Now that the 2022 NHL Entry Draft is complete, the next big day for the Montreal Canadiens is July 13th, when the free-agent window opens. The Canadiens have 11 free agents this season, but all of them either played for the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League (AHL) or a bottom-line role with the Habs and probably will not get re-signed.
If they want to be players in the free-agent market, however, Montreal will have to free up much-needed cap space to sign anyone. Now, they have just under $2 million in cap space. They will need much more if they plan on signing some players.
1. Jake Allen
Jake Allen is one of the most talked-about players regarding trade rumours recently. There is a considerable market for goaltenders this offseason, and Allen is one that teams have been asking for. He has had two mediocre seasons with the Canadiens with a 20-32-9 record, a 3.01 goals-against average (GAA), and a .906 save percentage (SV%). The numbers have not stopped teams from inquiring about his trade status. Allen has the potential to be a solid backup and 1A/1B starter for a team with a young goalie or who needs a good tandem. He has a career of .911 SV% and makes big saves when needed. He may not steal a game for a team, but he won’t lose one either.
The rumours about Allen have been pretty intense since the draft started, with multiple teams showing interest, such as the Washington Capitals, who traded their young goalie Vitek Vanecek before the draft. The Toronto Maple Leafs, who are in the market for a goalie after trading Petr Mrazek to the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Edmonton Oilers, who are without a goaltender after Mikko Koskinen signed in Europe and Mike Smith potentially going on long term injured reserve (LTIR), are interested as well. Allen is well-liked in Montreal, and his cost will be very high, especially with the Habs’ goaltending situation. It is unknown if Carey Price will be able to play, and the Canadiens don’t have anyone in their system who could step up and take over as the starter.
2. Jeff Petry
Jeff Petry has essentially been on the block since Christmas of last season. With a pregnant wife and his family living in Michigan because of the COVID restrictions in Quebec, he had one of the worst seasons of his career. Now that the restrictions are gone, there is a chance he may not get moved at all. General manager (GM) Kent Hughes has said he has no issue trading Petry as long as the trade is suitable for both the team and the player. Petry elevated his play under head coach Martin St-Louis and seemed much more comfortable in the second half of the season. Petry could stay in Montreal unless the right trade comes along with the shortness of veteran defensemen on the team and virtually no right-handed ones.
Multiple teams have been tied to the Petry sweepstakes, like the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, and Detroit Red Wings. Detroit would be the best fit for Petry because he is from Michigan, and his family seems to want to live in the United States. Hughes is a GM who seems only to make moves if he needs to, not just to make one. He won’t take any deal to get rid of Petry and will look for the right trade to make. Petry will bring a good return, especially with the improved second half of the season and his four-year run of 40 or more points. If they can move his entire salary, it will free up $6.25 million in cap space and give Hughes more freedom to sign restricted free agents and other players in free agency.
3. Christian Dvorak
Christian Dvorak has been talked about in trade rumours recently, and with the acquisition of Kirby Dach, it could be a move that happens soon. Dvorak came to the Canadiens last offseason. Like so many others who struggled under former head coach Dominic Ducharme, he struggled but also had a few injury issues. Former GM Marc Bergevin traded a 1st-round pick along with a third to the Arizona Coyotes for Dvorak, who was supposed to help with the loss of Phillip Danault and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. With the terrible season the entire team had, Dvorak struggled to live up to his role and was intensely criticized for it by fans and media alike, like most players last season.
With Dach coming into the picture, the Canadiens have extra centers in their lineup. Moving one seems logical, especially if they think Dach will rebound and be the player he was drafted to be. Dvorak could bring the most return and free up the most cap space. Ryan Poehling and Jake Evans are other centers that could move but will get little return and free up much less money than Dvorak’s $4.45 million cap hit. If it’s money the Habs want, then Dvorak is the guy they need to trade from a position of strength. The issue with moving him is you’d be trading away the team’s best faceoff player, and you are counting on Dach to rebound and be the de facto number two center with no backup plan if it doesn’t work out.
Josh Anderson is another name thrown out in trade rumours and has been for some time. He would bring in the biggest value for the Canadiens if they decide to move him. Hughes, however, likes Anderson, and his asking price is rumoured to be relatively high.
Whatever happens, the Canadiens need to move a lot of cap space to be able to not just sign FAs but also some of their RFAs like Dach, Cayden Primeau, Mike Pezzetta, and Rem Pitlick. A big contract will need to get moved, meaning more than likely, Petry will be the first one to go. If Allen gets moved, it probably won’t happen until after free agency opens.
Trege Wilson has been a freelance content writer for the past four years and with the THW for the past year. He is the co-host of the popular Montreal Canadiens podcast Habs Unfiltered on IHeartRadio.com.Trege is very passionate about all things Canadiens and loves to provide his readers with great quality news, rumours and opinions on the Montreal Canadiens. Trege has also been featured on JblamSports and JDFSports Podcasts; for interviews and guest appearances, you can contact him at any of his social media accounts listed under his photo in such articles as this one.