Daniel Carr had an up-and-down year. After clearing waivers, he worked his way back up to the big club and got off to a very strong start. Despite that, there is a chance that he doesn’t receive a qualifying offer next month.
Despite being one of the more consistent goal scorers at the minor league level in recent years, Carr didn’t get the benefit of the doubt from Claude Julien following a so-so preseason. Instead of getting a spot at the end of the roster, they chose to waive him and managed to sneak him through. He didn’t sulk and wound up being very productive with Laval, picking up nearly a point per game in 20 contests before getting recalled for good.
The Habs debuted Carr on what amounted to an AHL fourth line alongside Byron Froese and Nicolas Deslauriers (who had also cleared waivers and were in Laval) but the combination worked wonders. He picked up 10 points in his first nine games and it looked like he had finally made it. However, a five-game stretch without a point resulted in Julien pulling him and barely giving Carr any game action for the next six weeks.
Montreal’s movement towards the trade deadline and the fact they were so far out of the playoff race gave Carr a chance to play a regular role down the stretch but this time, he didn’t make the most of the opportunity as he collected just four points in 16 post-deadline contests. That’s more of the level of production he had provided in the past but that type of play is what had him get waived in the first place.
Laval: 20 GP, 11-8-19, -3 rating, 14 PIMS, 58 shots
Montreal: 36 GP, 6-10-16, +2 rating, 8 PIMS, 52 shots
Argument To Qualify
Carr is a player who has, at times, shown a knack for scoring and has a decent touch around the net. On a team that typically struggles to score, getting rid of someone that can score the odd goal doesn’t seem like a strong idea. At 26, Carr is still young enough to be a contributor for a few more years at least as well; it’s not as if he’s an aging veteran who might only have one or two years left in the tank.
While he isn’t talented enough to play in Montreal’s top six long-term, he is competent enough in his own end that he’s not a liability in a bottom-six role either. Lots of scorers in that situation are much worse defensively making them a tougher option to play from the standpoint of the coaching staff.
Montreal’s injury situation also gives them another reason to keep Carr around. Paul Byron and Andrew Shaw are both iffy-to-doubtful to start the season so having some extra NHL-proven depth around would be useful.
Argument To Cut
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. Carr has arbitration rights and with a 0.44 PPG average in his platform season, there’s an easy case to be made for a notable raise off the $725,000 he made this season. The Habs won’t have walk away rights (he won’t be awarded a high enough amount for that to kick in) so they could very well be forced to pay a salary that’s higher than a typical fringe player. While there was plenty of cap space left after the season, no one expects Montreal to have anywhere near that type of room in 2018-19 so having Carr at a salary that’s higher than it should be would hurt. (If you’re looking for some perspective on what he could get, look no further than former Hab Sven Andrighetto – his 2016-17 year was somewhat comparable to Carr’s 2017-18 campaign and he got $1.4 million.)
While Carr has shown he isn’t a defensive liability, he’s still not an ideal fit in the bottom six. He’s an energetic player but lacks the size to effectively play that role. While he has certainly had some good moments, in the span of four years he has progressed from a player on the fringe to a player on the fringe. That doesn’t appear to be likely to change so why not cut bait and give someone else a look, be it a free agent or a prospect?
I think the Habs would genuinely like to keep Carr around but the price point has to make sense. Qualifying him and risking an arbitration award may be a bit too much of a risk so I expect the team to do something that has gained a lot of traction over the past few years. Instead of qualifying Carr, they’ll non-tender him but try to work out a deal in the days leading up to free agency, one that gives him a raise but also protects them a bit if he winds up going on waivers. Basically, I expect something around the $1 million mark that takes him off the cap entirely if he clears waivers and goes to Laval.
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