The Habs continue to take care of their pending restricted free agents for Laval as on Wednesday, they announced that Michael McNiven has signed a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will pay $700,000 in the NHL and just $75,000 in the AHL, a nominal raise of just $10,000 on his AHL salary from this season.
The 23-year-old didn’t really have a consistent place to play for most of the season. Behind both Charlie Lindgren and Cayden Primeau on the depth chart and Connor LaCouvee already assigned to ECHL Maine (where Montreal sent a handful of players), McNiven wound up bouncing around three ECHL teams in an effort to get some game action. He wound up in 22 games before being recalled to Laval midseason. But with the Rocket, he was still on the outside looking in most nights as he only managed to get in three games there before the season ended. He did well in those limited minutes, going 3-0 with a 2.33 GAA and a .919 SV%.
This contract means that the Canadiens still think that McNiven has some upside but the logjam for next season is even bigger. Lindgren and Primeau are still around and Jake Allen is set to be the backup in Montreal. On top of that, Vasili Demchenko is now signed and they didn’t sign him to bury him in the ECHL. Something has to give or McNiven will once again be shuffling around from team to team to get some playing time.
This move may also have some Seattle expansion implications. As long as the Habs tender him a qualifying offer next offseason, McNiven would become the mandatory goalie that has to be exposed to the Kraken. With Primeau and Demchenko exempt and Lindgren and Allen both being pending UFAs, McNiven is their only real option to leave unprotected at this point.
This deal is a small vote of confidence and hopefully for McNiven’s sake, he’s able to get some consistent playing time in 2020-21 (whenever that season gets underway).