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Canadiens Analysis

Canadiens Contracts: Finding Comparables For Guhle’s Extension



Montreal Canadiens defenceman Kaiden Guhle warmup

Now that the Montreal Canadiens have extended 20-year-old forward Juraj Slafkovsky to an eight-year contract that carries a rich $7.6 million annual average value (AAV), the most pressing issue is on the blue line, as defenceman Kaiden Guhle is also eligible for a contract extension.

We shouldn’t expect the new contract to be announced in the very near future, as general manager Kent Hughes suggested both parties started much further apart than they did in the Slafkovsky negotiations.

“It’s not always about taking care of things quickly,” he explained, “But rather, the right way. We didn’t start at the same place as we did with Slaf[kovsky], but the objective is finding a contract that we can all agree on this summer. If not, we’ll wait, as we did with Cole [Caufield]. We have plenty of time to find a solution.”

The issue is a little more complicated because unlike Slafkovsky, Guhle is yet to finish the season on a high note. Injuries and difficult assignments have led to relatively poor underlying numbers, though it’s only fair to suggest his defensive partners have left a little something to be desired. By all logic, using him alongside a defensive partner that is in his statistical prime should improve Guhle’s possession numbers, but it is far from a guarantee.

There have been glimpses of brilliance, as Guhle has the tendency to run hot and cold for long stretches, and we also have to account for the fact that he’s been given a very stiff level of competition at a very young age in a fairly terrible lineup. Essentially, Guhle was lathered up in barbecue sauce and thrown to the wolves, while also being given a baptism by fire as he ran the gamut of challenges usually reserved for 10-year-veterans.

On most nights, the Canadiens’ overall performances mirrored Guhle’s, as a bad outing would lead to a blowout loss, whereas a good game from Guhle was usually enough to give the Habs a fighting chance. It’s probably unfair to put such pressure on a 22-year-old player, but now that Guhle and the Canadiens have entered into contract talks, there’s no going back. By using Guhle as often (and early) as they did, the Canadiens handed Guhle’s agent a significant amount of leverage.

Kaiden Guhle Contract Considerations

While Guhle’s underlying numbers are far from excellent, we should not that relative to his teammates, he still managed to produce a positive Expected Goals percentage (xGF%) last season. On that note, the only defensive partner that finished with a shot share (CF%) above 50 percent while playing with Guhle was none other than Johnathan Kovacevic, who was recently traded to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a fourth-round pick.

While playing with Mike Matheson, the two only controlled 42 percent of the shots and 46 percent of the expected goals. But we should point out that Guhle was mostly playing on his off-side whenever he was paired with Matheson, who is far from a defensive specialist. Playing on your off-side is complicated for a litany of reasons, the most obvious of which is that it makes retrieving pucks and then quickly exiting the zone (with control) a lot more difficult and defending the rush a lot more complicated.

But as we already established, that’s been the modus operandi when it comes to Guhle’s brief, yet busy time in the NHL. The Canadiens have given very little consideration when it comes to maximizing his potential impact on the ice. That’s not to say they’re actively attempting to lower his value, but he’s plugged a lot of holes on a defensive boat that was already struggling to stay afloat.

It’s particularly apparent when evaluating his production from the back end. Guhle has scored 10 goals and 30 assists in 114 games, a very respectable number given his lack of experience. What makes his production even more impressive is that he’s rarely used on the power play. Consequently, all 40 of Guhle’s points since entering the league have come at even-strength, which goes to show that despite the difficult usage, Guhle has managed to contribute an impressive amount of points from the blue line thanks to his outlet passes and his penchant for gaining access to the offensive zone with control of the puck.

For what it’s worth, Guhle was also the busiest player on the team at 5v5 last year, while he only trailed Matheson when it came to average ice time at even-strength.

Finding Comparable Contracts For Kaiden Guhle

There aren’t a bevy of deals that align with what the Habs could end up offering Guhle. But if we base our projections on the percentage of the salary cap used in previous signings, we get a better idea of what to expect.

For example, when the Arizona Coyotes signed 22-year-old defenceman Jacob Chyrchrun to a contract extension in 2019, the six-year deal that carried an AAV of $4.6 million accounted for 5.8 percent of the salary cap. When we apply that percentage to the 2024-25 salary cap of $88 million, it comes out to $5.1 million per season.

