Two things were clarified when returning to the NHL after nearly five months of absence: Carey Price can still be one of the best goaltenders in the league when he’s healthy and rested, and the tandem offers a significant advantage.
Especially with this summer’s compressed playoff schedule, many teams felt the need to use multiple goalies, or were strained by injuries. Of the eight teams that made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, only the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t have at least two different goaltenders.
Giving the starter a day off was not a luxury the Montreal Canadiens had in their playoff series. They were going to run with Price, regardless of how far the Habs ran or how many back-to-backs on the program. It was the same during the regular season as well, with Price once again being one of the most used goaltenders in the NHL.
Marc Bergevin realized he had to do something to make sure he saw this version of Price in the next few years of the playoffs, and for the first time in his tenure decided to acquire a goalie from renowned – and relatively big: the old St. Louis. Blues starter Jake Allen.
Adding an additional $ 4.35 million to the department that already employs the NHL’s most expensive goaltender increases the flexibility of the salary cap and would be unmanageable for many NHL teams. The Canadiens, however, have had a good chunk of cap room with them for several seasons now, and could afford to make such a move, especially for the only year remaining of Allen’s contract.
The main reason Montreal has such flexibility is the little money spent on transfers. Among the highest paid forwards on each of the 31 teams, Jonathan Drouin’s salary is the lowest at just $ 5.5 million.
It won’t last much longer, as seven of the 10 players currently on the 2020-2021 roster are entering the final year of their contracts. If Jesperi Kotkaniemi picks up in the new season where he left off in the playoffs, he’ll be in line for a big payday, taking over from Drouin. Brendan Gallagher, who was paid well below his value for the duration of his last contract, could beat the center with a punch.
Or the title could be claimed by a completely different striker. Even with almost 20% of the cap spent on goaltenders, there is $ 13 million in space to work, and only four forward positions need to be filled.
Some of them could be filled from the inside. Jake Evans, who played a fourth row role late in the playoffs, may be re-signed to complete the NHL center’s rotation. The biggest name on the board is Max Domi, whose two-year bridge agreement signed upon his arrival in Montreal is now in effect. Bergevin is currently evaluating Domi’s value to the team and how much ceiling space he’s willing to give to a player who a year ago looked like a key core element, but can now be an auxiliary room.
It’s an important decision, as there is enough room to land a true star winger for the young center squad the team has now. With a swap of some existing contracts, the club could manage to add a big fish and get Domi re-signed, if that is the decision.
Victor Mete is also a RFA and would likely force Karl Alzner off the list if re-signed. Sending Alzner to miners saves around $ 1 million on the cap, so Mete’s new deal would essentially take up a lot less space than the actual figure. The addition of Alexander Romanov to the organization will be factored into Mete’s plan.
Another option – which Bergevin did not hesitate a year ago – is an offer sheet. Critically, on the Allen acquisition, the GM parted with a pick obtained from the Washington Capitals, not the pick assigned to the Canadiens. This has allowed them to remain compliant for all pay sheet pay scenarios, able to extend any offer to a restricted free agent this offseason. If the trade route is closed to Bergevin, he could very well go down the path of hostile takeover again.