Going into the 2016-17 season, the Montreal Canadiens are in relatively good shape salary cap wise. They have around $855,000 in projected cap space with all of their restricted free agents taken care of. It’s also unlikely that general manager Marc Bergevin brings in another free agent unless it is another depth signing, as displayed by the recent pickup of forward Bobby Farnham. However, the problem is that the Habs have a plethora of bottom six forwards on one-way contracts, which could block a more deserving prospect of a spot.
Too Many Depth Forwards
It is questionable why Bergevin continues to sign depth forwards when it’s obvious that the team has more than enough, especially since these veteran forwards are usually favoured to play ahead of younger players. Depth forwards are useful but they are expendable. Come training camp, some of these forwards will start the season in the press box or on waivers.
The most likely player to be put on waivers is Stefan Matteau. Matteau is still relatively young but has shown little offensive ability at the NHL level. Since coming over from the Devils, he didn’t make a big enough impression that warranted him staying with the big club full time. Unless he takes a massive step forward, there are prospects more worthy of an NHL roster spot than Matteau.
The highest paid forward on Montreal is Tomas Plekanec at $6 million and there are no terrible contracts up front in either term or salary. Montreal lacks a bonafide superstar forward and is more of a score by committee team. As a result of not having a game breaking forward making an exorbitant salary, it is not an overwhelmingly expensive group in Montreal as the top seven forwards on the team of Plekanec, Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, Alexander Radulov, Andrew Shaw and David Desharnais, combine for approximately $30.2 million against the cap. In comparison, the Chicago Blackhawks have a combined $30.8 million cap hit for just four forwards in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) July 2, 2016
On defense, the team is relatively set but the sixth and seventh spots are up in the air. Greg Pateryn, Mark Barberio and Zach Redmond are all NHL caliber defencemen and there will be one man out. The obvious choice is Redmond, considering he is the new guy, but he has the most NHL experience of the three and could easily earn himself a spot in camp. Montreal currently has approximately $23 million tied up in four defencemen (Shea Weber, Andrei Markov, Jeff Petry and Alexei Emelin) while the others are making $1 million or less.
Even the battle to be Carey Price’s backup in net is a numbers game. Al Montoya is an experienced NHL goalie and Bergevin made a point of bringing him in. However, despite Mike Condon’s struggles to be a starter last season, he did show he could be a solid backup. Condon is the cheaper option financially at $575,000 compared to Montoya’s $950,000 but this could be a case where experience wins out with Montoya backing up Price.
The Real Challenge
With more one-way contracts than roster spots, something has to give this fall. No doubt there will guys on the bubble while at least one young player will make a splash and push for a spot, whether it be Charles Hudon, Michael McCarron, Artturi Lehkonen or another lesser-known player who could surprise. In his time in Montreal, Bergevin has handled the salary cap pretty well and it looks decent again going into this season. Montreal is a team that has never had to worry about money unlike some of the southern based teams that don’t bring in the kind of revenue the Habs do. Bergevin’s real challenge will be the next two years when Price and Galchenyuk need new deals and will require substantial raises.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Ryerson University. I am a freelance journalist and a Montreal Canadiens writer for The Hockey Writers. I previously wrote for Simcoe.com and Last Word on Sports as well as interned at TSN.