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Why Increase in the Salary Cap Next Year Won’t Be Doing the Penny-Pinching Habs GM Bergevin Any Good

Owner Geoff Molson and his financial partners seem more interested in raking in big bucks from their other entertainment holdings on the court than on seriously tackling the Habs continual failure on the ice.

Many disgruntled fans have come to resent the excess cap money of the Habs. Money that in their opinion should have been put to good use by acquiring seasoned players to improve the team’s current roster.

They dejectedly watched their favorite team miss the playoffs for the past two seasons. Presently, the same scenario is playing out for the 3rd straight season.

For the past 3 years, Marc Bergevin, the Montreal Canadiens General Manager has not used up to the salary cap. Moreover, the recent cap increase will make it extremely hard to find cap-strapped teams Bergevin may be hoping to take advantage of this summer.

We see teams like the Arizona Coyotes ranking high among the top spenders. Likewise, the Toronto Maple Leafs cleverly passed on about a $100 million to its players by placing most of them on the injured reserve. However, Montreal Canadiens fans expecting similar spendings from the management on the players have been sorely disappointed.

According to Forbes 2019 ranking, the Montreal Canadiens is the third highest earner in the NHL. It then baffles the mind why the management is reluctant to part with some of that dough to improve the team’s chances of making the playoffs?

The likely answer appears to be that multiplying profits for shareholders comes first at the expense of delighting their fans by making the team perform better. No wonder their penny-pinching ways that reared its head three seasons ago has now become a habit.

Two years ago, the Habs were the sixth least spenders in the NHL. Last season, they ranked eight. This year, players’ payroll may not fare any better than the previous two years. For such a rich team, not spending more to boost the team’s mediocre performance is inexcusable.

In 2017, Marc Bergevin let two of his best and longtime players, Alex Radulov and Andrei Markov, walk away as free agents. He wasn’t disturbed one bit neither did he bother to get similar replacements. And what was the disastrous result? The Canadiens never made it to the playoffs for 3 straight years.

Photo credit: USA Today Sports / Dennis Wierzbicki

In a 2017 TSN report, Bergevin told the press he had given Russian winger Radulov and veteran defenseman Markov his best offer. He said as much as he wants those players to stay, the terms they demanded were not acceptable.

However, the moment Dallas Stars offered Radulov a 5-year, $31.25 million deal, a deal AP news referred to as the richest free-agent deal of the offseason. The Habs suddenly woke up from their nonchalance and realized what was about to slip through their hands.

They made a last-ditch attempt to match the Dallas Stars offer. But Radulov rejected it because he had already made a verbal agreement to the Stars and he was not about to go back on it.

The deputy commissioner of the NHL, Bill Daly recently announced to reporters that there would be a significant increase in the salary cap. Teams serious about making it to the playoffs and carrying the cup home would be happy with this news.

Photo credit: Associated Press / Martti Kainulainen   Bill Daly

Cap crunch teams especially would be over the moon with joy at this announcement. As they now have a bit more leeway to acquire and retain their elite players. It is highly unlikely this news would make any difference to the Habs who have grown comfortable with failing season after season.

When the salary cap was pegged at $81.5 million, they had a cap space of $8.297 million. It is therefore not farfetched to say the Canadiens would not spend anywhere near the new increased salary cap, Daly said would be between $84 million – $88.2 million. In fact, it makes no difference to them.

To be fair to the Habs, there is one major drawback commonly witnessed with the most increase in the salary cap. Instead of a general manager adding an impact player, what happens, in reality, is that salaries of under-performing and mediocre players tend to go up.

Nevertheless, with this recent increase, a GM could skillfully add an impact player without disrupting his team’s cap structure this summer.

Presently, the question most hockey observers are asking is this. Seeing how terrible the Montreal Canadiens have been performing, is Bergevin ready to carry out the needed change to turn things around?

Although there have been rumors circulating that Bergevin is looking to pull off a major trade in Montreal when the NHL Draft comes up this June. If he does, it wouldn’t come as much of a shock as he had previously swapped Alex Galchenyuk, Andrew Shaw, and P.K. Subban. The thing is the trade may not involve a big-name player.

Any fan hoping to witness a star player signing as a free agent with the Habs this summer should better not dwell on it too much. Bergevin’s reluctance to spend cap money may once again rear its ugly head this season and quench any of such deals.

Now that the cap has gone as high as $6.7 million, high spending teams could now retain many of their star players. And intriguing prospects may not be as easy to find as before.