HabsWorld.net -- 

We sit merely one month into what already seems
like too long of an offseason (boy how I dread August) and not surprisingly talk
has shifted to the numerous free agents the Habs have to deal with. 
Although having 10 UFA’s can imply that there is a lot of cap space available,
when you dig a little deeper, the Habs aren’t in the greatest of shape. 
Better than a lot teams, yeah, but I wouldn’t count on bringing in the high
salaried players anytime soon.  Here’s how it works out:

For the purposes of this illustration, a couple of assumptions need to be made. 
The 2009-10 cap (already assumed to be slightly dropping) will be set at $55
million (all figures in USD), and when the doom and gloom hits the following
season, a roughly 10% drop in the cap will lead to a $50 million upper limit.

Step 1:
Who’s signed now?

The following players are signed
to contracts already for next season.  Players are noted by their cap hit,
which is not necessarily their salary.


Cap Hit

Andrei Markov

Roman Hamrlik 5,500,000

Andrei Kostitsyn

Carey Price 2,200,000

Georges Laraque

Josh Gorges 1,100,000

Glen Metropolit

Ryan O’Byrne 941,667

Sergei Kostitsyn 816,667

Jaroslav Halak

Maxim Lapierre 687,500

Total committed (12 players):


Step 2:
Restricted free agents

The next step is to re-sign the restricted free
agents before seeing how much can be given to the UFA’s.  Here, the salary
is listed as that is the determining factor in the value of qualifying offers (QO).


08-09 Salary

Min. QO

Chris Higgins


Tomas Plekanec 1,800,000 1,800,000*

Kyle Chipchura


Guillaume Latendresse 850,000 892,500

Matt D’Agostini


Gregory Stewart 500,000 550,000

Totals (6 players):



Thus at the very least, the $6.6 million figure
must be added to the players already signed, but realistically, that figure will
be a bit higher, as both Higgins and Plekanec are arbitration eligible. 
Add to that Latendresse and the way his agent has been known to play hardball,
and let’s estimate a combined cap hit of $8.75 million for the 6.

So, before UFA’s, there’s approximately $21.75 million available, and 5
vacant roster spots – this doesn’t sound half bad by itself.  But we need
to take the projected cap drop in 2010-11 into consideration though.

Step 3:
Fast forward

Rather than looking at who’s under contract
first, let’s look at who expires after next season.


09-10 Cap Hit

Carey Price (RFA)

Glen Metropolit (UFA) 1,000,000

Sergei Kostitsyn (RFA)

Jaroslav Halak (RFA) 775,000

Maxim Lapierre (RFA)

Totals (5 players): 5,479,167

Even if you assume Metropolit walks after this
season, it’s hard to realistically say that the 4 RFA’s will just earn the $5.5
million there – the 2 goalies alone may wind up making that much let alone the
forwards.  Let’s set what I consider to be a conservative estimate of $8
million for a 10-11 cap hit for this group. 

Rather than make another table of cap hit for players still under contract
beyond 09-10, let’s keep it simple – the combined cap hit of these 7 players is
just under $19 million.

Back to good old fashioned basic math, subtracting the $27 million off our $50
million estimate, we’re left with $23 million to spend.  That’s the
good news, the bad news being that there’s still 12 guys left to sign with that. 

Now, there’s little point in trying to hammer out the exact cap hits for 10-11
for the RFA’s in Part 2.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s put the cap hit at
105% of our estimated $8.75 million as some of the players on that list will
ultimately take their QO this year and have a higher QO next season.  This
brings the RFA’s up to 9.2 million.  Total left to spend now (23 – 9.2):
$13.8 million
on 6 players.

Let’s factor in a few prospects now – namely P.K. Subban, Yannick Weber, and Ben
Maxwell – many feel they should be regulars by the start of the 2010-11 season. 
They have a $2.6 million combined cap hit, dropping the amount available to
$11.2 million
for 3 players.

Step 4:
Unrestricted free agents

Now to what many would call the good part. 
The amount available to spend here is not the biggest concern, but rather the
roster spots.  With the roster in its current form, there’s only 3 spots
available beyond next year, which means if you plan to keep this team as is, you
can only give 3 contracts beyond 1 season to this year’s crew of UFA’s. 
Let’s face it, players like Bouwmeester, Gaborik, Hossa, the Sedins, Havlat, and
even a guy like Beauchemin won’t be signing 1 year contracts.  Nor will the
pair of young Montreal UFA’s, Komisarek and Tanguay. 

At max, the Habs only have 3 of these to dole out, so if you keep the ones on
the current roster, there’s but 1 spot available for a new free agent.  And
if the Habs keep Komisarek and Tanguay, how much money is going to be available
for that free agent?  Let’s see, if each gets $5 million, and there’s $11.2
available for a total of 3 players…a whopping $1.2 million, hardly an impact

So now, the team can’t bring in a core UFA for not only this coming season with
this in mind, but we’ve already spent the UFA allotment for next year as well –
the Habs are now pooched for 2 seasons worth of UFA’s! 

You’ll notice I haven’t really talked much about the upcoming free agency season
and that’s for a good reason – working backwards is required to see how much you
have to spend down the road.  I haven’t forgotten the $21.75 million figure
though, this is a good amount to spend come July.  The only catch?  It
almost has to be on 1-year guys for the simple reason that if you give too many
guys long-term deals, the Habs will assuredly be over the cap in 2010-11 (unless
the recession doesn’t hit the NHL like it has other sports…fat chance).

it all up

Now to be fair, this is only one way of things
playing out – a single trade would require an entirely new set of projections to
be run, and everyone has their own opinions of who could be on the team in 2
years.  You’ll note that notable prospects like Ryan McDonagh and Alexei
Emelin have been left out – it’s too hard to estimate the bonuses that may be
coming with their deals.  But even with them in the equation, there’s not a
whole lot to work with moving forward, regardless of how many millions the team
has in cap space at the moment. 

Don’t let the numbers fool you folks, there may be a ton of cap space now, but
when push comes to shove, there’s really not a lot that can be used in terms of
signing long-term contracts.  The Habs can indeed be active this offseason,
but look for it to be 1-year deals and adjust your expectations accordingly. 
When the team inevitably "strikes out" on most of, if not all of the "big names"
out there, remember this article, as it will be one of the biggest reasons why. 
(And if the Habs are busy in the trade market, disregard everything you read
here as things will change – in the event that occurs, I may just wind up
making a set of new forecasts moving forward so keep an eye for that if it

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