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Contract buyout: Joel Armia had better get up early to avoid it
Since taking up his post with the Habs, Kent Hughes has laid out a plan to bring the CH back to the top of the NHL. But to do so, the club needs time.

Why do they need time? Not least to get contracts off the payroll.

The Habs’ GM has been thinking long-term since he arrived 19 months ago. And recently, for the first time ever, he deviated from this approach by keeping salary on Jeff Petry’s contract for two years.

As I’ve said before, this isn’t a bad thing – on the contrary. In fact, it shows that the rebuilding of the Canadiens is progressing and that the club is moving to the next level.

It also shows that getting Mike Hoffman out of the club was important.

All this to say that now that the door is open to thinking more and more about winning, and with a 2023-2024 season where “expectations will change” at the Habs, it opens up a few possibilities.

With the CH set to have an enormous amount of leash next year (at the moment, the CH has 18 active contracts for next year and over $13 million in leash… not counting the impact of Carey Price and his LTIR contract), the possibilities are greater.

And for the first time, if need be, Kent Hughes could consider a buyout.

Of course, it’s safe to assume that the GM won’t be buying anyone out a year from now. It’s too soon to know whether he’ll really need a little more payroll muscle and whether he’ll want to buy a guy.

But if he wants to, he can.

And probably it’ll be more tempting than it was in 2022 or 2023 due to the natural progression of the rebuild and the diminishing impact of the ugly contracts he inherited by agreeing to a career change.

Earlier this summer, when buyouts were still a possibility for the CH in 2023, fans had their favorite Canadiens targets. And of the lot, good Mike Hoffman is gone.

Brendan Gallagher’s name came up again, but I sincerely believe his salary impact would be too great to think about buying him out in 2024.

That said, if the CH were entitled to penalty-free buyouts like they were after the 2012-2013 work stoppage, a guy like Gallagher would be a prime candidate.

So would Carey Price… but in both cases, it just doesn’t make sense right now.

The other candidate that had come up, besides Gally and Hoffman, was Joel Armia. And it’s true that among the club’s big contracts, he’s the most logical candidate to be bought out (in a year’s time) in my eyes.

Why? Because if the CH wants to get out Josh Anderson, Christian Dvorak or Mike Matheson (I don’t think he’s for trade, but I’m naming him because he has a bigger contract than the average of his teammates), they’ll trade.

But Armia? Nah.

Since signing his contract, his market value has been declining. And with two more years at $3.4M under the cap, I don’t see teams snapping him up by at least the 2025 deadline. With a salary holdback. Without asking for anything big in return.

And even then.

As I said, I don’t know if the CH GM will be in a position to want/need a buyout. But if Armia doesn’t play well this year, maybe he’ll put himself at risk of having the last year of his contract bought out.

And let’s just say it’s not an impossible scenario.

(Credit: Cap Friendly)

A Joel Armia buyout would give the CH a salary impact of $866,667 in 2024-2025 – instead of $3.4M. The following year, instead of seeing him leave the books, it would be $1,266,667 on the mass.

That’s not a lot, and if Kent Hughes decides he wants to take advantage of the rising cap if a great opportunity ever presents itself, let’s just say it could happen.

That’s why I say it won’t necessarily happen… but that Joel is better off playing like a guy who doesn’t want to be bought out.

Let’s not forget that in 2023-2024, Karl Alzner will still be on the CH’s payroll because of his contract buyout, but that fortunately, this will no longer be the case.

In bursts

– The effort is there, at least.

– That says a lot about the quality of his shot.

– Obviously.

– Yvon Pedneault is appropriately celebrated. [BPM Sports]

– Réjean Tremblay’s first (written) column for BPM Sports.

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