Jake Evans is expected to have a bigger role on the Habs this season and they’ve opted to give him a vote of confidence, announcing that they’ve signed him to a three-year contract extension. The deal carries a cap hit of $1.7 million.
The 25-year-old was a seventh-round pick of the Canadiens back in 2014 and his development has been slow and steady. He played out his full four years in college, then spent the better part of two full seasons with Laval before making the jump to the NHL on a full-time basis last season.
In 2020-21, Evans played in 47 games, mostly on the fourth line, recording 13 points while winning just over 50% of his faceoffs. He also played in seven playoff games; he missed some time with a concussion off a hit from Mark Schiefele while also being scratched at times. Strictly within the context of those numbers, this contract would appear to be on the expensive side.
However, with the departures of Phillip Danault and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (with Christian Dvorak coming in as a replacement), Evans has been the presumptive favourite to land the third centre spot in training camp, putting him into a situation where his ice time (and ideally, his production) will go up. This move signifies that the Canadiens think he will be a much more important player for them this upcoming season and are signing him now to avoid the risk of him costing more next summer.
The contract buys out the final two years of RFA eligibility for Evans plus his first season of UFA eligibility. It’s not a price point that should cripple them considering that when (or if, the way things have gone so far this preseason) their forward group is fully healthy, they’ll have someone making twice that much on the fourth line (Joel Armia and Paul Byron are both at that price tag). It also gives them a bit of certainty down the middle with Ryan Poehling still working towards a full-time roster spot.
Montreal now has a little over $75 million in commitments for the 2022-23 season with Nick Suzuki and Alexander Romanov among the notable RFAs and Ben Chiarot as a UFA that they may want to bring back. That may seem a little daunting knowing that the cap ceiling is only going to be $1 million higher than the $81.5 million that it is now but that does include Shea Weber’s cap hit; the team has suggested in the past that he may not be able to return which would make him LTIR-eligible and give the Habs the cap space to retain their other free agents.