We often hear about teams and their windows in which they can win with the
current core in place. For the Habs, that window more or less started last
season but how much longer do they have? If you look at the contract
situation moving forward, it’s pretty clear that management is giving this
roster not only this upcoming season but also 2015-16 to make their mark.
Assuming that Lars Eller and P.K. Subban get locked up prior to their
arbitration hearings (and despite the mass panic that seems to have set in with
regards to Subban, getting a deal done beforehand is still the much more likely
outcome), here is Montreal’s situation moving forward, starting with a rough
projection of how the depth looks heading into 2014-15:
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Gallagher
Galchenyuk – Plekanec – Parenteau
Sekac – Eller – Bourque
Prust – Malhotra – Weise
Markov – Subban
Emelin – Gilbert
Beaulieu – Weaver
In terms of free agents next offseason from that group, the list is awfully
small. In fact, it’s only three players deep – Peter Budaj, Manny Malhotra,
and Mike Weaver. Combined, they make under $4 million which means there
aren’t a whole lot of expiring contracts. When you consider that Alex
Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are both going to be due significant raises in
the summer, that more or less is going to eat up that ~$4 million plus part of
the cap increase while the internal replacements will probably get rid of the
rest of any jump in the cap.
In other words, this team is likely to look very similar come 2015-16 than it
does now. After that season though is where things get interesting.
Two years from now, the Habs have all of two forwards under contract so far
Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais (with Galchenyuk and Gallagher being added
to this group when they sign their new contracts next July). They also
have six pending free agents up front, headed by Tomas Plekanec. Combined,
those free agent forwards have a cap hit of over $20 million.
Worth noting is that at a lot of Marc Bergevin’s acquisitions have coincided
with the 2016 offseason. Brandon Prust and Travis Moen both signed four
year deals shortly after Bergevin took over as GM that expire after 2015-16.
Dale Weise’s new contract expires in that offseason as does the
recently-acquired P-A Parenteau. Defenceman Tom Gilbert, another of
Bergevin’s acquisitions this month, is also unrestricted two summers from now;
he’s the lone blueliner currently in that situation. It appears that this
is the timeframe that Bergevin has targeted for the next significant changes to
be made to the roster and with that much money coming off the books, there should be
plenty of options at that time even after you factor in a prospect or two making
the jump after some time in the minors.
Clearly, there’s a defined window in place for the current edition of the
Habs to win. At this point, it’s looking highly likely that the majority of
this team is going to be intact not only for next season but for the one after
that. If you don’t like this group already, here’s hoping you’ll learn to
like them. They’re going to be here for a while.