After a sluggish start to his season, the Habs have placed Paul Byron on waivers for the purpose of assigning him to the taxi squad.
Byron’s scoring woes from last season have carried over to this year as he has yet to score in 14 games so far in 2020-21 while recording just three assists. While it’s certainly fair to mention that he has basically been on the fourth line exclusively – something that wasn’t the case in the past – that’s still not particularly strong production.
The decision is one that is more money-based than anything. With a $3.4 million cap hit and two more years left on his deal after this one, it’s a fairly safe bet that the 31-year-old will pass through unclaimed. That will permit them to clear $1.075 million (in full-season cap hit) off their cap for days that he’s on the taxi squad.
On the surface, it would seem that their approach with Byron would be similar to what has been done with Corey Perry thus far, have him on the taxi squad on non-game days to bank some cap space and then recall him for games that he’ll be used in. The Habs have used a good chunk of Perry’s exemption already and they may not be keen on the idea of re-waiving him to extend that exemption. While they can afford to keep him on the active roster on a full-time basis, they wouldn’t be in a position to bank much cap space for any in-season additions or put towards performance bonus payments.
Lots of times, when a player is on waivers, it feels like the end of that player’s time with the club. It probably isn’t going to be the case with Byron who will probably still see regular action with the Habs but in the meantime, they’ll use this placement to bank some cap room instead of asking youngsters like Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Alexander Romanov to keep bearing the financial brunt of each taxi squad move. (Those players lose their NHL pay on the days they’re papered down while veterans like Perry and Byron don’t.) Quite a few teams have done this already with some overpaid role players this season and the Canadiens are now the latest to join the list.