Montreal Canadiens: Why Habs Fans Should Hate J. G. Pageau’s New Contract

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 30: Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 of the Ottawa Senators tips the puck past Phillip Danault #24 of the Montreal Canadiens at Canadian Tire Centre on October 30, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 30: Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 of the Ottawa Senators tips the puck past Phillip Danault #24 of the Montreal Canadiens at Canadian Tire Centre on October 30, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens traded most of their pending free agents this year. Next year, they will have a difficult time dealing with all of their expiring contracts. J. G. Pageau’s new contract doesn’t help at all.

The Montreal Canadiens didn’t make any significant moves at the trade deadline. They moved out most of their expiring contracts for draft picks in the next two years. With the team very unlikely to make the playoffs, it was the right move to sell off players who are likely be leave in July as free agents anyway.

Next season, the Habs could sees a mass exodus if they use the same strategy. Currently, they have Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher, Jeff Petry, and Joel Armia scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2021. They will have some work to do to get everyone signed and fit it under the cap, while trying to improve on the current roster.

One player that is going to get a sizeable raise from his current salary is Danault. When he was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks four years ago today, the Victoriaville, Quebec native was a first round pick who was not really nailing down a permanent roster spot with the stacked Blackhawks.

Since arriving in Montreal, Danault has improved his game every year and has become a very important piece for the Habs. He centers a line with Tatar and Gallagher that is the strongest possession line in hockey and Danault is also one of the team’s best penalty killers.

The 27 year old center is in the second year of a three-year contract that pays him just over three million per year. That is terrific value for the smart, two-way play that Danault brings consistently. If the Habs want to re-sign him, and they should, they will have to offer him far more than he is currently earning.

Danault set a career high with 53 points last season. This year, he is on pace to match that production while setting a career high in goals with 15. That’s not irreplaceable offensive production, but when you pair it with a guy who was in the top ten for Selke voting last year as league’s best defensive player, you have a valuable player.

What you do have is a player that brings similar, if not more, value than Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Pageau has played his entire career with the Ottawa Senators until he was traded yesterday to the New York Islanders. One he arrived, he signed a six-year contract extension with a $5 million cap hit.

Pageau’s career high to date is 43 points but he is on pace for 53 this season. He is putting lots of pucks in net himself, and is on pace for 33 of his 53 points to be goals. He hadn’t reached 20 goals before in his career, so it is difficult to tell what the Islanders expect from him in the future with this contract.

Are they paying for a 33 goal scorer? Not really, 30 goal scoring two-way centres get even more than Pageau. Just ask Pageau’s new teammate, Anders Lee. What the Islanders are paying for is a defensively responsible center that can chip in 50-55 points and has the potential to score some goals.

That is exactly what Danault brings to the Habs. Pageau is just three months older than Danault, but he took a little longer to break out offensively. Before this year, Danault was the better offensive player for three consecutive years. This year, Pageau broke out like crazy and is on pace to nearly double his goal production.

So, if the Habs reach out to extend Danault this summer when they are eligible to extend his contract, it won’t be cheap. Danault is going to say he brings more value than Pageau and ask for six years at $6 million.

The Habs will counter by saying Pageau was on pace for 30 goal at the time of the signing and Danault is closer to a Nick Bonino who signed a four year contract with a $4.1 million cap hit when he had career highs of 22 goals and 49 points.

Of course, we all know Danault is better than Bonino but it’s not the team’s prerogative to tell a player how terrific he is during contract negotiations.

Realistically, I think they fall somewhere in between. Mikael Backlund is a great comparable for Danault. He signed a six year contract with a $5.35 million cap hit after scoring 22 goals and 53 points for the Calgary Flames in 2016-17.

I think the right price for Danault is a six-year contract with a $5.5 million cap hit. He brings invaluable defensive ability and can contribute 50-55 points in a season, much like Backlund in Calgary. The Pageau deal doesn’t help the Habs case, as Danault brings more value than the former Senator, and Pageau got a surprisingly large contract extension.

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I think Danault like his role and enjoys playing in his home province enough that the Pageau contract doesn’t wreck Danault’s negotiations with the Habs. I’d expect this one to get done shortly after the Canadiens can begin talks with Danault on July 1st for just a tad more than Pageau got on Long Island.