On June 15th 2018, Max Domi became a Montreal Canadien and signed a two-year contract with the club on the next day worth $6.3 million.
At the time, many had doubts about both the trade and the signing but a little over a year later, nobody has got any doubts left. After three seasons of 52, 38 and 45 points, Domi showed up in Montreal and rocked the centre position, gathering a career-best 72 points.
Do you know how many players have reached the 70-point mark in the last 20 years in Montreal? Four, and that's including Domi. Before him, Alex Kovalev (85), Saku Koivu (71 and 75), and Tomas Plekanec (70) had accomplished the feat.
So, what's next for Domi? Well, further down the line, once the Canadiens' centre prospects have come into their own, he might very well have to move back to the left wing to allow the youngsters to be top-six centers. For now though, he'll be relied on to be as efficient as he was last season as a pivot.
To be honest, if I was Marc Bergevin, I would try to sign Domi to an extension right now. Why? Well, last season, he proved he had it all-- the talent, the skills, the determination, the character and whatever else a hockey player needs and that was during his first season in the pressure cooker that is Montreal. The way I see it, he can only improve in his second season and if he does, he will be in for a major payday come July. Right now, he makes $3.15 million a year and for a 72-point producer, that's a bargain. Last season, the Leafs signed William Nylander to a six-year, $45 million contract and that was coming off two successive seasons of 61 points. Nylander's cap hit per year is now close to $7 million and should have another dominating season of 70+ points, you can be sure he'll be looking for as much as that.
Want other examples? Ryan O'Reilly tallied 75 points last season and has a cap hit of $7.5 million, Nicklas Backstrom in Washington had 74 points and boasts a $7.5 million salary. Sean Couturier scored 76 points on a $4.33M cap hit, but that contract was signed to start the season 2016-2017.
As things stand, the Canadiens have $4.844 million in cap space for this season and looking at next year, they'll have an additional $5.6 million in salary freed up. And if we add Domi's own 3.15 million, that's $8.8 million in contracts coming off the books.
Ideally, you want to be able to keep him with that space and at least another player. Dare I remind you though that Auston Matthews has signed a five-year deal with the Leafs with a cap hit of over $11 million after three seasons of 69, 63, and 73 points? Yes, in the last two seasons, he missed some time due to injury but still that number is scary. I think good planning dictates that Bergevin sign No. 13 to a contract extension right now and no, it's not because I fear an offer sheet once he becomes an RFA, but by god would it be annoying to hear the Montreal media speculate about that all season long.
For me, he's proven his worth and the team should show faith in him by extending his contract now. Of course, there's always the possibility that Domi himself won't want to sign just now hoping to earn an even bigger payoffs in his next contract but he did say that he hoped to be a Hab for life in his exit interview:
Domi might only be halfway through his two-year bridge deal, but does anyone doubt that he is the kind of player that the Canadiens love and need?