It didn’t take long for Cole Caufield to decide to turn pro. Just a day after Wisconsin was surprisingly ousted in the NCAA tournament, the Habs announced that they’ve signed the winger to a three-year, entry-level contract.
The financial breakdown of the deal is as follows:
2020-21: $792,500 salary (including signing bonus), $132,500 performance bonuses
2021-22: $925,000 salary (including signing bonus), $300,000 in performance bonuses
2022-23: $925,000 salary (including signing bonus), $850,000 in performance bonuses
Per CapFriendly, the bonus structure this season is $25,000 for 10 games played and $107,500 for 20. That’s going to be difficult to hit which reduces the possibility for him hitting those and potentially creating a bonus overage for 2021-22.
The structure of the deal is certainly interesting with the league-minimum salary helping to keep the cap hit of the deal down at $880,833 instead of the $925,000 that other first-rounders typically get. That will certainly be beneficial as the Habs try to save as much as they can given how tight they are against the cap now and how close they project to be next year as well. As a result, while they’re burning the first year of his deal now (regardless of whether or not he’s in the NHL), the Habs at least get a little bit of savings on the other two seasons in return.
The 20-year-old had an absolutely dominant sophomore season with the Badgers, collecting 30 goals and 22 assists in just 31 games, leading all of Division I players in goals and points. He is the heavy favourite for the Hobey Baker Award as a result (regardless of the result of the fan vote which is worth virtually nothing in the final tally). Although he still had two years of college eligibility remaining, there really wasn’t much left to prove at that level.
Once Caufield goes through a seven-day quarantine period, he is expected to report to Laval and not Montreal. That makes some sense as he’ll be able to get his feet wet in the pros with the Rocket and the financial reality is that they can’t afford to add him to the roster with its current composition; the cap space just isn’t there. That can certainly change between now and the trade deadline but for now, the prudent move is the path they’re taking.
All of a sudden, Montreal’s contract total is worth monitoring. Between this deal and yesterday’s Eric Staal addition, the Habs are now at 48 out of the maximum of 50 contracts. That still gives them room to add but if there is another move on the horizon, they’ll likely be trying to match contracts going the other way.
That type of minutia aside, it’s certainly an exciting day for Montreal. Their top prospect is now under contract and even if he’s starting with Laval, the hope is that he won’t need to be there for long before he shows he’s ready to play in the NHL. It could come at the end of this year when the cap isn’t in effect or early next season. Either way, the wait for Caufield to make his Canadiens debut isn’t going to be too much longer.