I asked Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin yesterday whether, should his team tonight or Thursday clinch a playoff berth, he would choose to strategically rest a few key players Saturday vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have long been eliminated from the postseason and will bring a rugged game to the Bell Centre.
Martin replied that he believed the playoff race will go right to the end, suggesting that even if the Habs punch their playoff ticket in the next few days, his team will be playing for its playoff seeding. For that purpose, he’ll want his best team on the ice.
Furthermore, there is this to consider, based on technicalities within the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement and confirmed today by the Canadiens:
• Teams are allowed four callups from their farm system from the
passage of the NHL trade deadline until such time as their farm team
finishes play in their season. Which may be awhile in the case of the
excellent AHL Hamilton Bulldogs. To date, the Canadiens have recalled
Tom Pyatt once and Ben Maxwell twice, using three of those four callups.
This is why Maxwell has remained with the Canadiens; sending him back
down will burn the Canadiens’ final callup.
• A team may be
allowed, on a case-by-case basis, to make an emergency callup from the
farm in case of injury or other extraordinary circumstance. But herein
lies the issue of Georges Laraque, who remains on the Canadiens’ 23-man
roster. Whether or not Laraque is in game shape or would be used – not
going to happen – he remains available to the team in the eyes of the
CBA. So an emergency callup of a forward from the farm will not take
• Finally, there’s the issue of the salary cap. Even if the
Canadiens had all four callups still available, or if they wanted to call up a dozen Bulldogs if the ‘Dogs are eliminated from their playoffs first, those moves would be a
hit on an already tight salary cap.