Re-signing Tatar, Danault will be challenge worth exploring for Canadiens

Tatar Canadiens

We continue our look at next offseason’s potential free agent class by trying to project the next contract for some of the top players that could be available. Today we look at the Montreal Canadiens and their two biggest pending unrestricted free agents, forwards Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault.

The Montreal Canadiens have been one of the busiest teams in the NHL this offseason, utilizing their massive amount of salary cap space to acquire Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson, Joel Edmundson, and Jake Allen on long-term contracts.

While there are some definite risks there, the Canadiens definitely look to be a better team on paper than they were a year ago, especially if they get a big step forward from young forwards Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki.

Combined with Brendan Gallagher‘s new contract extension that begins in 2021-22, that is more than $20 million per year added to their future salary cap situation. That is a lot, and it could play a role in whether or not the Canadiens are able to re-sign their two biggest pending unrestricted free agents after this season — forwards Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault.

Tatar is part of an absolutely dominant line

They may not be household names around the league, but Tatar and Danault are two of the Canadiens’ best and most impactful players.

Let’s start with Tatar.

They acquired him (along with Suzuki) from Vegas in the Max Pacioretty trade two years ago and he has done nothing but produce since arriving in Montreal. He’s a 25-goal, 50-point, possession-driving winger and very comparable to Toffoli. His box-score production is good enough to consider him a top-line player, while his underlying possession numbers have been among the best in the league over the past two seasons.

Part of that is no doubt due to the amount of time he has spent alongside Gallagher during those seasons as there has been an obvious connection.

When those two have played alongside each other the Canadiens have controlled more than 60 percent of the total shot attempts that have taken place, dominated the scoring chances and expected goal numbers, and outscored teams by an 83-59 margin.

It is a great line, and one that the Canadiens should try to keep together if at all possible.

When neither player was on the ice the past two years the team’s shot attempt share dropped all the way down to 51 percent (still good, but not great) while they were outscored by 13 goals (191-204). They needed to improve the depth around this group, and there is a strong argument to be made that has happened this offseason.

Danault may have a Selke Trophy in his future

Danault, meanwhile, should be considered one of the league’s most underrated players.

Like Tatar he has posted dominant possession numbers the past couple of seasons, and is already regarded as one of the league’s best defensive forwards. He has finished in the top-seven of the Selke Trophy voting in each of the past two seasons, and the more the spotlight starts to shift in his direction the more votes he is likely to get.

Add in the fact that he’s a 50-point scorer to his defensive presence and you have one heck of a player.

If the Canadiens can get him re-signed, along with the continued development of Suzuki and Kotkaniemi, they have the potential for a pretty strong trio of centers to build around. Yeah, that is a lot of “ifs,” but the potential is absolutely there.

Can they afford both?

This is where it gets tricky.

All of those contracts signed this offseason have already resulted in the Canadiens having $65 million committed to 14 players for the 2021-22 season.

Assuming the salary cap stays put at $81.5 million, that would leave them with just $16 million to fill out the remaining nine spots of the roster.

Along with the pending UFA’s (Tatar, Danault, Joel Armia, and Jordan Weal) the Canadiens will also have to re-sign restricted free agents Kotkaniemi, Artturi Lehkonen, and Victor Mete.

Whether they re-sign all of them are not is irrelevant. Somebody is going to have to fill those spots. It’s just a matter of how much the Canadiens are willing to spend on them.

It is a good bet that re-signing both Tatar and Danault would probably cost somewhere around $9-10 million combined (somewhere around $5-$5.5 million for Tatar; maybe around $4 million for Danault), which would leave just $6-7 million for the remaining seven spots for that season. That is not going to be enough.

This is where the riskier contracts this offseason (that seven-year commitment to Anderson; the Edmundson contract) can become a little problematic. On its own one small overpay is not really a big deal to a team’s cap situation. It is when you get multiple overpays that things start to add up.

So how can the Canadiens deal with this now?

For starters, Ben Chiarot‘s $3.5 million salary cap hit comes off the books following the 2021-22 season. That will help.

Then there is the Jonathan Drouin situation.

He still has three years remaining on a contract that pays him $5.5 million per season. He is a very good player, but it is safe to say he has not turned into the player the Canadiens hoped he would be when they acquired him. Drouin also has a modified no-trade clause that kicks in next year. Meaning, if Montreal wanted to move him, this would be the time. That contract off the books would create quite a bit of room and perhaps give Montreal the flexibility it needs to keep two of its best players. They are not likely to find upgrades for better prices on the open market.

