HABS Roll The Dice on Expansion
"If the HABS do lose Price ($10.5) to the draft and Weber to Long Term Injury Reserve ($7.8) and they add that to their current $14 million, that gives them $32.3 million. Surely, with or without that additional space the Canadiens are poised to make some moves.."

With the NHL Expansion draft only a few days away as it gets ready to welcomes the Seattle Kraken, there has been a lot of activity as teams jockey for what formula they’re going to use to protect their assets. The options include a 7-3-1 or 8-1 model, which means that in model 1 they can protect 7 forwards, 3 defence, and 1 goalie, or in model 2 they can protect 8 skaters and 1 goalie. The Seattle Kraken then must select 1 player from each of the existing NHL teams (except the Las Vegas Golden Knights), for a total of 14 forwards, 9 defencemen, and 3 goalies.


Where does this leave the Montreal Canadiens? That has certainly been changing a lot since they were in the Stanley Cup finals. 


The first post-final surprise was the announcement that Shea Weber may be out for the entire season next year and possibly never return to the NHL. His current cap hit is about $7.8 million. If the Canadiens don’t have his services and he lands on the LTIR, under current NHL rules they can utilize that cap space to add another asset. We saw this scenario in Tampa Bay with Kucherov. If the HABS do lose Weber to injury, they’ll have to decide who they’re going to replace him with and there is no shortage of free agents available this year. Players like Dougie Hamilton and Alex Edler have been swirling. 


On July 17, the team announced that superstar goalie Carey Price had waived his no movement clause (NMC) and the Canadiens may leave him unprotected for the expansion draft. The perceived logic is that his $10.5 million cap hit and contract through 2025-26 is not something the Seattle Kraken want to take on, allowing the HABS to protect $2.8 million goalie Jake Allen whose contract is through the 2022-23 season, while keeping Price in the fold. The HABS don’t want to lose Allen who gives them a solid back-up option to ease Price’s workload while next generation netminder Cayden Primeau gets primed. There are two schools of thought on this with respect to the Kraken. Carey Price gives them instant credibility ala Marc-Andre Fleury with the Golden Knights and allegedly Price and his wife having ties to the area, so it would make sense for the Kraken to eat the contract and select him. Alternatively, the gamble that the Canadiens might be taking is that the $10.5 million contract is too much for the Kraken and they will pass on Price, leaving him with the HABS. One thing we do know and at the displeasure of some Maple Leaf and other team fans is that the Kraken can’t draft and trade Price because his no movement clause kicks back in if they select him. Which way they will go really depends on Seattle’s General Manager, Ron Francis and whether he will use the Las Vegas blueprint or not. If the HABS do lose Price, much like the Weber LTIR cap space, it opens another $10.5 million for them to retool and with Carey Price being 33 years old, maybe that is a risk worth taking, although it sure would be nice to get some assets back for him.


Speculation is that the Canadiens are going to protect Jake Allen (G), Joel Edmundson (D), B. Chiarot (D), J. Petry (D), B. Gallagher (F), J. Anderson (F), T. Toffoli (F), J. Kotkaniemi (F),  J.Evans (F), A. Lehkonen (F), and P. Byron (F) using the 7-3-1 model. Young stars Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield are exempt from being drafted and do not need protection. There is speculation that even though Philip Danault is going to test free agency that he may be protected in place of another forward, giving the team some additional negotiation time, but I do not see that happening as Danault has said he wants to test free agency. The HABS will also be leaving Jonathan Drouin unprotected and given his current status with the team, perhaps a fresh start elsewhere would do him and the team well. 


If the HABS do lose Price ($10.5) to the draft and Weber to Long Term Injury Reserve ($7.8) and they add that to their current $14 million, that gives them $32.3 million. Surely, with or without that additional space the Canadiens are poised to make some moves as they deal with a surprise injury, expansion draft uncertainty, and a handful of unrestricted/restricted free agents to ink. 


The off-season just might be as entertaining as the playoff run. 


This is an opinion article by Guido Piraino of  The Monthly Social Podcast. It may also be heard on The Path Radio Mix Online. You can read other opinion articles on the blog page.


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