Monday was the deadline for teams to submit qualifying offers to retain the rights to their restricted free agents. The Habs opted to submit offers to six of those players while relinquishing the rights to two others.
Receiving offers were the following players:
G: Michael McNiven
D: Otto Leskinen
F: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Artturi Lehkonen, Michael Pezzetta, Ryan Poehling
Being let go are:
F: Joseph Blandisi, F Jake Lucchini
Lehkonen’s qualifying offer was believed to be less than a certainty. While the $2.2M offer was actually lower than his cap hit for 2020-21, it also locks in the right for him to file for salary arbitration. If it goes to a hearing, he could get more than Montreal was willing to pay and with the walkaway threshold being over $4.5 million, they’d be locked into that deal. However, them tendering the offer suggests they’re comfortable with that risk or they’re close on a new contract already.
Among the AHL pieces, Leskinen has already signed overseas and his offer is merely to retain his NHL rights. McNiven hasn’t received much of an extended look with Laval over the years but he’s cheap depth so him sticking around isn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was Pezzetta being tendered an offer. He has basically been a fourth liner with the Rocket throughout his professional career and players in that role aren’t typically kept beyond their entry-level deals. Clearly, management he has done enough to warrant another look.
Blandisi not being tendered is also a bit of a surprise although with his 101 career games of NHL experience, his eligibility for arbitration could have played a role. He could still work out a deal to remain with the organization on another two-way contract or hit the open market on Wednesday. As for Lucchini, he has already signed an AHL deal with Laval for next season.
In other news, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that defenceman Chris Wideman is a “good bet” to land with Montreal in free agency on Wednesday. The 31-year-old has 181 career games of NHL experience over parts of four seasons but spent 2020-21 in the KHL where he collected 41 points in 59 games. He seems like a candidate for a low-AAV one-way contract, one that could be buried in Laval without any cap penalty if he doesn’t make the team but he could also be eyed as cheap depth for the Canadiens. While he’s a free agent now, he can’t officially sign until the new league year opens up on Wednesday.