But the most relevant deals that could serve as the framework for an extension were signed very recently. The Washington Capitals agreed to terms for a five-year extension with 23-year-old Rasmus Sandin, which also carried a $4.6 million AAV, however, seeing as it was signed in March, it accounted for 5.5 percent of the salary cap. The Blackhawks offered Alex Vlasic a six-year deal worth $4.6 million (are we sensing a theme, yet?), accounting for, yes, you guessed it, 5.5 percent of the salary cap.

Montreal Canadiens Brass Tacks (Kaiden Guhle Edition)

There are other factors to consider. The Habs want to maintain a relatively rigid salary structure, as they’ve already invested heavily in their top three forwards, and there are other young defencemen that are hoping to receive healthy raises in the future. We also don’t know what type of term is being offered. All three of the contracts mentioned above brought the players to unrestricted free agency. There’s a possibility the Canadiens will offer a little more money in exchange for securing Guhle’s services for an additional year or two.

And then there are the injuries, but we also have to remember that Guhle was asked to do a lot for the Habs. He went all out on most nights, literally putting his body on the line in a desperate attempt to shut down some of the best players in the league. It would be unfair to suggest his value should be significantly lower due to his difficult usage, but we also have to be realistic about the possibility that he may miss more time going forward.

When it comes down to it, the Habs have a good, young defenceman that has already shown he has the potential to become a mainstay on the top pairing, while also fitting the age group of the rest of the core players that will be counted upon to lead the Canadiens out of the basement of the NHL standings.

With that in mind, expect Guhle’s contract extension to carry at least five or six years of term, while also accounting for roughly five or six percent of the salary cap at the time of the signing.

Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of the ideal contract offer to Kaiden Guhle? Let us know in the comments below!

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how about 8 yrs @ 6 mil?


That’s an overpay.

Marc is likely correct above…

We are looking at about $5M x 6 years. $5M is just over 5.5% of the $88M cap this season.

Once Hudson and Reinbacher get rolling, those will be our top line Dmen. Guhle will be a great 2nd line Dman, hopefully with Mailloux soon. He would be aptly paid based on this.


So 6 mil for 8 yrs is overpay
Not interested in 6 yr deal.. Makes no sense


Doesn’t matter what YOU are not interested in. The market and the player and the player’s management matters.

And I agree with Marc’s opinion on this.

Guhle is going to be a very good player. NOT a superstar. Slaf just received a contract based on possible/likely superstardom. No way Guhle gets anywhere near what Slaf just got.

Regardless of what you think, $5M-something x 6 years is the likely contract offer forthcoming for Guhle.

john harmsworth

I agree, but I’m somewhat surprised that they started out “far apart”. Guhle doesn’t seem to have ever had an outsized view of himself so I would have thought he and his agent would be in the ballpark to start with, but maybe it’s just their first trial balloon. 8 years would be great given the assumed, likely trajectory of the CAP, and if we can lock him up at a number under $5M we are looking awesome. Guhle will continue to get better with experience, it’s in his nature to deliver his best every night, he steps up in a big way under pressure and is a leader in a “doing it every night” kind of way. The big concern here has to be that we have a D that look’s like it can become great and we have to establish the salary structure carefully.

Gig Young

He is better than either one – and the stats lie because most of his starts are in the defensive zone. Certainly more than $6 million and perhaps $7 million – Gallegher makes $9 million this season!


Gallagher is a non comparable. The 3 comparables quoted in the article are fair market value.


This will be interesting. Not sure Gulhe will not end up top pair. He needs another 24 months to work the weights and be able to handle the top line physicality he was subject to. And he does have a nasty side.

Think this ends up as a bridge contract but you can not just hand out top $$ to forwards and not acknowledge the D. And Xhejak is watching and waiting. Not the same $$ for him but he will play off the Gulhe pay rate.


I like the dollar range you’re in, but would like to see him locked in the same span as the core forward group to keep this team together. Would like to see an 8 yr, 38 or 39 mill contract. I think we has the potential to be an elite shutdown d man in the league. I see similarities to Webber in his game. With the core 3 forwards and then building a d-corps to match term it would create a culture of comradery in the locker room. I also see Guhle wearing a letter on the front of his hersey before long. He definitely has some great leadership qualities.


“Elite shutdown Dman”… and you think less than $5M is good? Even with the cap going up? You compared him to Webber but think he should be paid less than half what Weber made even with the cap going much higher than it was when Weber signed his contract? With all due respect, this doesn’t make sense. If he’s an elite defender and similar to Weber, in a higher cap world you’d assume he would get at least in that same ballpark as the core forwards. And if you think he’s only worth $4.5M a year then he’s certainly not elite at all.


