The more the weeks passed at the end of the season, the more Rafaël Harvey-Pinard looked like a player ready for the NHL full-time. He now has a contract that proves it.
The small winger signed a two-year contract, worth an average annual value of $1.1 million, with the Canadiens on Monday. This is a one-way, NHL-only contract.
By having a one-way contract, Harvey-Pinard does not have a guaranteed place for the whole season with the Canadiens, but if the team gives him up to Laval, the player will receive his full NHL salary there.
The Saguenéen will find himself one year from full autonomy at the end of the contract. The Habs will therefore have one more chance to get along with him in the longer term before he becomes free as air. For his part, Harvey-Pinard has two years to bet on himself and establish his value for the next negotiations.
The 24-year-old forward had 20 points (14 goals, 6 assists) in 34 games last season. Since his recall to the NHL on January 17, he led NHL rookies in goals scored (14) and ranked 2nd in plus/minus (7).
His 24.1% shooting percentage – second in the NHL among players who have played at least 30 games – suggests, however, that he could be the victim of a “market correction” next season, because even the best players are unable to maintain such a pace in the long term.
Harvey-Pinard was unable to speak to the media on Monday. He had, however, announced his colors in the end-of-season report of the Habs school club in April. “I think I played my last game with the Rocket,” he conceded.
The Arvida native had played 37 games with Laval in the American League before being recalled by the Canadiens, and was then sent back to the 450 to play the last three games for the Rocket, who were trying to qualify for the playoffs .
Selected by the Canadian at 201st in 2019, he is already 21st in his draft year for points with 21, and 15th for goals with 15. A whole symmetry.
With this case settled, only Alex Newhook and, to a lesser extent, Jesse Ylönen remain without a contract among those who could line up with the Canadian.
We are therefore beginning to better understand the situation of the team under the salary cap for the 2023-2024 season. According to CapFriendly, the Habs currently have a payroll of $84.1 million, which is $600,000 over the limit. Newhook’s future contract will inflate that surplus.
Two caveats, however. On the one hand, this is a total for 25 players (15 attackers, 8 defenders and 2 goalkeepers). Since the maximum roster size is 23 players, two skaters will need to be demoted or traded by then unless there are injuries.
On this subject, the colleague of The Athletic Arpon Basu reported in recent days that Christian Dvorak will not be ready for the start of the season, contrary to what was planned.
Dvorak, who is $4.45 million under payroll, had knee surgery in mid-March. An absence from Dvorak at the start of the season, however, would only postpone the problem, because upon his return, Montreal will have to comply with the cap.
On the other hand, Carey Price’s salary is currently counted. The team can give themselves some wiggle room by placing the goaltender and his $10.5 million on the long-term injured list when they see fit.
In addition, the Rocket awarded American League contracts to four players: goaltender Strauss Mann, defenseman Tobie Paquette-Bisson, and forwards Jakov Novak and Jared Davidson.
Davidson is the Canadiens’ only draft pick among them. He has just finished his junior career with Seattle and this contract puts him on the same path as Xavier Simoneau and, precisely, Harvey-Pinard.
The Canadian has until 2024 to offer him an NHL contract. The team therefore postpones the decision for a year, and in the meantime, Davidson will not be among the 50 contracts the teams are entitled to.
Davidson scored 82 points in 60 games with Seattle and helped the club win the WHL championship and a Memorial Cup appearance.
Mann meanwhile adds to an unclear goalkeeping situation. The young Jakub Dobes should obtain one of the two positions in Laval, but it is less obvious who will occupy the other chair.
Cayden Primeau, the Rocket’s No. 1 last season, will now have to go on waivers if he’s traded to Laval. If he is claimed there, Montreal will need options, and Strauss Mann will be one of them. The 24-year-old American spent the last season in the ECHL and the American League, with San Jose.