While the Habs have a fair amount of cap space at their disposal, there are varying reports as to how much they actually have to work with. Let’s break it down by taking a look at Montreal’s offseason cap structure which is considerably different than what their in-season cap structure will be.
Although it’s true that teams can go over the Upper Limit by 10% during the summer, there are also some contracts that come onto the books that otherwise wouldn’t be. The offseason cap is calculated as follows:
1) All one-way contracts, regardless of NHL days in the previous season
2) All two-way contracts, prorated by the number of days the player was in the NHL the prior season
3) All unsigned restricted free agents at their qualifying offer amount (prorated by the number of days the player was in the NHL the prior year for two-way offers)
4) All other amounts such as retained salary or carry-over bonuses
This actually puts a bit more on the books than you might think. Let’s go through these one-by-one.
1) All one-way contracts
While it’s quite likely that veterans like Karl Alzner and Dale Weise are going to be AHL-bound, the offseason cap doesn’t take that into consideration. They’re on the books at their full rate without any pro-ration for the time they spent in the minors last season. That cuts into their offseason spending space slightly. (It’s also part of the reason they’re showing as on the books on cap sites like CapFriendly at the moment.)
|Total One-Way Contracts||$74,415,476|
2) All two-way contracts, pro-rated by NHL time
While someone like Jesperi Kotkaniemi will be on here at 100%, a player like Phil Varone will also count by a significant portion due to him spending a lot of time in the NHL with Philadelphia last season. Here’s a breakdown of who hits the books under this classification.
|Player||Cap Hit||Proration||Revised Cap Hit|
|Total Two-Way Contracts For Offseason Cap Purposes||$2,593,471|
Bonuses do not apply in this calculation even though Mete reached some of his last season. Figures are rounded to the nearest dollar.
3) Qualifying Offers
|Total Qualifying Offers||$700,000|
Hudon’s 5% inflator from his previous contract is actually lower but the league minimum salary is $700,000. Michael McCarron’s qualifying offer is $917,831 but he didn’t spend any time on the NHL roster last season so he’s not factored in here.
4) Other Commitments
The Habs don’t have much here. Steve Mason’s $1,366,667 buyout cost is on the books for one more year and that’s it.
|Total Offseason Cap Hit||$79,075,614|
While that still leaves a couple of million in space below the Upper Limit (before factoring in the 10% cushion), Montreal’s offseason cap hit is only going to go up further once Hudon re-signs. Yes, he’s coming off a tough season but his 2017-18 performance will come into play in arbitration so he’s going to get more than some might think. That will push the Offseason Cap Hit closer to the $80 million mark. Considering the absolute max is $89.65 million (the Upper Limit plus 10%), it’s safe to rule them out of pursuing offer sheets for the top remaining restricted free agents as they literally won’t be able to afford them; a $10+ million offer sheet would be ruled invalid by the league as a result.
While we wait (and hope) for another acquisition of note in the weeks to come, a common thought is that they have plenty to spend plus the 10% offseason overage. In reality, the next notable addition (if there is one) will ultimately put them into that overage by virtue of the offseason cap rules, even if players like Alzner, Weise, and Lindgren are going to eventually be AHL-bound. The Habs will have plenty of cap room next season as things stand but their offseason cap room is much more limited.