Kaiden deserves a big raise. He is a great defenceman!


Yes, somewhere between $4.6 and $5.1M for 6 years still leaves him in the 29 year peak area for a FA contract.

He’s still learning, but will likely end up as a second pairing guy, and had some injuries that are somewhat concerning.


Looks like the new setup has not corrected the page refresh & wipe out everything you’ve written issue. 😡

Whatever the money works out to, I just hope it’s for the max 8 year term. I want every one of our core pieces locked in as long as possible. As the cap continues to skyrocket, all these deals are going to be a steal, which will be ultra-valuable when we’re trying to win a Cup and go shopping for the final pieces.


Starting to get real tired of EVERYONE (not just you) making excuses for spending or handing out big contracts…just because the cap is “skyrocketing”…

Its still all relative.

The reason why it “skyrocketed” this season was to make up for the 3-4 year stagnation due to covid-19. It was just a “make-up”, so to speak. No way is it going to go up again by about $4M any time soon. There may be incremental increases of like $1M something per season going forward…that’s about 1.5% per season – hardly “skyrocketing”.


You claim there is no way the cap is going up 4m anytime soon. Based on what knowledge, please share. And it’s going up by 1m or 1.5%- have you let Bettman and the teams know yet? I think rumors have swirled about another large cap hike again next year, but wise GMs don’t spend rumored increases.

Another of your misguided remarks is on big contracts. Hughes has been master class at getting top valued long term contracts in the entire NHL as knowledgeable fans and writers have commented and commended him on doing. Plus he just stated he wasn’t handing out long term deals to older guys as he didn’t want those to block the proper rebuild. Are you aware of these facts? And now that you know about contract negotiations often being based on % of cap, it eliminates conjecture as based on the cap when signed.

And I disagree with your reason why the cap increased but you wrote it like it was a fact. It’s only your opinion, which you are entitled to- but so is everyone else without you being tired of allowing them that.


Most reports have the Cap at 92 next year. That’s another 4m jump.I would much rather do 8yrs 6mill then 6 yrs 5mill.

john harmsworth

They will have to sign Hutson, Mailloux, Reinbacher and Arbervery soon, and all will reference the contract they are working out with Guhle.


I’ve read it’s expected to be up to $92 after next year and I’m pretty sure I heard Elliotte Friedman mention something about $100-110M in the next 5 years. That’s skyrocketing in my books. 🚀


It’s almost comical that we have chats about who is worth what. None of them are worth the big money they get. It’s getting beyond ludicrous when a player with 60 career points gets 8 years and 60 million. A million for every point so far. Happy Canada Day.


Basing contracts on potential ahead is tricky, of course. Projecting stats is a highway with many potholes– look at Laine! We’ll just have to wait and see and be patient. Habs could become contenders in Demidov’s second season. I consider the Habs now past halfway in the rebuild.

That Guhle and Hughes are “far apart” may be more about term than $$, unless Kent is offering him in the $3.5 range, again looking ahead to Reinbacher and Hutson. Hutson won’t be a top-2 D at 5×5 having to defend the top line forwards players we know the Habs will play regularly.


Can I ask why so many people are so sure that Hutson won’t be a top pairing guy? I see the refer to his size, but he’s essentially the same size Quinn Hughes and Adam Fox were at the same age, except he outproduced them in the NCAA. They are both Norris winners, but Hutson won’t even be on the top pair? I get that he has to develop and so it’s not a sure thing, but it’s certainly not a sure thing that he can’t do it. He’ll have to improve his skating but he’s already great at establishing body position to make up for his size, and he has all the offensive talent in the world… if Reinbacher hits his ceiling and is the bigger defensive stalwart on that top pair to allow Hutson to do his thing, not only could Hutson be a top pair guy, Hughes/Fox-like play seems to be on the table.

It helps that reinbacher also seems to have more offense than people give credit for… but again, they both need to develop a lot, so we’ll just have to wait and see.


I agree, from the limited exposure from NCAA highlights, WJHC and the 2 games vs Detroit, he demonstrated the markings of a top pair guy. That’s his ceiling, top pair offensive machine that runs the pp. As with all players, he will earn his minutes, it’s a merit based system but that’s how he projects at full potential. Likewise his floor might be limited 5v5 minutes but used on the pp and in overtime 3v3. I think of all the prospects not named Demidov, Lane is the most exciting and may well offer the biggest upside. I think there’s more chance he develops into a top pair than a third pair guy.