After unloading Jeff Petry, the plan for the Montreal Canadiens is quite clear.
General manager Kent Hughes is going to do everything he can to maximize their salary cap situation before the start of the season.
Since the blockbuster three-way trade with the San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Canadiens were over the salary cap by an estimated $5.1M.
That now changed with Jeff Petry moving to the Detroit Red Wings. The Canadiens are now listed at $3.7M over the cap at the moment with 26 players on the roster. However, Carey Price’s LTIR situation allows the Canadiens to surpass the cap by up to $10.5M, making things interesting moving forward.
The Habs have a few options they could utilize to maximize their cap space and broker more deals, depending on where they’d like to be at the start of the season.
The Montreal Canadiens would preferably like to shed another $2M in salary to allow them to start the season under the $83.5M cap.
If the Canadiens could manage to shed the contracts of players like Joel Armia or Casey DeSmith, it would go a long way in opening up roster spots for younger players or getting the club as close to $83.5M as possible.
The Habs shed about $2.345M in trading Jeff Petry today, but now need to move another player or two for all the pieces to fit in properly.
If general manager Kent Hughes could manage to get his club right under that number, they’ll be able to place Price on LTIR after the start of the NHL season, giving them the ability to accrue cap space throughout the season, while also having the option to go over the salary cap thanks to Price’s contract.
“We often have discussions and opted against it, which is to avoid going into offseason LTI. When you do that, even if we use 2 million, let’s say, if we put Carey on offseason LTI, his money is gone,” said Hughes regarding the situation. “We lose the flexibility during the year, like last year, with all the injuries and overages, which carry into the following year. With each passing year, we’re going to be more mindful to try not to do that.”
Shedding enough salary to keep Price off of LTIR until the start of the season would give the Canadiens the best of both worlds, but that’s easier said than done.
Moving that salary will require a lot more work from Hughes, as a grand majority of teams are quite close to the cap as it is. Then again, Pittsburgh was right up against the cap. and now have Erik Karlsson, so anything can happen, it seems.
But, the Canadiens haven’t shut the door on taking on more salary, either.
Take On More Salary
The Montreal Canadiens aren’t expected to be major players in the Eastern Conference playoffs race according to the latest NHL betting odds, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be doing absolutely everything to improve their team moving forward.
The three-way trade with San Jose and Pittsburgh was very indicative of that, acquiring a discounted Petry, an adequate backup in DeSmith, prospect Nathan Legaré and a 2025 2nd-round pick for just a slight increase in cap expenditure.
Not only did such a move free up some much-needed roster spots at forward for some youngsters, but it gave them the flexibility to flip Petry for Gustav Lindstrom and another mid-round draft pick.
The Canadiens could look for similar moves leading up to the start of the season in October, especially if they can’t manage to get under the salary cap.
Similar to last year when they acquired Sean Monahan, the Canadiens could look to take on a short-term, albatross contract for additional assets, creating a “two birds with one stone” situation.
“LTI is not a simple position, some people think it’s simple, just use the money that the player occupied. It’s a little more complicated than that,” said Hughes regarding his options. “Having said that, if we find opportunities again as we had with Sean Monahan, we’ll do it and put Carey on off-season LTI, but we think as of right now we’re safe to go in-season with Carey.”
Not only would they weaponize their cap space, but, by increasing their LTIR relief space in the process. By getting as close to $94M in salary expenses, the Canadiens would be giving themselves the maximum amount of LTIR space possible before the start of the season, thereby utilizing the full weight of Carey Price’s contract.
It wouldn’t be the most ideal option for them, but it would be the next best thing to do in order to maximize the value of their cap space in the immediate and medium future.
The Waiting Game
After the first domino fell with the trading of Jeff Petry, it has now become a waiting game to see which avenue the Montreal Canadiens will take in the coming weeks.
Kent Hughes has some work cut out for him as NHL general managers get back to work, but he certainly has the flexibility to choose his next move; something he has fought hard to gain since taking over as Canadiens GM.
It’s simply now a question of how and when, but, as we’ve heard in recent days, the wait might not be as long as some believe.
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