The Montreal Canadiens recently announced they had signed forward Alex Newhook to a four-year contract extension, leaving just three players on the contract negotiation docket: Nicolas Beaudin, Lucas Condotta, and Jesse Ylonen. Newhook’s contract extension will cost the Canadiens $2.9 million per season.
Seeing as two of the remaining players will spend the majority of the season in the AHL and Ylonen is not expected to earn a significant raise, we should now be able to get a better idea of the type of salary cap space the Canadiens will have once the season starts based on the current players in the organization.
In addition to the Newhook deal, we know for certain that the Canadiens signed Rafael Harvey-Pinard to a very reasonable two-year deal, which should give the team a little more maneuverability when it comes to roster construction. The trade that saw the Canadiens send veteran defenceman Joel Edmundson to the Washington Capitals will also help the salary cap situation slightly, though the greatest benefit will be the precious time on ice it will liberate for younger players.
Approximate Projected Lineup
In our scenario, Rem Pitlick, Michael Pezzetta, and Chris Wideman have once again been assigned to the AHL to bury their cap hits.
There will certainly be pushback on the concept of sending Pezzetta to the Laval Rocket, but as it stands, it seems to be the likeliest situation. Alternatively, the Canadiens could attempt to pass Ylonen through waivers, though there’s probably a greater risk the Finnish forward would be claimed.
Or they could continue to pursue trades.
More on that later.
It’s also worth noting that in this particular projected lineup, Joel Armia, Christian Dvorak, and David Savard are not listed, seeing as they’re healthy scratches, but their contracts will still count against the 2023-24 salary cap.
We once again turn to CapFriendly’s excellent roster-building tool to give us a better idea of what Kent Hughes and Martin St-Louis are working with.
Salary Cap Space
The 23 players in our lineup will account for $74.7 million of the available salary cap next season. That figure includes the $10.5 million the Canadiens will receive in relief funds once Carey Price is placed on the long-term injured reserve. We also have to remove the $2 million the team has to pay Karl Alzner for the final year of his buyout and various bonus overages from 2022-23.
Seeing as the salary cap is set at $83.5 million, that leaves Hughes with almost $8.8 million in available salary cap space heading into the season.
It’s also important to note that the Canadiens’ salary cap space will not increase throughout the season, because LTIR relief funds do not accrue.
It won’t be easy, but if Hughes can manage to trade one of Armia, Mike Hoffman, or Dvorak without retaining much salary, not only will younger forwards in the lineup enjoy more time on the ice, the team will be in a much better state of affairs from a financial standpoint.
In the meantime, despite still having a few albatross contracts on the books, the Montreal Canadiens certainly have enough funds to absorb an expiring contract from a contending team desperate to create salary cap space.
When you consider cap space has become the hottest commodity in the NHL, it’s the type of trade that doesn’t just make sense from a roster construction standpoint, it has the potential to yield significant returns.
All Montreal Canadiens salary cap information via CapFriendly.