Imagine the Montreal Canadiens being the envy of National Hockey League teams for being as well as or better positioned than just about anyone to deal with a flat salary cap for next season.
They used to be the envy of the league for winning the Stanley Cup on the regular, but now there’s this.
Consider it the consolation for three consecutive playoff whiffs — barring a crazy format that allows Montreal to participate in the 2020 playoffs — for a Canadiens team that hasn’t spent to the cap since 2017.
Having space has had its benefits over the last few years (looking at you, Joel Armia, who came to Montreal in 2018 and has since produced consecutive career seasons with the Canadiens in exchange for a D-level prospect and goaltender Steve Mason’s expiring $4.1-million cap hit from the Winnipeg Jets). But it would be a stretch to say general manager Marc Bergevin has been able to weaponize it (looking at you, Sebastian Aho, who still plays for the Carolina Hurricanes after Montreal’s meekly structured 2019 offer sheet was laughed at by the Hurricanes front office— and everyone else — and then promptly matched).
John Tavares wouldn’t even take the Canadiens’ call in the summer of 2018, and Matt Duchene left them as bridesmaids when he married himself to the Nashville Predators with a seven-year, $56-million contract in the summer of 2019.
But that’s all in the past now, and the opportunity to add looms for a team that desperately needs some help.