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The Canadiens’ options with their third salary restraint
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot
The Montreal Canadiens finally traded Sean Monahan yesterday. After more than a year of speculation, a major injury and a new one-year contract to stay in town, Sean Monahan was finally traded.

The Habs put themselves in a position to not be caught like last year to see if their assets were going to be healthy once the deadline was upon us. #SeanMonahan #JoelEdmundson

For Sean Monahan’s 74 games, the Habs got 19 goals and 33 assists, good for 52 points. He was a player much loved by his teammates, and he helped the youngsters progress. And did I mention the two first-round picks I got in this whole situation? No? Well, I’m doing it now.

Under the current circumstances, the Habs had to trade Monahan. GM Kent Hughes didn’t know if he’d be able to make room for him (at a good price for everyone) next year, which forced him to make the move.

He kept his word: if we can’t extend your contract and the Habs don’t have a good year, we’ll trade you.

Obviously, the first-round pick obtained in return forced the transaction early, a month before the deadline. The result is an even larger bank of picks.

Four first-round picks in all in 2024 and 2025, that’s pretty good.

The first-round pick obtained from the Jets had better pay off, whether via a drafted player or a trade, since Sean Monahan’s contribution was so great.

But that’s another matter.

We can talk about Monahan’s contribution to the Habs. We can talk about the Habs center line. We can talk about the comeback. We can talk about many aspects of the transaction.

But there’s one thing to remember: the Habs didn’t withhold any salary from the deal. And as Arpon Basu (The Athletic) reminds us in his article on the transaction, that’s a big win.

Of course, we knew there was a chance Monahan would leave at 100% of his salary, considering he’s only earning $1.985M this season. But the fact that Kent Hughes did it gives the club some leeway.

After all, a club is only allowed three salary retentions at any given time. And right now, the Habs have two.

  • Joel Edmundson: $1.75 million until July 1, 2024
  • Jeff Petry: $2.34375 million until July 1, 2025

With only one roster spot open until next July 1 (which means next month’s deadline and the 2024 draft), the Habs have to be careful when maneuvering at this level.

And right now, Kent Hughes has some room to play.

In an ideal world, Kent Hughes would use this resource in one way or another. After all, it could help him to find flexibility in concluding a treaty, or to obtain an additional asset in a transaction.

We know that he could use it to dispose of a player between now and March 8. Who are the candidates?

Tanner Pearson is clearly a name that comes to mind. He’s at the end of his contract, but I can’t see any club taking his entire 3.25 contract before the end of the season.

Jake Allen is another possibility. Will the Habs be able to end their threesome without withholding salary? It’s not impossible that Allen, who joined Edmundson in the South this week, will also join him on the Habs’ salary withholding list.

David Savard is also a player to watch. We know the Habs aren’t keen on trading him, according to the GM’s words, and I think he’ll be more so this summer, but who knows how the market will develop.

Joel Armia is… ah pis non. I can’t see any club going after him. But if it happens and Kent Hughes has to keep 50% of his salary, so be it.

That said, these aren’t the DG’s only options. After all, Kent Hughes could also act as a third wheel in a transaction. He could keep 25% of the salary of a player in transit to another destination, in exchange for a draft pick.

Last year, this was done with Nick Bonino.

It should be remembered, however, that the Habs could also, instead of withholding part of a salary, agree to take a player in a transaction. This would keep the retention spot open… while adding a player.

Don’t tell me a center wouldn’t be good right now?

Note that I don’t necessarily believe in the scenario of being the third wheel in a transaction. It’s not impossible, but I believe that if Kent Hughes doesn’t use his third salary deduction for a current Habs player, he’ll keep him for the draft.

At that point, a few guys will be a year away from autonomy.

Jake Allen, Christian Dvorak, Joel Armia and David Savard will all be free in a year and a half. And with the cap rising this summer, this could simplify things for many teams looking to make a move.

When the last goalie traded in the NHL was Casey DeSmith, it just goes to show that sometimes you have to be patient.

Breaking news

– The Rocket will play this afternoon.

– Well done.

– This week, the Canucks and Jets took another step toward a first Cup in this country since 1993, anyway.

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