The signing process is a chess game. Each contractual commitment impacts on financial flexibility down the road. Like any chess master, Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier can not operate in the here-and-now but how each contract will impact his negotiations four or five moves ahead.
So far, Gauthier has committed 6.2 million to sign RFA Andrei Kostitsyn and UFA’s Hal Gill and Mathieu Darche. That puts thirteen players under contract, including defenseman Alexei Yemelin.
At any given time, the NHL roster limit is twenty-three but the Canadiens traditionally have carried twenty-two. . Nine positions to fill, including three defensemen, five forwards and a backup goaltender, and. twenty two million available cap space dollars to get it done.
We can expect that Andrei Markov is going to take close to six million of that. Josh Gorges should get Hal Gill money, around 2.25 million. Alex Auld can expect the million dollars he earned last year or the Canadiens will look elsewhere for a backup goaltender at the same price. Max Pacioretty is a priority up front as a restricted free-agent. He’ll cost another two million unless the Canadiens elect to go long-term. Then maybe we’re looking at the type of three-year 3.25 million annual deal Andrei Kostitsyn signed in 2008. For the purposes of this exercise lets give Pacioretty two-million.
By these calculations, this unsigned group (Markov-Gorges-Pacioretty) would command 11.25 million dollars, give or take, and would bring the signed roster to seventeen.
Five roster positions to fill. One defenseman and four forwards.
Under our calculations, speculative at best, Gauthier would have somewhere around ten million available dollars to fill out his roster.
How to spend the remaining money?
This isn’t carved in stone but, last season Gauthier opened the season with 19 million dollars devoted to his defense; 35 million for forwards and 3.75 million for his goaltending. Factoring in the expected three million increase in the salary cap and sticking to his payroll ratios, there would be thirty-seven million available for forwards (7 million left for five forwards); 20 million for defense (13 million space to sign three). After Markov and Gorges take up around eight million of that, it leaves five million to sign one more, or part of that money could be transferred to the budget for forwards.
Chess game? Absolutely. Boris Spassky would be proud.
Signed Forwards - (8-Total Salary 30.077 million dollars) Centres Gomez, Plekanec and Eller. Leftwingers Cammalleri, Moen and Darche. Rightwingers- Gionta and Kostitsyn.
Signed Defensemen – (4 – 7.942 million) Spacek, Subban, Yemelin and Gill.
Signed Goaltender – (1 – 2.75 million) Price.
Unsigned Roster Forwards - Benoit Pouliot (RFA), Ryan White (RFA), David Desharnais (RFA), Tom Pyatt (RFA), Jeff Halpern (UFA)
Unsigned Defensemen – Josh Gorges (RFA), Yannick Weber (RFA), Andrei Markov (UFA); Roman Hamrlik (UFA), James Wisniewski (UFA), Brent Sopel (UFA)
Unsigned Goaltender – Alex Auld (UFA)