Under normal circumstances, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber would probably make this list of the worst Habs contracts for the 2021-22 season. However, circumstances are far from normal with the Canadiens captain projected to be placed on long-term injured reserve due to various injuries.
As a result, the Canadiens should get relief in the form of Weber’s $7,857,143 cap hit, effectively disqualifying the contract from consideration. Not to worry, though. There are others to bemoan, although it should be pointed out the deals below are largely manageable.
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Indeed, to general manager Marc Bergevin’s credit, he’s counter-balanced the below deals well with others that provide excellent bang for the Canadiens’ buck. Furthermore, generally speaking, few fans would actually want to move the majority of players below, just the deals to which they’re attached, which is at least a sign the Canadiens are in good shape. Every team overpays players, and if you’re only overpaying your best ones you’re doing something right.
5. Brendan Gallagher
To make it clear, as the team’s engine and a perennial threat to score 30 goals Brendan Gallagher deserves to earn his current cap hit of $6.5 million per season. However, consider he’ll be making that same cap hit in 2027 at the age of 35, not to mention the damage he takes every night, albeit leading by example, going to the dirty areas on the ice.
Ultimately, Gallagher’s contract is unlikely to hold up over its six years as fair value. There’s no denying he was in line for a raise after having earned an average of $3.75 million over the previous half-decade, but this current contract effectively pays him back retroactively for his past contributions to the team, not so much the future.
For now though, considering he’s coming off a season in which he was on pace to tie a career-high 33 goals, it’s hard to find too much fault in it. However, that he played just 35 of 56 games due to a hand injury is an undeniable red flag that can’t be ignored.
4. Josh Anderson
With the cap reportedly set to increase slowly over the next few seasons, some hard decisions will have to be made, especially with Nick Suzuki approaching restricted free agency next summer. That’s also assuming Weber doesn’t return at all, for the record.
In any case, one of those hard decisions could be to trade Josh Anderson. Of course, Anderson has developed something of a fan following after a single season with the Habs for his power-forward playing style, at least minus that one move he always pulls out, skating to the outside before cutting to the middle for a (missed) scoring chance.
Nevertheless, he did score a fairly impressive 17 goals last season, which put him on pace to match the career-high 27 he scored in 2018-19. The thing is nine of those goals came in last season’s first 13 games, meaning he only scored eight the rest of the way, ending up with the same amount of points as Max Domi, the maligned player for whom he was traded.
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Anderson clearly adds a dimension to the Canadiens’ attack that had been sorely lacking prior to his arrival. So, he has undeniable value, but at $5.5 million per season for seven total seasons? When the Canadiens have an arguable surplus of wingers and he may line up in the bottom six? The Habs need a player like Anderson, just not at that cost.
3. Paul Byron
There was a time Paul Byron’s four-year, $13.6 million contract was seen as decent value. It was non-coincidentally when it was signed, after his second straight 20-goal season. Since then, his role has decreased significantly to the point that the two-time 20-goal scorer hasn’t even scored 10 total over the last two seasons.
Currently out after hip surgery, Byron’s contract isn’t counting against the cap. Unlike Weber though, he’s expected to return, at which point it will be hard to justify a spot for him anywhere other than on the bottom line. It’s admittedly far from the worst situation, because, if you’re giving a guy like Byron top-six minutes, chances are good it’s due to a lack of depth up front.
Now, lack of depth, especially on the wings, is obviously an issue the Canadiens don’t have. However, there should be no disputing that too much depth can be a problem and Byron, with his $3.4 million hit is proof to that effect. You could probably find a trade partner for Anderson. Byron, not so much, unfortunately.
2. Karl Alzner
Remember the time the Canadiens signed defenseman Karl Alzner? You can be forgiven for forgetting much of his tenure with the Habs for the simple reason he played nearly as many games for the Laval Rocket in the American Hockey League during his three seasons with the organization. The problem of course is he was signed for five, with the Canadiens buying Alzner out before he reached No. 4.
As a result, the Canadiens are still on the hook for a ~$2 million cap hit this season, and $833,333 in 2022-23 and 2023-24. There is an argument to be made the Alzner deal probably shouldn’t be considered for a list like this, seeing as he’s no longer a member of the Canadiens. However, if his contract still counts, so should he, especially because of the tight amount of cap space with which the Canadiens and Bergevin are working largely as a result.
1. Carey Price
It’s hard to hold goalie Carey Price’s contract against him following the Conn Smythe Trophy-caliber performance he put on for parts of four rounds last summer. However, at the end of the day, you have to call a spade a spade: Price has a bad contract that pays him an average of $10.5 million for each of the next five seasons, after which he’ll be 39.
Now, Price remains one of the best goalies in the game, and he probably deserves to be paid like one. However, he’s got the highest hit of them all and you don’t have to look far to see how one of or in excess of $10 million can come back to bite you, with the Florida Panthers paying Sergei Bobrovsky that same amount up until 2026. Word is they even willingly offered him that amount of money too.
If it’s any consolation, the Price deal makes a whole lot more sense than the Bobrovsky one, due to the superior amount of playoff success the former goalie’s had in his career. In fact, Price reinforced that notion these past playoffs, slaying some demons along the way. However, with Price posting mediocre statistics each of the last two regular seasons, a single playoff run far from justifies five more at $10.5 million, especially at his age.
It’s an admitted oversimplification of the situation, but, when the Canadiens make Price available to the Seattle Kraken at the NHL Expansion Draft and they pass, it’s a sign. You’re stuck with the contract for better or for worse. You couldn’t trade it if you wanted to. The Canadiens may not though, which is in large part the silver lining.
Price continues to build a reputation as a big-game goalie and there are probably fewer than five names you would prefer in net with everything on the line. While backup Jake Allen won the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy last season as the team’s unsung hero, the No. 1 role has proven to be a hard nut for him to crack and 22-year-old Cayden Primeau’s likely not ready for primetime, shining the spotlight directly on Price.
Price’s the best option the Habs have, and it’s not necessarily a bad one, even with the contract in question. If Price earns it, and he just proved he has the ability to, it’s manageable. It will never be a good deal, but it’s one the Canadiens can certainly live with (as if they have a choice).
Look at it this way: The Canadiens probably had a good understanding of how much money $10.5 million per season was when they offered Price the contract. One would hope anyway. Reaching the Stanley Cup Final for a chance at a championship is kind of the best-case scenario you envision prepping the paperwork. In some ways, not all, Price has earned the deal already. Whatever comes next is arguably gravy. Ideally, you get there without a contract like Price’s, but if it’s the only way you pay it and smile. After the way last season turned out, Bergevin’s likely smiling ear to ear… even if it’s all the way to the bank to get Price’s money.