HabsWorld.net -- 

With the trade deadline almost here, it’s time
to take a look at the Habs’ cap situation.  Last year, they had the money
to add Thomas Vanek to the roster without having to send any salary back to the
Islanders which was a big factor in them landing the talented Austrian. 
This season, do they have the funds to make another big acquisition?

Here’s a snapshot from my
cap sheet
to show where the team currently sits, the numbers are as of Sunday:

With the roster as it stands now, the Habs can add a full-season salary of
$5.179 million without sending any money the other way while staying under the
cap which sounds really nice.  If they make a move before that, they won’t be able to bring as much
in; if they made one on Monday the 23rd, the most they could take back without
any contract going to the other team is $4.3 million.  (For frequent
readers of the cap sheet, you’ll note that the grey number changes daily and on
trade deadline day, both it and the blue number will be identical.)

While that seems all well and good, it doesn’t take into account potential
performance bonuses.  In particular, Alex Galchenyuk is nearing some of the
Class ‘A’ bonuses that carry a payout of up to $212,500 for each one achieved. 
(And since he was the third overall pick, it’s likely that the base payout is
the max of $212,500.)  Here are the ones he has a real shot at hitting:

– 20 goals (he’s at 16)
– Top-3 in +/- for forwards (he’s fifth currently)
– Top-6 in ice time (aggregate and/or per game) (he’s fifth in the aggregate,
tied for fourth per game)

Let’s suppose that Galchenyuk hits two of these, creating a nice little bonus
payday for him of $425,000.  This also counts against the cap.  While
there is the bonus cushion which allows the Habs to carry that hit over to next
year, that’s not ideal with the potential for the cap increase to be really low,
if there even is one.  Assuming they don’t want the overage for next
season, here are the new numbers in play:

As you can see, the space on deadline day goes
down a ton once those potential bonuses get added in.  All of a sudden,
they can really only make a depth move without having to send someone the other
way (or back to the minors, depending on how expensive the acquisition is). 

You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned
LTIR yet, something that Alexei Emelin may be eligible for if he misses ten
games or 24 days.  LTIR whittles away cap space to zero so while it opens
up the potential to add a more expensive player, it also guarantees an
end-of-season bonus overage knowing what we do about Galchenyuk’s situation
above.  Also, the Habs would have to come back into cap compliance when
Emelin’s ready to return which would be hard to do if they add a pricey player
in his absence.  Since the blueliner is expected to return long before the
regular season ends, it seems highly unlikely that the Canadiens would use this
option for any substantial amount.

So, while you’re following along on deadline
day dreaming about big acquisitions, keep this in mind – the Habs don’t have as
much cap space as it may seem on the surface.  That said, they should have
enough to make an addition or two to help position themselves for what they hope
will be another long postseason run.