Habs to Make At Least One More Move

Lower salary cap and the league going with younger players are two of the reasons making this year’s last few days prior to hockey season more interesting than ever. Is it because teams are asking too much for their assets in trades? Or is it that they know that several teams are in a bit of a bind, being either over the cap or having too many players still at camp, having to place some on waivers? One thing is for sure: it’s neither the quantity nor the quality of players on waivers that’s lacking.

As for the Canadiens, there you have it folks! As predicted by many of us, and contrary to what some Habs’ fans believed, both Charles Hudon and Charlie Lindgren have cleared waivers and the team announced that they are sending them back to Laval. It’s a huge personal disappointment for Hudon I’m sure, while the Lindgren situation will be interesting to watch as he seems to be the odd-man out in Laval. That said, Marc Bergevin and his team still have some work to do, some difficult decisions to make. But before we get into that, let’s have a look at the Canadiens’ picture here.

According to Capfriendly.com, Montreal has around $4 million of cap space available, but that’s with a 25 men roster including Noah Juulsen who is injured. Juulsen is waiver exempt so he will likely be sent to Laval when healthy since he didn’t have a chance to earn a spot yet. This leaves the team with 24 players with someone in the neighbourhood of $5 million of cap space. As teams cannot carry more than 23 players, this means the Julien and Bergevin duo will have to cut one more player off the roster before the season starts on Thursday in Carolina.

Charles Hudon

Further, the Canadiens have a total of 48 players with professional contracts. The NHL limit is 50 so they have to tread carefully, particularly with players on waivers. There are a few ways to “unload” contracts, like trading contract for contract (let’s say two players for one) or players for draft picks or prospects yet under contract. So that’s not the end of the world.

When A.J. Greer was placed on waivers by Colorado yesterday, I was thinking that he would be a good pick up on waivers for Bergevin and his team. A former 2nd round pick (39th overall), the Joliette, Quebec native is only 22 years old and stands at 6’3″ and 210 lbs. Greer has great size and strength, and was projected to become a true power forward at the NHL level. He displays both a quality level of skating and a nasty disposition. Can rile up opponents, too, making him a focal point for teams that line up against him (which helps his own teammates). He is not a natural goal-scorer and the jury is still out on his long-range upside but he can and will drop the gloves if or when need be, something few Canadiens’ players can do. But he wasn’t claimed.

One of my Twitter followers, Daniel Labrecque, brings up a good point when it comes to the number of contracts so it remains possible that a Hudon or Lindgren trade for Greer could still be consumed by both teams. In a one for one trade, the Habs would remain at 48 contracts instead of 49 if they claimed him.

Another interesting player who was placed on waivers today by the Anaheim Ducks is Daniel Sprong, a 22 year old right-winger who had 14 goals in 47 games last year with the Ducks. The question is if other teams who finished lower than Montreal will put a claim in, which would kill the Canadiens’ chances of getting Sprong. But then again if he clears, the Ducks might be willing to trade contract for contract. That said, I have a feeling that they would like to keep him as a quality depth player so my gut tells me that if he clears, he will not be traded.

Who stays, who goes?

As it stands at the time of writing this, here’s how I personally see the team composition. Please note that the lines are for the sake of seeing how many players the Canadiens have and who has earned a spot. Claude Julien certainly can and will have different line combinations, and they are going to change from game to game.

Drouin – Domi – Suzuki

Tatar – Danault – Gallagher

Byron – Kotkaniemi – Weal

Lehkonen – Thompson/Poehling – Armia

Extra: Cousins and one of Thompson/Poehling

Mete – Weber

Chiarot – Petry

Kulak – Fleury

Extra: Folin

Price – Kinkaid

This lineup means that the odd-man out would be Mike Reilly… or if the Habs decided to go with eight defensemen and 13 forwards, it’s Cousins that I would remove as in my humble opinion, Nick Suzuki, Ryan Poehling and Cale Fleury all earned a spot with the big club. Note that it is possible that they send one or two of them down to Laval temporarily to give Bergevin time to make room for them at the NHL level. But all three have clearly showed that not only they are NHL ready, but they can have an impact. For those reasons, I think that Bergevin is not done and he will complete a trade in the next few hours or days.

