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The use of the latest salary retention will tell us a lot about the Habs’ vision.
Credit: Getty Images

The Habs won’t be the most transformed club this summer if GM Kent Hughes decides to simply go with the flow.

I don’t think the GM won’t be active, and I expect some changes, but we agree that because of his players’ contracts, he doesn’t have to shake things up.

There won’t be many free agents this summer – and they don’t change everything.

  • Restricted free agents: Jesse Ylönen, Filip Cederqvist, Lias Andersson, Arber Xhekaj, Justin Barron and Mattias Norlinder.
  • Unrestricted free agents: Tanner Pearson, Colin White, Philippe Maillet, Mitchell Stephens, Arnaud Durandeau, Chris Wideman and Brady Keeper.

In reality, it’s the following year (summer 2025, when Kent Hughes expects a major off-season) that there will be a lot of unfinished business. That’s when bigger players will be out of contract.

Like who?

  • Restricted free agents: Juraj Slafkovsky, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, Sean Farrell, Emil Heineman, Jacob Perreault, Xavier Simoneau, Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Jayden Struble, William Trudeau Cayden Primeau and Jakub Dobes.
  • Unrestricted free agents: Christian Dvorak, Joel Armia, Jake Evans, Michael Pezzetta, Brandon Gignac, Lucas Condotta, David Savard and Johnathan Kovacevic.
Obviously, there will be many decisions to make. If the Habs are out of the running at the deadline, will the unrestricted free agents be traded to another team?

Among the guys in the National League, you’d think that Evans, Pezzetta and Kovacevic, because of their contracts, could easily be traded without a salary holdback. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but it’s possible.

But other guys will have to see their DG make a salary deduction in order to leave. Of the lot, I note Dvorak, Armia and Savard. At $4.45M, $3.4M and $3.5M on the block per year, they won’t be easy to trade.

The thing to remember is that, as of July 1, GM Kent Hughes will have only one salary holdback remaining for the 2024-2025 season.

(Credit: Cap Friendly)

Unless things change drastically, I don’t see these three guys going for full price. Whether they’re good or not, that’s a lot of money for a club to go out and get.

Whether it’s this summer or by the next deadline, I have a feeling that only one of the three will leave and the other two will finish their contracts with the Habs. I know a three-team deal is possible without the Habs withholding salary… but I can’t say I believe it.

If I were another club, in order, I’d go for Savard, Armia and Dvorak. I think this list is similar for many teams… and I think the player who will be traded by Kent Hughes will tell us a lot about the GM’s strategy.

After all, if Savard is traded, it will be because there’s demand for him. The Habs GM won’t be trading him on the cheap, and another organization will have to dazzle the Habs to uproot the Quebecer.

Armia? His end-of-season performance may convince some clubs that he’s worth their while.

What about Dvorak? If the Habs want to trade their center, they’ll have to convince another GM that he can get back on track, and they’ll have to accept that they won’t get the moon for the services of a guy who’s often injured.

The way I see it, if Savard is traded, the club will have agreed to let go of its best player among the three under discussion. The goal will be to make room for young, up-and-coming defensemen and maximize the return from the last salary retention.

If Dvorak is traded, the aim will be to free up dead wood more than anything else. After all, it doesn’t make sense to trade him(even if he’s useless), since forwards don’t grow as much as defensemen in Montreal. And besides, Dvorak earns more than Savard.

Trading Savard or Dvorak wouldn’t send the same message to the guys. To trade Savard would be to say that the place is in the future and to trade Dvorak would, in my eyes, send a bigger message about the club’s present. And trading Armia would send a message somewhere in between.

So, what will the GM do? We’ll see in due course.

In a gust

– Things are going well.

– Jets lineup. Brenden Dillon will be out today.

– LPHF: Ice advantage for Montreal against Minnesota.

– Interesting mentality.

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