At the recent meeting of NHL general managers, Gary Bettman revealed that the 2019-20 salary ceiling is currently projected to be $ 83 million. That's a $ 3.5 million jump from the $ 79.5 teams to work with this year, and should only rise in the coming seasons when the 32nd team joins the league in a few years.
The Montreal Canadiens currently have most of a 23-man roster scheduled for next season. Carey Price will be in the second year of her eight-year contract. He will need a boost, and as long as Antti Niemi's contract expires at the end of this season, Charlie Lindgren is hired for next year, and may be the one to take the role, for only $ 750,000 against the limit.
The top five team markers in the advanced position are all stuck for at least another year. Currently the 12th best NHL offensive club, Canadiens' biggest commitment is Jonathan Drouin's $ 5.5 million contract, which lasts four seasons.
Sixth-ranked Artturi Lehkonen will be the best restricted free agent to receive a contract for 2019-20. Other pending RFA referrals to the organization are Joel Armia, Charles Hudon and Michael McCarron, all with arbitration rights. Neither should command a dollar value greater than a few million.
As a result, the Canadiens must fill their attacking corps for a reasonable total, especially if the dynamics that Nick Suzuki makes with the team on their entry level contract, which seems a good possibility.
Defense is a different story. The $ 4,625 million deal for Karl Alzner, currently reduced as he plays for minors, is the biggest problem. Unable to break the line, even with some bruises on the blue line, his contract is the most glaring flaw in the team's current build, and one of the Canadiens would be very happy to remove it before the season ends.
The right side is looking strong, with Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Noah Juulsen, all planned to return, and Cale Fleury and Josh Brook waiting in the wings. The left side is the area of greatest concern, with two ill-informed veterans and a young, unstated puck-mover as the main signing options. Brett Kulak and Mikey Reilly are probably the most desirable players on the list, but they will need a place and a new contract to make it happen.
As it stands, even with Alzner's total amount in books, Montreal is projected to have $ 17.8 million to work to sign or promote five players. That would be great to get into the free agency this summer – if there were any free agents to sign. Jake Gardiner is perhaps the best left-hand defender available on the list of unrestricted free agents, so Montreal may need to be more creative with its excess space to win a blue-line top-four from another club.
We have now seen Marc Bergevin have a surplus in each of the last two seasons and will have an even more substantial portion of the upper limit available next year. The general manager will have to find ways to turn that credit into assets over the next 10 months.