Andrew Shaw Is Living up to His Contract. Sort Of.

When Andrew Shaw was acquired on draft day in 2016, it was met with mixed reactions. Acquiring a third-liner for two relatively high second-rounders (39th and 45th picks) seemed like too high of a price. Especially since he was promptly signed to a six-year deal worth $23.4 million ($3.9 million cap hit). At the time, it didn’t help the perception among fans regarding general manager Marc Bergevin’s tendency to acquire bottom-six forwards. However, despite a difficult start to his tenure in Montreal, Shaw has seemingly turned his game around in 2017, suggesting he may be living up to his contract.

Montreal Canadiens center Andrew Shaw
Andrew Shaw (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY )

2016 vs. 2017 Andrew Shaw

2016 was not a kind year for Shaw. His reputation took a beating after shouting a homophobic slur at a referee during Chicago’s first-round series against St. Louis (Chicago lost in seven games). The beginning of the 2016-17 season was a very disappointing start to Shaw’s career in Montreal. It started with a suspension in the preseason and it snowballed from there. Frequent undisciplined play coupled with injuries quickly made Shaw’s deal look like a mistake. However, a coaching change in the new year from Michel Therrien to Claude Julien correlated with Shaw becoming a far more disciplined player and not crossing the line as much.

This season, Shaw has been primarily playing on the right wing and has seemingly spent time on all four lines with every forward on the team. He seems to be paired mainly with Phillip Danault, and whoever happens to be on left-wing for that game. As one of the team’s best faceoff men, operating at just over 56% at the dot, he is often out on the ice for important draws. He sees power play time as the net-front presence, very similar to the role of Brendan Gallagher. Shaw has six points on the PP (four goals) so far this season, very solid considering Montreal’s power play woes. Overall, he has 18 points in 36 games this year. 

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A Contract to Live up to

At $3.9 million per, Shaw makes more than Gallagher ($3.75 million) which, on the surface, seems questionable. While both are natural agitators and do the job well, Gallagher has superior offensive numbers to Shaw. Gallagher has 205 points in 360 career games (more goals and assists) compared to Shaw’s 184 points in 426 games. When Gallagher signed his current deal, he just came off a successful sophomore season in the NHL and was the rare youngster in Montreal to skip a bridge contract. 

In Shaw’s case, this is his third contract and has two Stanley Cup rings on his resume. With Bergevin being a part of the 2011 draft for Chicago that selected Shaw, it was clear Bergevin knew what he was getting. There always seems to be at least one guy on every team who is hard working, scrappy and not afraid to get in some faces. 

With the two second-rounders, Chicago selected forward Alex DeBrincat and defenceman Chad Krys. Krys is a solid prospect, but isn’t considered a high-end player. It was the DeBrincat pick that stings for Montreal fans. In some ways, trading a player for picks doesn’t feel like you are trading for anyone specific. It’s more an instance of what could have been.

As a team that struggles to score, having a player like DeBrincat would really help Montreal. He dropped in the draft due to his size but lit the OHL on fire and has 23 points in 35 games for Chicago this season. In hindsight, it’s easy to think what could’ve been if Montreal had kept those picks, or at least one of them. In reality, the picks were no guarantees. 

Almost Earning It

Giving a big contract to a player like Shaw was always going to be met with criticism. However, since the arrival of Julien, Shaw has been a much better player and is playing the style that made him successful in Chicago. He often plays up and down the lineup and is relied upon to take important faceoffs. Considering his age, he will likely never become a big-time scorer but he knows his role and does it well. Shaw made himself famous as an important piece for Chicago’s 2013 and 2015 championships. He has the potential to be that player for Montreal but they have to make the playoffs first. If Montreal wins the Stanley Cup with Shaw stepping up, then he’ll be worth every penny.