As I’m heading out hunting with no internet connection and/or cell service, a lot can and will happen by the time I come back. And that’s exciting folks. Are you ready for Thursday? Go Habs Go!

Common Misconception About Buried Contracts

As July is well underway and August is peaking around the corner, contract signatures are just slowly trickling in. Or so it seems after a busy first day, first week of free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, putting pen to paper with NHL teams. And as teams sign contracts, their salary cap hit, their payroll is climbing. For teams who can spend to the the upper limit, it has been set to $81.5 million for next season while no teams can have a combined cap hit below the $60.2 million mark.

Fans and media alike love to keep track of their favourite team’s cap situation and thankfully for them, there’s an amazing website which allows them to have this information at their fingertips. And that is only one of the tools CapFriendly.com provides professional journalists, bloggers and fans a solution to this ever complex beast: the calculations and details of everyone’s contract as well as the impact on their respective teams and other players in the league.

Because of its complexity, mistakes or misconceptions are rather frequent. One that we’ve been reading and hearing a lot lately is how much cap space teams still have available and how they can address their issues. It seems like more than a few people think that by sending a player down to the AHL, his salary disappears from his team’s cap hit. Not so fast… But before we get into that, here are a few different important terms to understand.

One-way contracts

Means that the player will be making the same salary if he plays either in the NHL or in the AHL.

Two-way contracts

Means that the player will be making a certain amount in the NHL and a lesser amount if he’s sent down.

No-Movement Clause

Player protection as the team cannot trade them or send them to the AHL (or placed on waivers) without their consent. While the player’s contract is not protected against a buy-out, teams must protect them for the expansion Draft.

No-Trade Clause

Self-explanatory, teams can’t trade him but they can send him down, put him on waivers. Teams can, but don’t have to protect those players for the expansion Draft.

Limited No-Trade Clause

Like a NTC, but has it’s limitations already negotiated and agreed to. Example, a player can have, for limitation, that he has to submit a list of a pre-agreed number of teams he cannot be traded to. He can be traded to the other teams.

Buried Contract

Sending a player down to save cap space has been, in the past, a way for teams to fix their contractual mistakes. It’s called burying a contract and in order when richer teams were “burying” their unproductive big salaries in the AHL to clear cap space. The New York Rangers did it with Wade Redden and the Montreal Canadiens did it with Scott Gomez. Many teams simply cannot afford to bury contracts so it was an unfair practice.

Karl Alzner?

But wait. Teams can no longer do it as the NHL changed the rules. Teams no longer receive full cap relief when a player on a one-way NHL contract is sent to the AHL or loaned to a team in another professional league. The cap hit relief is equal to the minimum salary for that particular season plus $375,000. So here’s the breakdown per season:

  • 2019-20: $700,000 + $375,000 = $1,075,000
  • 2020-21: $700,000 + $375,000 = $1,075,000
  • 2021-22: $750,000 + $375,000 = $1,125,000

This is what it would look like for two often mentioned Canadiens’ players:

2019-20 Cap HitSavingsHabs’ Cap Hit
Dale Weise$2.35M$1.o75M=$1.275M
Karl Alzner$4.625M$1.075M=$3.55M
TOTAL:$6.975M$2.15M=$4.825M

If both are sent down, the Habs would only save $2.15 million of the $6.975 million combined cap hit between the two. This means that the Canadiens would still have $4.825 million counting against their cap even when they’re in the AHL. The Canadiens’ cap situation counts 24 players with just over $4.8 million available. Have fun. Send players down all you want but if you’re doing it for cap reasons, don’t forget the buried contract rule.

So folks, when you try counting the savings when deciding who to send down, take that into consideration. The most a team will save in 2019-20 will be $1.075 million per player. Go Habs Go!