Montreal Canadiens: What Will Brendan Gallagher’s Contract Extension Cost the Habs?

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 27: Brendan Gallagher #11 of the Montreal Canadiens and Tony DeAngelo #77 of the New York Rangers skate after the puck during the second period at the Bell Centre on February 27, 2020 in Montreal, Canada. The New York Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 27: Brendan Gallagher #11 of the Montreal Canadiens and Tony DeAngelo #77 of the New York Rangers skate after the puck during the second period at the Bell Centre on February 27, 2020 in Montreal, Canada. The New York Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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The Montreal Canadiens have many unrestricted free agents to worry about signing next summer. The most important negotiation will be with Brendan Gallagher.

The Montreal Canadiens don’t have many contract negotiations with unrestricted free agents to deal with this summer. Most players whose contracts were going to expire at season’s end were dealt at the recent trade deadline.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Marco Scandella and Nate Thompson were playing for the the Habs two weeks ago, but with their pending UFA status at season’s end, they were all shipped out for draft picks. Nick Cousins was going to be a restricted free agent and he also found a new home. Even Matthew Peca, a pending UFA who was playing for the Laval Rocket was traded to the highest bidder.

That doesn’t leave many free agents to worry about when contracts expire this July. Habs general manager Marc Bergevin will have to extend Max Domi who is a restricted free agent, but the only UFAs on the roster are Dale Weise, Christian Folin and Keith Kinkaid. All three will walk as free agents and will not be particularly difficult to replace.

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That means Bergevin will have lots of time to look to the future. If he looks ahead to July 1, 2021, he will be able to see there is a lot of work to do before that date arrives. The Habs currently have six players slated to be unrestricted free agents on that date, and most of them are core pieces of the team right now.

Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Jeff Petry will all be looking for long-term contracts with big dollar figures. Jordan Weal and Charlie Lindgren will also be hoping to extend, but their chances are more remote. The most important player that could become a free agent in 16 months is Brendan Gallagher.

While these players are under contract for one more year, they are eligible to sign an extension this July. The first player that Bergevin should try to lock up is Gallagher.

The 27 year old right winger has become the heart and soul of the Canadiens franchise. He leads the team off and especially on the ice as he brings his determination and tenacity on every shift. He is well below the average height of an NHL player at 5’9″ but he plays every shift like a giant.

He was originally taken in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Draft and quickly proved he should have been taken much earlier. He scored 15 goals and 28 points in 44 games as a rookie and then scored 19 goals and 41 points in 81 games in his first full NHL season. He then signed a six-year contract extension and has been among the most underpaid players in the league since with his $3.75 million cap hit.

Gallagher set a career high with 33 goals last season and had his highest point total when he notched 54 the previous year. There is no question he is getting a raise on his next contract. The only question is whether he can double his current annual salary.

The best comparable for Gallagher that recently signed a contract is Chris Kreider. The New York Rangers winger plays a gritty, tough style and loves to create havoc in front of the net. He is a top six winger that scored a career high 28 goals last season and his best point total was 53. He was on pace for 31 goals and 59 points this season when he signed a seven-year contract extension with a cap hit of $6.5 million.

Kreider is 28 years old and brings a lot of the same qualities and similar production as Gallagher. There is no question Gallagher and his agent will be pointing to Kreider’s new deal during contract negotiations.

Considering what Gallagher brings to the Habs, the fact he just had consecutive 30 goal seasons and is scoring at a rate of 32 goals over 82 games this year, he might get a bit more than Kreider. The Rangers winger never topped 30 goals and Gallagher may do it three times before negotiating this next contract.

I think it is possible Gallagher could get as much as $7 million per year over eight years on a contract extension with the Habs this summer. The fact that he scores 30 goals and brings far more value than just offence to the table suggest he would be worth every penny.

Next. Three potential Bergevin replacements. dark

Bergevin is going to have a lot on his plate this summer trying to improve the Canadiens. The most important thing to do will be to ensure the heart and soul of the team is extended for a very long time.