If all goes well and there is an NHL season in 2012-13, the cap is expected to rise to $70.3 million. With 13 players signed for a total of $44,755,476 million, that leaves Habs GM Marc Bergevin with $25,564,523 million to work with.
The Canadiens roster currently consists of four centermen – Scott Gomez, David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec and Louis Leblanc – two left wingers – Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty- although both are listed as left wingers on NHL.com, they play on the same line with Cole on the right side. Their right wingers are captain Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque while their blue line consists of Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, Tomas Kaberle and Yannick Weber.
The man between the pipes currently inked for the Canadiens is back-up Peter Budaj.
With just under $26 million to fill out the roster, Bergevin needs to figure how how this money can be best spent. His first concern should be goalie Carey Price. Rumors were rampant a few months back that Price would likely sign for somewhere around $7 million per year and that the length of the contract would be somewhere between seven to ten years.
While Price is the backbone of the team, it would come as a bit of a shock if he manages that type of haul. As for the length, the idea of limiting the length of NHL contracts has been mentioned by some insiders including CBC’s Elliot Friedman in his most recent “30 Thoughts” piece. If Bergevin is limited to signing Price to a five year deal it is unlikely Price will receive $35 million over that span.
P.K. Subban is also a top priority for the Canadiens and is due for a raise from his $875,000 entry level salary. Anywhere between three to four million dollars per year would be a fair price for the dynamic player whose on ice flair and cocky demeanor has made him one of the most talked about blue liners in the league.
If the two young stars were to combine for, let’s say $9 million, that would leave $16 million to sign another eight players to reach 23 players, the maximum number of players allowed to be dressed for a game. An average of two million dollars per player is hardly anything considering the Habs need to sign an effective top six player to help produce. The type of player that would normally make at least three to four million a season.
This is pretty much where Scott Gomez comes in. Buying out Gomez’s contract will cost the Canadiens just under $3.5 million dollars in the upcoming season followed by $4 million in 2013-14 and another two seasons at $1.67 million. That’s a lot of money being spent on nothing. Bergevin’s two best options are to bury Gomez in the minors or wait until this summer to see if the new CBA – providing there is one – will include an amnesty buy-out period in which the Habs can wash their hands of the high priced centerman without it going against the cap.
Say Bergevin does rid the team of this handcuffing contract, the options on the free agent market are still limited. The majority of his spending money will likely go to re-signing the likes of forward Lars Eller, and defensemen Alexei Emelin, Raphael Diaz and Frederic St-Denis. Also it shouldn’t come as a surprise if tough guys Travis Moen, Ryan White and Brad Staubitz return to the Habs locker room. I don’t see this group averaging $2 million per player and so the Canadiens would likely have somewhere in the neighborhood of $3-4 million dollars left over.
The money hanging around after filling out the roster could be put aside for a rainy day or could be put towards extending power forward Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty is coming off a breakout year in which he set personal highs for games played (79), goals (33), assists (32) and points (65). Mighty Max is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season and will no doubt be expecting a raise from his current $1.625 million salary. Extending Pacioretty sooner rather than later would put a lot of minds at ease in Montreal and along with contracts for Price and Subban establish a young, talented core to build a winning franchise around.