The hard salary cap imposed on the teams and players back in 2005 has never been and will never be unanimous when it comes to discussing its necessity and its value. Fans are divided on the issue, so are the players and even the owners. Trying to decide which side of the fence you are situated is, more often than not, based on if you’re a fan or executive of a team with plenty of spending resources or not… although some bottom feeders really dislike the cap floor that they must achieve for any given season.
As one of the top valued teams in the NHL and one of the models in money-making business in the entire league, the Montreal Canadiens and some of their fans would rather make ways without the salary cap, as would the New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs, amongst others. But if you ask the Arizona Coyotes or the Carolina Hurricanes, they are at times struggling to make money, although compensated by the richest teams. Others, like the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Ottawa Senators, the Nashville Predators or the Edmonton Oilers, are quite happy to see the rich having their hands tied and be unable to “buy” Championships as they can compete that way, and simply couldn’t keep up without a cap in place.
Habs in good shape… or are they?
The go-to site for salary cap and other monetary information, Capfriendly.com, has published the commitment for the upcoming season for all 31 NHL teams (yes, Las Vegas included) and there are some very interesting points that are coming up when looking at the numbers closely.
For one thing, the St. Louis Blues already have 20 players under NHL contracts for next season and are starting their off-season with less than $4.5 million in cap space. The Blues were a competitive team however and only need tweaking for next season, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering than they have most under contract.
It is also very interesting to note that the Washington Capitals, who came into the playoffs as the favourite to win the Stanley Cup only to be “upset” once again by the Pittsburgh Penguins, only have 11 players under NHL contracts for the upcoming season. Team GM Brian MacLellan does have around $22.8 million to play with however, but it isn’t that much money when they have to sign half of their team, come to think of it.
Have a look for yourself on where teams are at in terms of cap space, NHL contracts and professional contracts:
As you can see highlighted, the Canadiens are the fourth team with the most money to spend this upcoming summer. What is particularly nice to see is the fact that aside from maybe Tomas Plekanec and Alexei Emelin (depending who you talk to), they don’t have a lot of “dead weight” contracts to deal with.
It is however important to note that the team only has 15 NHL contracts as it stands today, and only the Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning (14) have fewer than them. The Habs have three restricted free agents that they will need to sign if they wish to retain them: Alex Galchenyuk, Nathan Beaulieu and Nikita Nesterov, who combined last season with just under $5 million of cap space.
The Canadiens also have two key unrestricted free agents they will likely have back for next season in Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov, who both had a cap hit of $5.75 million each last year. While Radulov is expected to get a bit of a raise, Markov should sign at around the same considering his production last season. But just for the sake of easy calculation and avoid pointless arguments based on assumption of future salaries, let’s leave it at $11.5 million for both of them.
Those five players under contract would bring the total NHL contracts up to 20, and the Canadiens’ cap space would drop to just under $6.7 million. As you can see, it doesn’t take long to spend money in the NHL and the Canadiens are not in as good of a shape as one would think just by looking at a chart with a quick glance.
Still, I remain positive on my stance that if Galchenyuk and Beaulieu start the season in Montreal next year, it will be because Bergevin couldn’t get what he was looking for in a fair hockey trade, as I have little doubt in my mind that both those players are being dangled as trade bait while they are both still young and still have good trade values.
Speaking of which, I can’t help but to find ironic that traditional media are just starting picking up now on the Galchenyuk and Beaulieu trade rumours when it was announced by yours truly back on April 2nd on the podcast of Hockey Sans Limites (at 35:40 – in French). No, I’m not an insider but it goes to show that having a keen eye and looking at situations objectively can go a long way in determining what teams are trying to do.
As for the concerns about Carey Price’s contract… rest assured folks. Marc Bergevin and Price both made it clear that they want a deal done and when that’s the case, it usually happens. I am fully expecting Price to do like Max Pacioretty did back then, which is to leave money on the table to allow to sign other key players to help the team win a Cup… like Crosby did, like Stamkos did, and ulike P.K. Subban didn’t. He took what was his and what others before him had left on the table as he was never worthy of being the top paid defenseman in the entire NHL. That’s one of the reasons why he’s gone folks. Even if he signs a new contract this summer, it won’t kick in until the 2018-19 season as Price has one year left to his existing contract. His cap hit currently sits at $6.5 million.
For a full picture of the Habs’ contractual situation, cap hits, number and length of contracts, visit the Canadiens’ page on Capfriendly.