Major: Nick Suzuki might not be the highest-paid player on the Canadiens soon

Elias Edmonson
June 14, 2024  (4:51 PM)

Photo of Nick Suzuki
Photo credit: CTV News London

At the start of the next season, Juraj Slafkovsky and Kaiden Guhle will enter the final season of their entry-level NHL contracts.

Therefore, according to the collective agreement, they can extend their contracts with the Canadiens starting July 1st.
However, as recently mentioned by Arpon Basu, there have been no discussions yet between the Canadiens and the representatives of the forward or the defenseman. Thus, it's unlikely that an agreement will be reached in the coming weeks.
The journalist from The Athletic even added more about the negotiations with Slafkovsky. He believes that the Canadiens will want to maintain their salary hierarchy. Any deal for number 20 should therefore not exceed Nick Suzuki's average annual salary, even though the salary cap has increased since the captain's agreement was signed in October 2021.
«The Canadiens would obviously want to keep Slafkovsky's contract below Suzuki's AAV, regardless of the cap percentage, and they could make several arguments to achieve that. But the rising cap could complicate this negotiation.

The only thing the Canadiens have in their favor is Slafkovsky's limited sample of highly productive games in the NHL, around 50. Suzuki and Caufield had a larger sample to work with when they signed their contracts.» - Arpon Basu

Slafkovsky's camp could, however, opt for a completely different strategy, using another statistic for comparison. The basis of the negotiation could be the percentage of the salary cap taken by the contract at the time of signing, rather than the pure salary.

A higher salary than Nick Suzuki for Juraj Slafkovsky?

As I mentioned in a recent column on Slafkovsky's future contract, many are not analyzing the salary hierarchy situation from the right angle. With inflation and the rising salary cap, I think we need to view the situation in a completely different way:
At the time of his signing, Nick Suzuki's $7.875 million per season took up 9.66% of the Canadiens' salary cap.
Regarding Cole Caufield's deal, it takes up about the same percentage of the cap as Suzuki's (9.52%) but on a cap of $83.5 million (compared to $81.5M for the captain).
If we calculate an $8 million contract for Slafkovsky signed in the summer of 2024, it would be 9.09% of the Canadiens' cap for the 2024-2025 season ($88M). So, pro rata, the captain would still be the highest-paid player on the team.
The question remains whether Slafkovsky deserves such a contract. Basu mentions it well: the young forward has only about 50 highly productive games in his career. It is still uncertain if he can maintain this pace over the long term.
Seeing how Hughes operates, it's likely that he will take his time and observe his young player a bit more next season before concluding a deal. This was not only the case with Caufield but also with Samuel Montembeault last season.
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Major: Nick Suzuki might not be the highest-paid player on the Canadiens soon

Would you be upset if Juraj Slafkovsky received a higher annual salary than Nick Suzuki?

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