Dan Robertson: With an expiring contract, is Habs winger Joel Armia worth a renewal?
Published Thursday, June 17, 2021 9:58AM EDT Last Updated Thursday, June 17, 2021 10:06AM EDT
MONTREAL -- So, just who is Joel Armia, anyway?
Is he an occasionally dominant forward who can handle the puck as if it’s on a string?
Is he a top-notch penalty killer who can disrupt powerplays with a tremendous wingspan to help create offence when his team is down a man?
Or is Armia a player who often seems disengaged and simultaneously disappears, despite being 6’4” and well over 200 pounds?
And therein lies the rub.
Armia is a classic ‘tease,’ who, when at the top of his game, can be the best player on the ice, but can drive his coach, teammates and Canadiens’ fans crazy when he doesn’t apply himself.
With the 28-year-old’s contract expiring at season’s end, Montreal General Manager Marc Bergevin must decide how valuable Armia is and if he can fit the Finn into the team’s financial puzzle.
The positives of Armia’s game are many.
While he is not a particularly physical player, he uses his size well in other ways.
His ability to use his frame and long reach to shield the puck from opponents often allows him to buy time for linemates to get open for a pass.
He is more than strong enough to be effective off the cycle, as we’ve seen throughout the playoffs with linemates Eric Staal and Corey Perry.
He might not look like he’s moving particularly quickly, but his powerful strides can leave checkers in the dust and help make him effective off the rush.
He has a terrific snapshot, generated from a quick release that can catch goaltenders off guard.
Armia is a smart player, too. That’s most evident when he is killing penalties through his ability to anticipate the opposition powerplay, oftentimes interrupting plays with his stick.
Armia also has the flexibility to play on either wing from the second line down to the fourth line.
Having said all of that, Armia seems sluggish and a step behind when he’s not playing up to his potential.
When he slumps, he tends to do so for long periods. Dominique Ducharme says he believes in him.
When asked a couple of months ago whether Armia still has untapped potential at his age, the Canadiens’ interim head coach gave him a strong vote of confidence, saying he planned to work with him to help him be more consistent.
For all of Armia’s flashes of brilliance, he’s never had more than 16 goals and 30 points in a single season, both marks achieved in 58 games last year.
Despite his up and down play, a healthy Armia should be good for 20 goals every year, but he’s not hit that mark….yet.
To Armia’s credit, he is playing some of the best hockey in the 2021 playoffs and as a result, his future earnings will get a decent boost.
He made $2.6 million this season and without a doubt, NHL general managers who see how effective Armia has been in the Habs’ run to the semi-final are ready to offer him a healthy salary.
So what is that number? Would a three-year, $10.5 million deal be on the table in a post-COVID-19 NHL?
If an organization believes it could get ‘good Armia’ more often than not, that term and dollar figure is certainly feasible.
Will the Canadiens make him a competitive offer?
It should be an interesting off-season for Joel Armia.