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Canadiens Could Let Danault Walk in NHL Free Agency [Report]

What the Montreal Canadiens do with center Phillip Danault this season will be an interesting story to watch. Will they let him walk?

What the Montreal Canadiens do with center Phillip Danault this season will be an interesting story to watch. There was talk this past season he wasn’t terribly happy with the fact his role might change with the emergence of younger centers, then talk he was alright with taking a mentorship role to help the team win. In the end, none of that may matter when it comes to his future with the Canadiens organization.

Related: Montreal Canadiens Maybe Players to Watch During 2020-21 Season

Arpon Basu of The Athletic took a closer look at the debate surrounding Danault and whether or not the Montreal Canadiens should re-sign the forward or trade him. Answering a mailbag question about what his future might look like, Basu actually makes an argument the Canadiens do nothing and let him walk in free agency.

As strange a strategy for asset management as that might sound, Basu notes there is a lot to be gained by letting Danault walk. First, it allows the Canadiens to make full use of him this season. Second, it gives time and flexibility to help move up the depth chart both Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Third, the return that comes with Danault’s contract coming off the books is actually pretty valuable.

Basu writes:

“I think the right move for the Canadiens right now is to allow Danault to enter his contract year and see how things to play out. Maybe the team is very competitive and Danault decides he doesn’t want to go anywhere and adjusts his contract demands accordingly. Or, alternatively, the team is competitive, Evans and Poehling get another year of experience, the Canadiens as a team gain some playoff experience, and then Danault is allowed to pursue greener pastures elsewhere.”

Montreal Canadiens Phillip Danault

This isn’t to say the Canadiens won’t consider re-signing him. If the numbers work and he decides he wants to stay, it’s certainly worth having the conversation. But, if Danault asks for what he’s probably going to be worth on the open market — he’ll be arguably the top or second-best center available — the Canadiens won’t match if the development of other players goes to plan.

The Value of Flexibility

There’s always a risk in not trading a player before their contract expires. However, it was discovered this year just how important it was for teams to have cap space and room for which to work.

The Canadiens made arguably the biggest splash in terms of moves this offseason and part of the reason they were able to do so was because they had cap space. If they want to add or re-sign other important players in the future, letting money walk out the door is not the worst plan in the world.

Next: Golden Knights Are Trying to Trade Max Pacioretty

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