Tanner Pearson is apparently healthy. Let’s get that out of the way first.
After a debacle surrounding a wrist injury, Pearson passed his medical in Vancouver prior to Canucks training camp, and also prior to being traded to the Canadiens on Tuesday, a day before Montreal’s own medicals and testing were set to begin.
This is good news for Pearson, as he will get to continue not only his career, but his life with a functioning hand — something that was not so clear at the end of last season.
“I’m just trying to get my hand back,” Pearson said the day the Canucks cleared out their lockers. “I’m just trying to go home, be a dad and play with my kids. It sucks.”
This, for now, is seemingly behind Pearson, and thus the Canadiens acquired a healthy forward on Tuesday, along with a 2025 third-round pick as a sweetener for taking on the full boat of the final year on Pearson’s contract, for goaltender Casey DeSmith. The net result is an added $1.45 million on the Canadiens’ books, as well as an extra NHL body in training camp and, presumably, on the roster. Let’s look at those components one at a time.
The draft pick
The Canadiens now have two picks in each of the first four rounds of the 2025 draft. The extra first was acquired in the Sean Monahan trade with the Calgary Flames. The extra second came along with Jeff Petry when the Canadiens re-acquired him from the Pittsburgh Penguins on August 6. The extra third came with Pearson on Tuesday for DeSmith. And the extra fourth came with Gustav Lindstrom from the Detroit Red Wings for Petry — with 37.5 percent of his salary retained — on August 15.
So, in case you’ve lost count, the Canadiens added just over $2.34 million in salary retention on Petry in the trade with the Red Wings, and another $1.45 million — or the difference between Pearson’s and DeSmith’s salary — in the trade Tuesday, a total of roughly $3.8 million. In the process, they also traded away Mike Hoffman and Rem Pitlick with no salary retention on either.
And if you go back to last summer, the time of the original Petry deal, the Canadiens added defenceman Mike Matheson and a fourth-round pick in 2023, which turned into Russian defenceman Bogdan Konyushkov, for Petry and Ryan Poehling.
All told, the Canadiens have added second-, third- and fourth-round draft picks in 2025, Matheson, Konyushkov, Lindstrom and Nathan Légaré in all the deals involving Petry or, in the latest one, involving a player who came to Montreal as a result of a Petry deal in DeSmith.
That seems like a pretty good return for someone who very publicly stated he no longer wanted to play in Montreal. And by 2025, the Canadiens could be in a position to use all that extra draft capital in trades, either to add players or, as we just saw here, jettison unwanted contracts.
But there is that residue of the money left behind. As always, that’s where it gets a little more complicated.
The Canadiens, as we have already outlined, are hoping to enter the season with Carey Price on the roster, which would give them essentially the entirety of his salary in cap space to play with during the season.
They were in a position to do that relatively simply prior to this trade. But it’s not nearly as simple now. I’m told the Canadiens still have a path to getting there. It just won’t be as clean as it was before.
As a reminder, the Canadiens would need to get as close to the $83.5 million salary cap as possible when submitting their roster for the season with Price’s $10.5 million salary included by sending players down to the minors. They would then call those players back up once Price was placed on long-term injured reserve, thus opening up nearly all of that $10.5 million to be used as they see fit during the season. They probably wouldn’t use all of it, but making trades and dealing with injuries and call-ups from the minors would be much less cumbersome if they could do this.
Prior to the Pearson trade, the Canadiens could have done this rather simply without having to put anyone on waivers. Now, it is difficult to see how they would do that.
One further complication here is papering players with performance bonuses to the minors. Without getting too far into the details (largely because I don’t fully understand them): When you send a waiver-exempt player to the minors prior to the season and then call them back up once the season begins, the cap calculation for that contract is done differently in that the player’s performance bonuses are counted for cap purposes.
So, for example, Juraj Slafkovský’s cap hit on his entry-level contract is $950,000, but he also has performance bonuses that could make his contract worth as much as $4.45 million. In this example, if the Canadiens were to send Slafkovský down to Laval in order to fit Price’s contract on the roster, he would be going down as a player with a $950,000 cap hit. Once he was called back up, he would be returning as a player with a $4.45 million cap hit.
Don’t ask me why it is this way, but I am told it is.
So, when looking at the Canadiens’ waiver-exempt players they could paper to the minors, you also need to take into account that the Canadiens would rather not send down players with a lot of bonus money attached to their contracts because it would be wasting cap space, even if they will have boatloads of it at the end.
Kaiden Guhle ($420,000) and Justin Barron ($275,000) have two of the bigger bonus packages among the waiver-exempt players who are expected to start the season in Montreal. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, Jordan Harris and Arber Xhekaj are among those with no performance bonuses.
The reality is, even if the Canadiens think they could still get there with the current roster, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if there were another move coming to make this calculation a bit simpler.
Back when Kent Hughes made the Petry trade with Detroit and announced it would be likely the Canadiens could enter the season with Price on the roster, he hinted that there were one or two other things that could happen to make it easier for them to do that aside from sending players to the minors.
There might very well be another one of those things coming, because if there’s one thing Hughes has taught us, it’s that he doesn’t like losing something for nothing. Being forced to put a player or two on waivers to create the cap conditions to absorb Price’s contract would put Hughes in a position to do what he doesn’t like doing.
The healthy forward
Pearson entering the mix somewhat undoes something Hughes accomplished by acquiring Petry and trading him away again, which was to create space in the lineup for a young forward by shipping out Hoffman and Pitlick.
Trading away Pitlick wasn’t all that consequential because his salary could have been buried in the minors if need be, but trading away Hoffman created a spot — one that will seemingly be filled by Pearson now.
Here is what Hughes said when he made that trade: “Ideally, we would trade one or two, and ideally it would have been Rem Pitlick and Mike Hoffman. Mike because of his age and with one year left on his contract we didn’t see a future for him in Montreal. And with Rem, I think he felt like we had too many forwards and that his chances of making the team were pretty slim, so he wanted to be traded.”
Hoffman and Pearson are in no way similar players, but they fit a similar profile in the sense that they each have one year remaining on their contract, and they each don’t have a future in Montreal. So Hughes successfully shipped that profile, and has now brought that profile back.
We’ll see how it plays out, and again, there could be another move coming, but for now that is the one calculation in the Jeff Petry trade tree that makes a little less sense.
(Photo of Tanner Pearson: Bob Frid/USA Today)