Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes hinted that the team will look to make changes over the summer, but simply going out and signing UFAs in free agency may not be the organization’s modus operandi. He told reporters, “Most people think of free agency as like ‘Kadri’s going to be available’ or ‘Malkin’s going to be available’, but I don’t anticipate the Montreal Canadiens being in that market for a five-star, free agent player.”
Knowing the club will need to move out money and reduce their payroll if the plan is to add salary in other places, there could be a few faces not coming back to the club next season.
THW’s own Melissa Boyd took a look at four predications for the Canadiens’ offseason and Trege Wilson examined five players that should be moved by the organization. Both are solid reads worth checking out. Below, we’ll instead focus on players or contracts that likely aren’t going to return to the team, even if these are players the Canadiens would ideally like to keep. Some of these names are players few expect to be back. Some are sacrifices the team might have to make in order to do other things.
Jeff Petry seems to be a common name among many of the lists constructed by journalists taking a look at the Canadiens’ offseason plans. Most of that is because he suggested he’d welcome a trade when Dominique Ducharme was running the bench and he figured it was time he moved on. Things changed when Martin St. Louis took over, but it might be too little, too late from a Canadiens’ perspective.
Hughes confirmed in an interview on May 5 on TSN that he was still looking to move Petry. Whether it’s because he feels that Petry made his bed and his up-and-down season didn’t help, or because the team simply wants to move the defenseman’s $6.25 million cap hit, expect the Canadiens to turn over every rock in an attempt to find a trade that works.
The Canadiens aren’t going to give Petry away, but there are likely teams that will show some interest. If the deal is right, it will probably get done. If the Canadiens are willing to retain any salary, it should be an easy deal to make.
There is there a real possibility that Carey Price’s most recent game for the Canadiens was his last. That’s not a certainty at this point and with so many questions unanswered, the expectation is that he’ll hop on LTIR to start next season and the Canadiens will go from there. If he can’t return, the Habs will need to find someone to join Jake Allen. Even if Price does return, perhaps an upgrade over the tandem that’s leftover would be a wise idea.
Either way, don’t expect the Canadiens to be able to move Price’s contract.
Sam Montembeault was a waiver pickup that played 38 games for the Canadiens last season. It was a terrible season for the club and things didn’t go much better for Montembeault who finished with a 3.77 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage. Because the Canadiens acquired Allen as someone who could play 25 to 30 games, while easing the load for Price, a combination of Montembeault and Allen isn’t the answer. If there’s no Price and Allen isn’t a starter, the Canadiens need someone.
Perhaps this is cheating a little because Shea Weber isn’t likely ever returning to the NHL, but the Canadiens will try and trade his contract this offseason. There was talk that they were close to doing so ahead of this past NHL Trade Deadline, but delays forced the Arizona Coyotes to trade for Bryan Little’s contract instead.
The Weber contract will be attractive for a cap floor team. His cap hit is just under $8 million, but he won’t need to be paid since he’s not returning and his contract is insured. And, if for some reason he makes a comeback, his actual salary is much lower than his cap hit. A budget team wouldn’t mind paying $6 million for four years on his contract, especially if they could put him on the ice.
A couple of different reports suggest the Canadiens are open to moving on from Jonathan Drouin. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reported just ahead of the NHL Draft Lottery that Drouin is expected to recover by early July and begin training for camp but he, along with Paul Byron could be moved. And, just a few days ago, Marco D’Mico of Montreal Hockey Now also noted that so much uncertainty surrounding Drouin’s LTIR status and how it affects the team’s cap flexibility, “might make Hughes want to move Drouin, despite being a very talented player…”
Moving Drouin will be selling on the low, but that’s something the Canadiens might have to live with to get his $5.5 million salary off of the books. When he’s on LTIR, it’s not a huge deal unless there are multiple transactions that affect the number crunching. When he’s not on LTIR, no one seems to know if he’ll stay healthy. D’Amico suggests that he could be moved if a team submits an interesting offer.
A contract buyout is a possibility, although it would be a last resort and the Canadiens would need to have a bit more information about his injury status before making such a decision. Hughes has indicated he has no intention of buying anyone out, but that could change based on what other options present themselves.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”