We’ve been talking about the expansion draft since 2015 and how we know teams aren’t going to make it easy for the Golden Knights. The current 30 other teams will make trades, juggle prospects, or even expose good players; all with the expansion draft in mind. However, some moves get ignored because they seem small and insignificant, when in reality, teams are quietly preparing for June’s expansion draft. Al Montoya‘s two-year extension in Montreal is a perfect example.
In 2007 Montoya was the sixth overall selection. New York took the goaltender after Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler were off the board. Sidebar, the Rangers had a terrible period of first round selections. Here’s a sample from 1999-2004; Pavel Brendl #4, Manny Malhotra #7, Jamie Lundmark#9, Dan Blackburn #10, Hugh Jessiman #12. I guess all is forgiven when you hit a home run like Henrik Lundqvist in the seventh round (2000). Some scouts will always argue against drafting first round goaltenders, which brings us back to Carey Price‘s backup. Montoya may have been scouted as a top pick, but now he’s an average NHL backup. He’s obviously doing something right if Montreal is willing to pay him for two more years. Or is the backup just a chess piece?
Montreal signed Montoya for two-years at $2.1 million. Not a bad payday for a guy who averages 25 games a season. Since Price has an NMC, the signing means we know Montoya will be available for Vegas. Making it a risk for Montreal… or so it would seem. George McPhee will obviously scout and consider Montoya, but there are likely to be a few better options to take from Montreal. Alexei Emelin, Tomas Plekanec, and Andrei Markov, to name a few. These are older players, with expensive contracts, who bring experience and leadership. Making them more attractive to Vegas than Montoya.
But why you ask would George McPhee prefer the bigger contracts from Montreal? Because expiring contracts will quickly turn to gold for the Knights (nailed it).
The NHL salary cap dance is incredibly tough to master. If McPhee targets contracts like Emelin or Plekanec’s he’ll hit his required cap percentage in the draft, and set up nicely for 2018-2019. But not only would selecting a large expiring contract work out nicely for Vegas, it would act as a “get out of jail free” card for a currently contending Haps organization. While Vegas needs a large contract for 17-18, Montreal would be trimming one off their books allowing them to make a splash in free agency. Both teams are looking for the same thing, but in different years.
I’m seeing the makings of a friendship developing here. The Habs front office feels fairly comfortable that McPhee won’t take their backup, but instead will select a solid player with the valuable expiring contract in 2018-19. The ever so rare, win-win for the Canadiens and Golden Knights.
Now, with a favor in hand, McPhee can work on trading for Price. Hey, I’m not crazy. They traded the face of their franchise last year!