Both Sides of the Montreal Canadiens – Jeff Petry Deal

Montreal Canadiens defensemen Jeff Petry and Alexei Emelin and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos
Montreal Canadiens defensemen Jeff Petry and Alexei Emelin and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos – (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin undeniably got his man by signing defenseman Jeff Petry earlier this week, but there’s always two sides to every coin. And, just as undeniably, Petry cost a pretty penny.

In Petry’s case, that would be 3.3 billion pennies to be exact. Or, more practically speaking, $33 million over six years. That amounts to a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million.

His current hit is $3.075 million. That’s a hefty raise for a defenseman who, despite being instrumental in taking some weight off P.K. Subban’s shoulders these past playoffs, is essentially what most Habs fans had hoped Tom Gilbert would be when Bergevin signed him for $5.6 million for two seasons last summer.

Granted, Petry is just 27, and, whereas Gilbert (32) by and large struggled this past season, Petry for all intents and purposes flourished, even by non-Edmonton Oilers standards.

Including the playoffs, he scored 10 points (five goals) in 31 games, which translates to 26 points over 82 games. He was on pace for just 21 (6) with the Oilers, while the 13 goals he in theory would have scored over a full season with the Habs would have been just two less relative to P.K. Subban for the team lead among defenseman.

Jeff Petry versus…

Perhaps more impressively, he would have just missed hitting the top 10 in the league in that category, with one more hypothetical goal relative to such young studs as John Carlson (Washington Capitals), Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers), Torey Krug (Boston Bruins), and two more than Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins), Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames), and, of course, Yannick Weber (Vancouver Canucks).

That last one? Maybe not so complimentary, but very interesting nevertheless. Weber, who became an unrestricted free agent when the Habs opted not to qualify him ahead of the 2013-14 season, is only one year younger than Petry and made just $850,000 this past year.

As Weber is now a restricted free agent again, it will be more interesting to see how much of a raise he gets, because, while Petry was on pace for more goals than all of the names above, he would have been nowhere close in terms of total points, except in regard to Weber who scored just 21 total.

Due to Weber’s renewed restricted free agent status (in addition to his lack of physicality; 66 hits vs. 145 for Petry), he admittedly may not be the best point of comparison, but other less-than-flattering ones exist for Montreal.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, 28, scored 23 points (9 goals) in 70 games. He’s in the middle of a five-year contract with a cap hit of $4.25 million. If you want to meanwhile argue that there’s been some contractual inflation in the few years since he his deal began in 2013-14, then, for another example, take Los Angeles King Alec Martinez, whose new contract kicks in next season. He is also 27 going on 28. He chipped in 22 points (6 goals) in just 56 games. His cap hit over his six-year (same term) deal is $4 million.


Paying a Premium

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin
Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin – (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

While Bergevin really wanted Petry to stay with the team, it’s crystal clear he paid a premium to convince him to (in addition apparently to giving him a no-movement clause for the first thee years of the deal). In a way, that’s how it should be, seeing as the Canadiens weren’t just convincing him to stay but also to forego his first unrestricted free agency period.

Looking at it another way, though, Petry could have waited the extra month to test free agency and see what other offers were out there. Why didn’t he unless he felt no other team was going to offer him nearly as much? Did he also have reason to believe that Bergevin’s generosity (or insanity) was of the fleeting variety and that he had to sign right away?

And maybe that’s just it, Bergevin temporarily lost his mind, because, as a result of this signing, the now-in-doubt $71.5-million salary-cap figure for the 2015-16 season is about $5 million away with several key players left to be signed, including restricted free agents Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu. Barring a miracle, Montreal will now have to trade one of their bigger bargaining chips, without much if anything coming back the other way.

Montreal’s defense is essentially set for next season (once Beaulieu signs), but that’s incredibly bad news for Montreal’s anaemic offense and power play, which, even with Galchenyuk coming back, is in dire need of a boost. It’s not like Petry alone is the answer despite the offense he brings from the back-end. He wasn’t for the few months he was here anyway. As a result, one has to question the ranking of Bergevin’s priorities. He can now strike at least one off the list, but at what cost, opportunity and actual?

In Bergevin’s defense, the free-agent cupboard is pretty bare this offseason. So, maybe he felt he had to secure Petry’s services now or risk being left without anyone of value.

Someone’s going to overspend on Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green, so Bergevin might as well have overpaid Petry, in other words. But, ironically, by getting this huge deal done ahead of schedule the way he did, Bergevin has made his job that much tougher. His shiny, new acquisition just broke the bank and might have so much more.