Updated: Aug 27
When news broke around noon last Thursday that the Calgary Flames were working on multiple transactions, much of the attention was placed on the signing of 31-year-old Center Nazem Kadri. Having entered free agency as one of the most highly touted players on the market, it came as a surprise to many that Kadri was still unsigned more than a month after the beginning of this free agency period.
Unfortunately for Flames General Manager Brad Treliving, he wouldn't be able to officially sign Kadri until he moved some money out. As a result, the Flames would trade Sean Monahan and a conditional 2025 first-round draft pick to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Future Considerations. However, the trade was not officially announced by the Canadiens until almost 6:00 pm due to the incredibly complicated conditions attached to the draft pick, which we won't get into.
Monahan is entering the final year of a seven-year deal that holds an average annual value of 6.375 million dollars.
How Can Montreal Fit Monahan Under the Cap?
According to CapFriendly, the trade for Monahan leaves the Canadiens with over 88 million dollars tied up in cap space, with Restricted Free Agents Kirby Dach and Cayden Primeau still without contracts. To ensure that the Canadiens are cap compliant to begin the season, Montreals General Manager Kent Hughes has stated that goaltender Carey Price will be placed on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR). This would remove Price's 10.5 million dollar cap hit from Montreal's total salary cap hit, leaving the team with around 4 million dollars to re-sign Dach and Primeau.
In the event that Price is healthy and ready to play at some point this season, the Canadiens have numerous players on expiring contracts that can be moved at the deadline, or earlier if needed. Jonathan Drouin, Evgeni Dadonov, Paul Byron, Jake Allen, and Monahan himself are all headed towards Unrestricted Free Agency at the end of this season, and depending on how these players perform this upcoming season, Montreal could fetch themselves a handful of draft picks and prospects. The Canadiens are allowed to retain up to 50% of the salary cap hit on up to three of these contracts, making them much more enticing to potential buyers at the deadline.
What Can Montreal Expect From Monahan?
A once consistent 20-goal scorer with a career-high of 82 points in 78 games, there's no doubt that Sean Monahan has the skill and toolset of a valuable top-six center at the NHL level. His ability to return to that production level, however, depends on his health entering the season. The 27-year-old underwent surgery on his right hip in April, cutting his season short. Having undergone the same surgery on his left hip the season before, it's safe to say that Monahan is no stranger to adversity, yet his determination to return to action fully healthy hasn't wavered
The same night that he was traded, Monahan answered questions from members of the Montreal media. He discussed the current state of his health, his potential timeline for return, but maybe most importantly, his desire to prove something to his new team and to himself.
"I've got a lot to prove, and I think the biggest thing is I want to prove it to myself. I know I'm a great player."
- Sean Monahan via NHL.com
Whether he's in the lineup on opening night or has to wait to make his Montreal debut, it's clear that Sean Monahan is hungry for the opportunity to compete in the NHL again.
Assessing Monahans Future as a Canadien
With his contract expiring at the end of the upcoming season, and a Canadiens team that looks to be nowhere close to playoff contention, it would probably make sense for both parties to go their separate ways at the trade deadline. If Monahan can repeat some of his past success with Montreal this season, he could make for an enticing trade piece for teams looking to bolster their roster for a deep playoff run.
While the idea of receiving another high-round draft pick or prospect for Monahan at the deadline sounds intriguing, there are certainly other options. If Kent Hughes feels like the Canadiens are closer to competing than originally thought, and that the value Sean Monahan would provide long-term is greater than that of a potential trade return, then he may opt to try and re-sign Monahan.
With fellow Canadiens centerman Christian Dvorak's name heavily rumored in trade talks at the deadline, it's possible that Hughes moves Dvorak at some point in the future to make room for Monahan down the middle, and ensure that Kirby Dach isn't buried on the fourth line.
This is all, of course, dependent on Monahan's play this upcoming season. If he's unable to return to the player he once was, Montreal may be forced to keep him through the end of the season and let him go in free agency. Don't be surprised, however, if this isn't Hughes' last move before the start of the season.