The Canadiens made it known that they wanted to sign Cole Caufield to a long-term contract and they were able to do just that on Monday, announcing that they’ve signed the winger to an eight-year contract extension. He was slated to become a restricted free agent next month. The deal carries an AAV of $7.85 million and breaks down as follows:
2023-24: $4.975 million base salary, $5 million signing bonus
2024-25: $4.975 million base salary, $5.5 million signing bonus
2025-26: $9.975 million base salary
2026-27: $8.705 million base salary
2027-28: $6.215 million base salary
2028-29: $5.985 million base salary, 15-team no-trade list
2029-30: $5.985 million base salary, ten-team no-trade list
2030-31: $5.985 million base salary, five-team no-trade list
The contract, which buys out Caufield’s first three years of UFA eligibility, is the second-richest given to a forward in franchise history. Nick Suzuki’s is the richest, one that carries a $7.875 million AAV so it’s clear that Montreal was pushing for the captain’s contract to be the hard ceiling in negotiations. Bringing it just below that cap charge accomplishes that objective.
Caufield was the 15th-overall pick back in 2019 and made his NHL debut late in the 2020-21 campaign, getting into ten regular season games down the stretch plus 20 of Montreal’s 22 games in the playoffs.
Things weren’t so good during his first full season though as he managed just a single goal in the first 30 games of 2021-22 under head coach Dominique Ducharme. He was much better under Martin St. Louis though, tallying 22 times in 37 games.
That production carried over to this season as he notched 26 goals and 10 assists in 46 games, tying for the team lead in goals despite missing 36 games due to shoulder surgery. Caufield and Suzuki have combined to form a quality top duo and this move ensures they’ll be together for a while yet as both are signed through the next seven seasons.
This is a contract that carries a sizable risk/reward element to it. Caufield has just 123 career games played in the regular season, the equivalent of a year and a half. To make that type of commitment to someone with that little experience carries some risk, especially with how erratic his 2021-22 campaign was and the fact he had shoulder surgery.
However, the upside is certainly significant. If Caufield is able to score at a similar pace as he did this season moving forward, this deal should become a club-friendly one fairly quickly, especially as the salary cap starts to jump in the coming years.
Getting this contract done now certainly gives GM Kent Hughes some certainty moving forward heading into his offseason planning. Including the buffer for Carey Price’s LTIR, Montreal has a little over $11 million in remaining cap room for this summer with Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Denis Gurianov highlighting the restricted free agents and Sean Monahan potentially someone they want to keep among the UFAs.
As they embark on their planning for summer signings and trades, having Caufield’s contract locked in instead of a range depending on the term of the deal will make it much easier to plan things out. Meanwhile, Caufield and the team can rest easy knowing that this situation has been put to bed early and that he’ll be with the Canadiens for the long haul.