With the arbitration deadline approaching, the Habs came to terms with Jacob de la Rose on a two-year contract worth a total of $1.8 million. Meanwhile, both Joel Armia and Phillip Danault filed for arbitration.
The Swedish centre is coming off of his best NHL season so far after he posted 12 points in 55 games last season. The trade of Tomas Plekanec gave him an opportunity to play a larger role down the stretch and he acquitted himself relatively well. He also had a good showing at the World Championships in May where Team Sweden won the Gold Medal. Despite that, the return of Plekanec and the addition of Matthew Peca make it likely that de la Rose will be back on the fourth line to start 2018-19 (if he’s even in the lineup at all). At a cap hit of $900,000, it’s certainly manageable no matter what role he has.
The fact that Danault filed for arbitration should come as little surprise and is no cause for concern. His deal could go quite a few different ways in terms of length and could still be affected if the Habs do anything else this offseason (such as taking on another bad contract). As a result, this one is going to take a fair bit of time to hammer out.
What will be particularly tricky here is that Danault was used as a top-six forward for the most part over the last two years but it’s fair to assume that the Habs won’t be looking to pay him like one as ideally, he’s a third liner in a perfect world (especially if Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling pan out as hoped). However, that’s a tough argument for management to make given how he was used.
Two years ago, he put up 40 points and was at a 39 point pace last season but he missed time with a concussion and a neck injury. That will look good in an arbitration filing so it wouldn’t be shocking if a long-term deal winds up between $3.5 – $4 million when all is said and done.
Armia is coming off of his best season in the NHL after posting 29 points in 79 games (24 of which came at even strength). Montreal evidently believes that he still has some upside as they ate a two-year buyout of Steve Mason’s contract to secure him in a trade last weekend.
While he’s two years away from UFA eligibility (the time that long-term contracts are often done), is Montreal ready to commit to him when he hasn’t even played a game in their system (and doesn’t have a long track record of production)? At the same time, he won’t just be looking for a small raise on his $1 million qualifier like de la Rose received; it stands to reason he could push for somewhere between $1.5 – $1.75 million for next season.
Arbitration hearings will run from July 20th through August 4th so there is still plenty of time for the Habs to get deals done with these players before requiring the assistance of an arbitrator.
Montreal has two other restricted free agents to sign to new deals in centre Michael McCarron and winger Kerby Rychel. Neither of them was eligible for arbitration, however.