Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has made a lot of big moves this offseason to improve his team.
While the additions of Jake Allen, Josh Anderson, Joel Edmundson, and Tyler Toffoli are each impressive in their own way, no move was more significant than Bergevin’s decision to sign Brendan Gallagher to a six-year contract extension.
The Canadiens’ Heart and Soul
It’s impossible to show Gallagher’s importance to the Canadiens with just numbers and statistics, his contributions go far beyond the scoresheet. That’s why it was challenging to project what his new contract might look like because how do you measure heart and work ethic?
In the end, both sides got a fair deal even though there was some tension during negotiations, emotions that seemed to spill over into Bergevin’s press conference following the extension announcement. He teared up several times while talking about what Gallagher means to the Habs.
“He means a lot to our hockey team. You saw in the playoffs: he got cross-checked in the face, and he wouldn’t want to miss a shift. He didn’t want to leave. Gallagher is everything you want in a hockey player, and that’s what I love about him,” Bergevin said.
Everyone is quick to point out that the Canadiens are Carey Price’s team, and that captain Shea Weber is the undisputed leader. While these two things are true, make no mistake about it, this is very much Gallagher’s team too. He embodies the winning culture that management is trying to instill in Montreal.
Bergevin was never going to put in all this work to make the Canadiens better only to lose the engine that makes everything go, in free agency next year. It also says a lot about Gallagher that he wanted to re-up with the Habs right away and ensure that he will likely finish his NHL career the same way it started, in red, white and blue.
Gallagher’s Place in Canadiens History
In his first eight seasons with the Canadiens, Gallagher has registered 334 points in 547 regular season games and added 25 points in 49 playoff games.
The 28-year-old is a two-time 30 goal scorer and collected 43 points in 59 games in 2019-20. His 22 goals ranked him first amongst his teammates for the third straight year. His 173 goals with the Habs ranks 17th in team history among wingers.
While Gallagher still has at least seven more years to keep climbing up Montreal’s all-time lists, he’s already built an enviable legacy in a Canadiens uniform simply by the way he plays. He’s a special player because he plays every shift, whether it’s the preseason or the playoffs, like it’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. He can change the momentum of a game just with his attitude on the ice and, despite his 5’9” frame, he can carry his team on his shoulders.
He inspires and lifts fans out of their seats not with skill plays or flashy moves, but with desire and by being the guy that wants it most. He would go to war for his team and the city, that’s why he’ll always have a special place in Montreal’s rich hockey history. Gallagher means as much to the Habs as the pride he takes in wearing the jersey. He has been a worthy successor to the much revered Saku Koivu wearing no. 11 for the Canadiens.
“You look around our own team, for example, a player like Brendan Gallagher. How much time and effort that he has spent on making himself become a better player and you see what the final product is. We’re looking for younger players that are willing to put in the same type of effort that Brendan has throughout the course of his career,” Canadiens assistant general manager Trevor Timmins said prior to the 2020 NHL Draft.
A Big Part of the Past, Present and Now the Future
Gallagher will continue to play an important role in mentoring the Habs’ bright young stars like Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Cole Caufield, who has already expressed how much he looks up to his future teammate.
Who wouldn’t be inspired by a former fifth-round draft pick who has been an underdog his entire career who would rather prove his believers right than his doubters wrong?
“I don’t prove people wrong; I always try to prove people right. I like to give credit to the many people who believed in me along the way. No matter what you go through, everyone is going to have people doubt them. But you get to where you are because of the people who believed in you and put in a lot of time and effort around you,” Gallagher said.
Bergevin’s offseason acquisitions coupled with the Canadiens’ deep prospect pool should mean a brighter future for the team while giving Gallagher, Price and Weber the chance to spend the later stages of their great careers playing for a contender. They certainly deserve it considering how much they have already given to the franchise.