on a contract offer. They simply don’t have the salary cap space to offer rich deals to players that aren’t a sure thing.
There’s also the matter of Monahan’s preferred route forward.
At 28 he is likely looking for a long-term deal, one that would provide him some stability following his chaotic exit from Calgary.
But the Canadiens may be able to offer an alternative.
Considering the salary cap is only expected to rise slightly next season, teams willing to offer Monahan a long-term deal are probably few and far between.
If the Habs want to entice him, a one-year deal with the caveat that they’ll ensure he will play in a top-six role with generous powerplay usage could lead to great things, both for the Canadiens and Monahan.
It would allow Monahan to show the rest of the league he’s capable of staying healthy throughout the season, not to mention, it will improve his overall production.
On the flip side, the Canadiens would add a short-term solution to the roster, enabling them to insulate players such as Caufield and Suzuki without overusing Dach. If things go according to plan, the team would also potentially receive a return on Monahan’s services at the trade deadline.
Final Verdict: Both parties must approach contract negotiations with caution. If Monahan gets a reasonable offer from another team the Canadiens should avoid upping the ante.
Best Montreal Canadiens Option: One-year, $3.5M contract offer with a guarantee of ice time that is conducive to producing in the NHL.
All Montreal Canadiens statistics are via NaturalStatTrick.