Montreal is a fascinating team, because even though it finished poorly in the standings a year ago there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about it this season.

Carey Price and Allen could be an outstanding goalie duo, and when healthy Shea Weber and Jeff Petry are still top-pairing defenders.

Add in the improved depth at forward and the potential of the Suzuki-Kotkaniemi duo and this team might be able to make some noise sooner than expected.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Malkin’s late goal lifts Penguins past Ovechkin, Caps 4-3

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    Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

    PITTSBURGH — Evgeni Malkin remains a live wire. Even now, 17 seasons into a career that is likely destined for the Hall of Fame, there’s an unpredictability the Pittsburgh Penguins star plays with that can be both endearing and exasperating to teammates and coaches alike.

    The latest proof came against Washington on Saturday.

    An untimely roughing penalty in the third period helped spark a Capitals’ rally from a three-goal deficit. Malkin made up for it by burying a breakaway with 1:20 left in regulation that lifted the Penguins to a 4-3 victory.

    “His care factor and his compete level for me is off the charts and that’s what I love about him and usually when the stakes are high that’s when he’s at his best,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He gets a huge goal for us tonight at a key time.”

    Malkin’s 25th goal of the season – a low wrist shot to the far post – helped the Penguins avoid a potentially messy collapse. Pittsburgh appeared to be ready to cruise to victory after Jake Guentzel‘s power-play goal 27 seconds into the third period made it 3-0.

    Washington instead stormed back, with Alex Ovechkin right in the middle of it. Ovechkin scored his 42nd goal of the season and 822nd of his career from his favorite spot in the left circle with 6:42 to go in regulation. Washington drew even when Dylan Strome flipped the puck into an open net with 2:44 to go in regulation.

    Yet instead of sagging, the Penguins surged. Malkin stripped Washington’s Anthony Mantha near center ice and broke in alone on Kuemper. Seconds later, the puck was in the net and Malkin was on one knee celebrating while pumping his fists, the kind of display of raw emotion that’s become one of his trademarks.

    “It’s a huge goal for me, and two points for the team,” Malkin said.

    Pittsburgh moved three points clear of Florida after the Panthers lost to the earlier Saturday. Both teams have nine regular-season games left.

    Ryan Poehling and Chad Ruhwedel scored a little over two minutes apart in the second period for Pittsburgh. Jake Guentzel added his team-high 32nd goal early in the third before Washington scrambled back. Casey DeSmith played spectacularly at times while finishing with 31 saves.

    Tom Wilson started the Capitals’ comeback with his ninth goal of the season 5:19 into the third. Kuemper stopped 36 shots, but was outplayed by DeSmith as Washington’s hopes of making a late push for a playoff berth took a serious hit. The Capitals are six points behind Pittsburgh with only eight games remaining.

    “It’s a tough one,” Washington center T.J. Oshie said. “I don’t think that last play was the only thing that lost the game for us. I know that (Mantha) feels terrible about it, but we trust him with the puck. It just wasn’t a good enough 60 minutes against a good hockey team over there.”

    It felt like old times for much of the night for teams that usually enter late March battling for a spot near the top of the Metropolitan Division.

    Not this season.

    While the 35-year-old Crosby is averaging over a point a game as usual and the 37-year-old Ovechkin is steadily making inroads on Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record, their teams have spent most of the year skating in place.

    Pittsburgh has been wildly uneven thanks in part to goaltending that has fluctuated between solid and shaky, the main reason a 17th straight playoff appearance is hardly assured. Washington, meanwhile, appears to be pointing toward the future after injuries and a small sell-off at the trade deadline.

    Pittsburgh put itself on slightly firmer footing with DeSmith making a compelling case that he should supplant Tristan Jarry as Pittsburgh’s top goaltender down the stretch.

    DeSmith was spectacular at times, including stoning Ovechkin on a breakaway near the end of the second period in which Ovechkin deked DeSmith to his knees, only to see DeSmith extend his left leg just enough to knock the puck out of harm’s way.

    “I’m not very tall,” the 6-foot DeSmith said. “But I had that one inch that I needed.”


    Capitals: Host the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

    Penguins: Visit Detroit on Tuesday.

