There was an expectation that Casey DeSmith would be moved at some point to clear up the goaltending logjam somewhat. That move happened on Tuesday as the Habs sent DeSmith to Vancouver in exchange for Tanner Pearson and a 2025 third-round pick.
At times, Pearson has been a capable middle-six winger with a bit of a scoring touch, headlined by a 24-goal showing with Los Angeles back in 2016-17 and a 45-point campaign in 2019-20. Unfortunately, things haven’t gone as well for him since then.
Last season, a hand injury that was supposed to be a short-term thing was anything but. Many procedures later (seven in total), his season was over and the NHLPA was looking into how things were handled. As a result, his year came to an end with just a goal and four assists in 12 games. There were also questions at that time about whether he’d be able to return for 2023-24.
However, yesterday, the Canucks quietly activated Pearson off LTIR, suggesting that he will indeed be good to go for training camp. In doing so, they created a bit of a cap crunch for themselves, one that this deal goes a long way toward solving as Pearson makes $3.25 million and DeSmith $1.8 million; both are on expiring contracts and will be UFAs next summer. The difference between the two plus their ability to move presumed backup Spencer Martin to the minors now gets them back into cap compliance.
On the other hand, this adds to Montreal’s salary cap overage, one that currently has them roughly $6.1 million over the ceiling, per CapFriendly. While that number is overselling things as the Canadiens won’t carry a 28-player roster into the season, there also isn’t $6.1 million in savings to be had by sending between five to eight players down. In that sense, it would seem like there’s more to come as GM Kent Hughes has spoken about the importance of avoiding offseason LTIR this season.
For the Habs, the key here is the third-round pick, further adding to their collection of selections in that draft which now stands at 11, assuming the pick they got for Sean Monahan coveys in that year as planned. Montreal now has an extra pick in each of the first four rounds that year. Meanwhile, for now it seems, they’ll hope that Pearson can rebound and provide some extra production in the bottom six.
Meanwhile, the training camp battles up front just got a bit more contested with one more veteran in the mix. If Pearson is indeed bound for Montreal’s roster and not Laval-bound through waivers (a move that would only save $1.15 million in cap space), that will be one less spot for the likes of Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Jesse Ylonen, Joshua Roy, Emil Heineman, and others to push for. For now at least, the forward battles just got a bit more interesting.