The 25-year-old centre has filed for salary arbitration after completing two-year, US$1.825-million contract.
While most of the focus concerning the Canadiens right now is on captain Max Pacioretty and whether he will be traded, lost in the shadow somewhat is the fact Phillip Danault still doesn’t have a contract.
The 25-year-old centre has filed for salary arbitration, as has new Canadiens right-winger Joel Armia, who was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets last month. Players are still allowed to negotiate and sign contracts before appearing at their arbitration hearings, which will be held from July 20 to Aug. 4 in Toronto.
It’s somewhat surprising that Danault is headed to salary arbitration since he is one of Marc Bergevin’s guys, acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in February 2016 — along with a second-round pick at this year’s NHL Draft — in exchange for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. The Canadiens used the draft pick (38th overall) to select Russian defenceman Alexander Romanov.
It’s one of the best trades Bergevin has made in his six years as GM of the Canadiens. Chicago selected Danault in the first round (26th overall) at the 2011 NHL Draft when Bergevin was the Blackhawks’ director of player personnel.
In 52 games last season, Danault posted 8-17-25 totals and was even in plus/minus while averaging 16:35 of ice time and winning 52.8 per cent of his faceoffs. He suffered a concussion after taking a slapshot to the head from Zdeno Chara during a game against the Boston Bruins on Jan. 13, which might be of concern to the Canadiens when it comes to a new contract. Danault is coming off a two-year, US$1.825-million contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $912,500.
“I think it’s going to be OK,” Danault said at the end of the season about contract negotiations with Bergevin. “With the year we had, obviously, it’s never the year you want when you have a contract year. But I want to stay in Montreal for sure. I love Montreal.”
Pacioretty also loves Montreal and has stated many times he wants to remain with the Canadiens. But heading into the final season of his six-year, US$27-million contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $4.5 million, it looks like the captain’s days with the Canadiens are numbered. On Tuesday, Marc Antoine Godin of The Athletic reported that an NHL source told him Bergevin has told Pacioretty there will be no negotiations about a new contract and that the Canadiens GM will try to trade the captain as soon as possible.
With Danault and Armia still unsigned, CapFriendly.com has the Canadiens listed with just over $12 million in current salary-cap space. The Canadiens started last season $8 million under the salary cap and finished in 28th place in the overall NHL standings. The 25-year-old Armia is coming off a two-year, US$1.825-million contract, just like Danault.
“I think we didn’t have enough guys hungry,” Danault said at the end of last season when asked what went wrong with the Canadiens. “Everybody’s got a part of it. I got my part, too. We all know it, so that’s why we’re going to be ready next year and have a better year from the start.
“Nobody was as hungry as we were the year before when we made the playoffs and that cost us,” Danault added. “We can’t take anything for granted. That’s what happened. We made the playoffs the year before, we thought it would be maybe be easier a little bit and then we got caught. We got to buy in everybody together in the culture Claude Julien’s bringing here. We got to buy in from the beginning next year, that’s for sure.
“It was a big year … we learned a lot of things this year. Adversity. We got to find our identity faster next year. Everyone needs to buy in right from the (training) camp. We had a bad camp last year and I think it started going down after that and we didn’t kind of take our place right away, so it cost us the year.”