    Devils defeat Senators 5-3, clinch playoff berth

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    NEWARK, N.J. — Jack Hughes had a goal and an assist, Mackenzie Blackwood had 25 saves and the New Jersey Devils defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-3 and clinched a playoff berth on Saturday night.

    “It means everything to the group. I went into the dressing room after the game and just said that I was proud of the work that was put in, proud of where we got to clinch tonight to be one of three teams that have an X next to their name,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “All the work that’s been put in, the adversity they face during the year. The adversity they face right at the start of the season to where we’ve got to now.”

    New Jersey could have clinched its first postseason berth since 2018 with a win, but it happened before their first intermission when the Florida Panthers lost to the New York Rangers in regulation.

    “I had a lesser role then,” said Jesper Bratt, who was a rookie for the Devils in 2017-18. “I would say at a younger age, it’s kind of like you think that just because it happened your first year that it might happen every year. And then it goes pretty fast with reality that was not the case and you got to work extremely hard for it.

    “It’s a really tough league. So this feels really good. It’s been a lot of years with struggle, not winning, and it’s just awesome coming out now playing these kinds of games and getting that.”

    Bratt, Dawson Mercer and Dougie Hamilton scored for the Devils and Tomas Tatar scored an empty netter with 42.3 seconds left to put things away.

    Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot and Mark Kastelic scored for the Senators and Dylan Ferguson had 30 saves.

    Tkachuk scored his 33rd goal of the season to give the Senators the 1-0 lead 3:14 into the first period. The Devils responded midway through the first period with Hughes’ 40th goal of the season on a breakaway, going five-hole to tie it.

    Nick Holden gave the puck away and Bratt scored his 31st goal of the season on the breakaway 2:24 into the second period to give New Jersey the 2-1 lead. Mercer’s 23rd of the season came just over a minute later.

    The Senators answered midway through the second period when Thomas Chabot scored his 11th goal of the year to cut the deficit to 3-2. They knotted things up 16:03 into the second when Kastelic scored his fifth of the season.

    “We were confident going into the third period. We felt like the game was there for our taking,” Travis Hamonic said. “They score on their chance, and that’s game.”

    Hamilton scored 3:34 into the third period to give the Devils the lead. His 19th goal breaks the franchise record for goals in a season by a defenseman, surpassing Scott Stevens – the Devils great whose number is hanging in the rafters – record of 18 in 1993-94.

    NOTES: This was the first game for the Devils backup Blackwood since Feb. 19. … Nico Hischier has a six-game point streak after recording two assists.


    Senators: Host the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

    Devils: Play at New York Islanders on Monday night. —

    AP NHL: and

    Kings tie franchise mark with point in 11th straight game

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    LOS ANGELES — Viktor Arvidsson had two goals and the Los Angeles Kings matched their longest point streak in franchise history with a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon.

    Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist and Alex Iafallo netted a power-play goal for Los Angeles, which has earned points in 11 straight games for the fourth time. The last occurrence was 2013-14, when the Kings won their second Stanley Cup championship.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped 25 shots for Los Angeles.

    Pierre-Luc Dubois scored for Winnipeg and Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves.

    Arvidsson – who has 22 goals on the season – has four in the last four games while Doughty has found the net four times in the last five games.

    Arvidsson’s first goal came 82 seconds into the game. Trevor Moore won the faceoff in the offensive zone and made a backhand pass to Arvidsson, who snapped it into the net from the back of the left faceoff circle.

    He also had an empty-net goal late in the third period.

    The Kings extended their lead to 2-0 five minutes into the second period on the power play. Phillip Danault made a great pass between Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon and Hellebuyck as Iafallo buried it into the short side of the net.

    Doughty extended the lead to 3-1 27 seconds into the third period with a wrist shot from outside the right faceoff circle near the boards after Anze Kopitar won the faceoff.


    Winnipeg got its first power-play goal in seven games with 1:23 remaining in the second period when Dubois took a cross-ice pass from Kyle Connor and scored from the left faceoff circle to get the Jets within 2-1.

    The Jets got a five-minute power play after Los Angeles’ Blake Lizotte received a five-minute match penalty for a vicious cross-check to Josh Morrissey’s face. The goal came with 33 seconds left in the man advantage.

    NOTES: Danault picked up his 300th career point and 200th assist. … Winnipeg’s Connor set a career high for most assists in a season when he got his 47th on Dubois’ goal.


    Jets: Travel to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

    Kings: Host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

    Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

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    NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

    Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

    Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

    “The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

    The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

    A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

    “We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”