It’s not just one thing, but one key thing the Montreal Canadiens have going for them this 2021-22 season is a decent pay structure. Sure, there are asterisks: It meant losing Jesperi Kotkaniemi after general manager Marc Bergevin (perhaps wisely) opted not to match the $6.1 million offer sheet he signed, not to mention Shea Weber has to go on long-term injured reserve for things to work out as expected.
Regardless, all that taken into consideration, the Canadiens are in good shape financially. Sure, there are undeniably bad contracts on the roster, but, as long as the players attached to those deals perform up to expectations, they’re easy with which to live, especially because they’re outweighed so much by their counterpart bargain deals. Here are the top five (non-entry-level) contracts that are projected to give Bergevin and the Habs their best bang for their buck this coming season:
5. David Savard
When the Canadiens were first linked to defenseman David Savard this past summer, the realistic fear was Bergevin was going to overpay for a homegrown talent, especially with Phillip Danault leaving. Add to that the fact that Savard had just captured the Stanley Cup as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning with Bergevin historically having placed a premium on players with championship experience. This was surely going to cost him.
Keep in mind Savard had just earned an average of $4.25 million over his last contract and was a reasonable 30 years of age. So, logically, the question on everyone’s mind was to what degree Bergevin was going to break the bank to secure the services of yet another stay-at-home defenseman. It turns out, not that much, as they settled on a $3.5 million cap hit for each of the next four seasons.
The term may leave something to be desired, but the hit is fair, as it’s the same as what Ben Chiarot and Joel Edmundson, the team’s two other top-four shutdown d-men, make. Critics of the acquisition may not like the “more of the same” Savard brings to the table, but you can’t find too much fault in the cost. Fast food may be bad for you, but, if you can get a year’s supply of McDonald’s for a fraction of the price of the equivalent amount of minced meat, you’re likely signing on to star in the next sequel to Super Size Me as we speak. Yes, the irony is Savard isn’t as fast as he once was, but you try coming up with a better metaphor.
4. Mike Hoffman
Bergevin has received a lot of flak for his offseason so far, and a lot of it has been necessary considering the circumstances (i.e., the selection of Logan Mailloux and the Kotkaniemi offer-sheet saga). However, he’s admirably done all right from a free-agency standpoint, affordably filling holes in his lineup.
Canadiens fans should kind of already know what they’re getting in Savard. As far as fellow unrestricted-free-agent signees go, Mike Hoffman is a bit of a mystery, though. He’s developed a reputation as a power-play specialist and justifiably so, but the Canadiens can’t really afford to pay him his agreed-upon $4.5 million per season to just play on the man advantage.
So, Hoffman’s likely going to be played in different situations, especially if he’s to live up to his billing as a top-six forward. The good news is $4.5 million is a great hit for someone in that role and Tomas Tatar, who Hoffman is effectively replacing, made more ($5.3 million). Since the Habs went as far as they could with Tatar and Hoffman is theoretically an upgrade from a production standpoint, the deal is a fair one for a projected 25-goal and 50-plus-point scorer. The only issue would be if his offense outweighs his historical defensive deficiencies.
3. Jake Allen
It could be a bad sign that goalie Carey Price’s backup, Jake Allen, finds himself on a list like this. However, coming off a Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy win as the Habs’ top unsung hero, Allen delivered in an initially limited role that only grew once Price suffered a concussion late in the season, with the Canadiens just barely hanging onto a playoff spot.
Allen’s stat line wasn’t that great (11-12-5 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .907 save percentage) in all honesty. However, it doesn’t really do Allen’s clutch play or lack of run support justice. In the end, even though the Canadiens paid a hefty amount for a quality backup to take the pressure off Price ($4.35 million cap hit), Allen was worth it for all intents and purposes.
Now, thanks to a two-year extension Allen signed soon after his acquisition, his cap hit is much more digestible for a No. 2 goalie ($2.875 million). If Allen earns similar accolades this coming season, well, that means the Canadiens will probably be in serious trouble, but at least they’ll be getting high-quality backup goaltending at a good price (no pun intended).
2. Jeff Petry
Defenseman Jeff Petry is proof good contracts don’t necessarily have to come cheap. His new four-year, $25 million deal ($6.25 million cap hit) comes into effect this coming season and, coming off a few James Norris Memorial Trophy votes while set to step up as the team’s undisputed No.1 defenseman with Shea Weber injured, Petry’s entirely worth it.
In a world in which San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson has a hit of $11.5 million and the Arizona Coyotes traded Conor Garland to the Vancouver Canucks just so they would take Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s $8.25 million hit off their hands, Petry is the exception. The deal to which Bergevin admirably signed him flies in the face of the notion a team needs to handicap themselves down the road to lock up the best years of a player’s career.
Granted, Petry himself seems to fly in the face of the test of time, as he continues to get better with age. Going on 34, it’s admittedly unlikely that Petry continues to perform at the same level by 2025, when the contract ends, but, for the next season, with the projected boost in ice time he’s sure to get, look for him to at least flirt with new career highs.
Related Link: Canadiens’ Wideman Adds Scoring Depth to Blue Line
Not an easy thing to do when you just scored 12 goals and 42 points in 55 games as a defenseman, but betting against Petry at this point is akin to putting money on the Hulk in a fistfight against Superman. It’s just not done… even if only because they’re in different comic-book universes.
1. Tyler Toffoli
Tyler Toffoli proved to be one of the best free-agent signings if not the absolute best last offseason… and it’s not just because of the unexpectedly high production. Sure, the 28 goals in 52 games were great and all (when he had never scored more than 31 in a full season before), but, Bergevin, to his credit, invested in what amounts to a unicorn.
Toffoli was just 28 at the time of the signing (29 now) and was coming off a fairly impressive late-season run with the Vancouver Canucks after having been traded there from the Los Angeles Kings the previous trade deadline. Logically, he would have fetched a significant raise relative to his previous $4.6 million hit.
Under normal circumstances, he could realistically have hit upwards of $6 million per season. However, he signed with the Habs for $17 million over four seasons ($4.25 million). He took a pay cut, for crying out loud. That’s some next-level brainwashing on Bergevin’s part.
Admittedly, a large part of the deal was probably the flat $81.5 million cap as a result of the pandemic (and Nick Suzuki, for what it’s worth). The bottom line though is Toffoli is a legitimate top-line forward in this league with a lower cap hit than Allen had last season as a backup. Now, Toffoli’s production is unlikely to approach a point per game like it did in 2020-21, but, even if he regresses to the mean, the Canadiens are sure to get their money’s worth. There’s about as much wrong with it as taking in a Habs game on Saturday night, as Toffoli alluded to in his The Players’ Tribune piece (link above). Sure, there may be better options in theory, but it just feels right. It’s easy to get emotionally invested in a game and see this thing through. For their part, the Canadiens made a wise decision investing in Toffoli. There should be no doubt about that.