Montreal Canadiens: Term, Not Salary, is Imperative in Brendan Gallagher Negotiations

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 19: Brendan Gallagher Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 19: Brendan Gallagher Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens have a number of top players with one year left on their contract.

The Montreal Canadiens don’t have a lot of contracts to deal with this offseason. Most of the players who were playing on the last year of their deal, were traded at the trade deadline.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Marco Scandella, Nate Thompson, Nick Cousins and Matthew Peca were all moved out of town for draft picks. When the Habs season ended in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers, the only unrestricted free agents on the roster were Dale Weise and Christian Folin.

(Well, Keith Kinkaid too but the Habs were paying him to play for someone else’s farm team anyway.)

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Weise and Folin are not going to be coming back, so the only contracts that general manager Marc Bergevin needs to worry about are for restricted free agents. Max Domi, Victor Mete and Charles Hudon need new contracts, but they aren’t eligible to sign with other teams as their rights remain with the Canadiens.

Next offseason, whenever that is, is a much different story. Not only will the Habs have some more interesting RFAs to worry about in Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Cale Fleury, Ryan Poehling and Artturi Lehkonen, but there is a handful of UFAs who are key players on the roster.

The entire first line of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher are heading into the final year of their contracts. Joel Armia and Jake Allen are as well and Jeff Petry will be a UFA following the 2020-21 season too.

That is a lot of key veterans up for renewal at the same time. It could be a transformative time in the franchise. You can’t lose all of these key guys at the same time, but the Habs have to tread carefully in negotiations.

The one player that Marc Bergevin has to be really cautious with is Brendan Gallagher.

If a player was paid for their heart and desire to win, Gallagher would get a max contract. He would be the highest paid player in the league. Fans love him, his teammates respect him and his coaches trust him. But that is not how it works. You don’t pay a player because he works hard and tries his best all the time.

You pay them for results. And Gallagher’s have been just fine over the years. He has played on one of the best two-way lines in the league the past two years with Danault and Tatar. He has been the team’s top goal scoring threat for the past three years, putting pucks in the net at a 30 goal per season pace.

That is all well and good. Gallagher does a lot of great things for the team, no one is questioning that.

However, he will be 29 years old when this contract ends, and he is a smaller winger who plays a very hard-nosed, gritty style. How long can it last before he starts to break down?

When Brian Gionta arrived in Montreal, he was 29 years old. He had two solid seasons where he nearly scored 30 goals and was great in the playoffs. Then, injuries started to pile up and his production tapered off and he missed time in the playoffs in each of his last two years in Montreal.

His five-year contract at $5 million per season didn’t ruin the team’s budget, but he didn’t really live up to that pay after year two of his contract.

At his current cap hit of $3.75 million, Gallagher is a bargain. If the Habs could extend him at that price, I wouldn’t care how much term they gave him. But he is going to be looking for a long term deal.

Chris Kreider just signed a seven-year contract with a $6.5 million cap hit. He is a 29 year old winger who scored 28 goals and 52 points in his last full season. He had 24 goals and 45 points in 63 games this year.

Gallagher had 22 goals and 43 points in 59 games this year and scored 33 goals and 52 points in 2018-19. Pretty similar stats to the New York Rangers winger who will now be pulling in big money until he is 36 years old.

Do the Habs want to go down that road with Gallagher? Seven years is a long, long time. Gallagher is a terrific player to have on your team when he is 26, but do you want him making $6.5 million when he is 36? Not likely.

I am certainly not saying that the Habs need to get rid of Gallagher or he is not a great player. However, it is easy to say, “the Habs need to bring Gallagher back.” But can they do it at any cost?

I don’t think so. Trying to give him a little more money per year and a shorter term would be ideal. Even giving him $7.5 million for four years would be just fine. It is not the salary I worry about with Gallagher, it is the term.

dark. Next. Habs finally using cap space, but is it wise?

Hopefully, Bergevin doesn’t spread out the contract over longer term to keep the salary down. If anyone is worth more money up front for a shorter contract, it is a small but fierce competitor like Gallagher.