After a wild 24 hours of speculation that talks had broken off, the Montreal Canadiens announced on Wednesday that the club had signed winger Brendan Gallagher to a six-year deal worth an average annual value of $6.5 million.
A fan favourite in La Belle Province for many years, Habs fans should be excited to see the gritty forward locked up for an additional six years beyond next season. At $6.5 million per season, the deal seems fair given Gallagher’s production and his intangibles such as his toughness and penchant for getting under his opponents’ skin. In the last three seasons, Gallagher ranks fifth in goals scored at 5-on-5 with 66, behind only Nikita Kucherov (71), Connor McDavid (75), Auston Matthews (79), and Alex Ovechkin (83), according to Natural Stat Trick.
How does his deal compare to other similarly paid wingers? Using THW’s salary cap page, we compiled a group of 15 wingers (including Gallagher), with a similar contract structure that ranges from four to seven years and has an AAV of between $5 million and $7 million. It’s a wide range, to be sure, but Gallagher’s AAV falls roughly in the middle.
We’ll compare these players from the 2017-18 campaign to 2019-20 in six different advanced stats categories: expected goals (iXG), total individual Corsi shots on goal (iCF), which measures a player’s total goals, shots on goal, as well as missed and blocked shots, takeaways (Take), scoring chances for (SCF), high-danger scoring chances for (HDCF), and finally wins above replacement (WAR).
Expected Goals (iXG)
According to Evolving-Hockey’s expected goals model, Gallagher is by far the leader of this group of 15 forwards, outpacing Evander Kane ($7 million AAV) by ten expected goals. His actual goal output from the last three seasons is 86, showing that he is getting opportunities to score but isn’t converting on those chances as much as a player like Kane, who also has 85 actual goals scored over the last three seasons.
Meanwhile, Anders Lee ($7 million AAV) is outperforming his expected goals rate with 88 actual goals scored, while Patric Hornqvist ($5.3 million AAV) didn’t quite match his expected goals rate with 64 goals. Still, Gallagher is getting the chances and is either being stopped by some incredible goaltending or has had some tough puck luck.
Total Individual Corsi Shots on Goal (iCF)
According to the above chart, when Gallagher has the puck, he is driving the play and making things happen. The 28-year-old is by far the leader of this category, and while iCF includes shots that are blocked or miss the net, those pucks can turn into rebounds or scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Scoring Chances For (SCF)
On the topic of scoring chances, while Gallagher is not the leader in this group of wingers, as that honour goes to fellow superpest Brad Marchand ($6.125 million AAV), he does rank in the top five over the last three seasons.
Most of Gallagher’s play in the offensive zone happens in front of the goalie, which results in high-danger scoring chances which come within what analysts like to call “the home plate area.” The scoring and shot chart below clearly shows the majority of Gallagher’s opportunities over the last three seasons have come from in front of the net, in the slot, or within the circles in the home plate area:
High Danger Chances For (HDCF)
Hanging out in front of the crease to do battle with his opponents and make a goalie’s life miserable is what has made Gallagher a fan favourite in Montreal and has also helped him to produce strong results in high-danger areas. The chart below shows Gallagher again ranks in the top five of this category among wingers with similar contract structures:
New York Islanders captain Anders Lee is far and away the leader in this group, however it is worth mentioning that he has a slightly higher AAV at $7 million. Tied for second are Kane ($7 million AAV) and Jordan Eberle ($5.5 million AAV), but close behind is Gallagher with 975 high danger scoring chances for over the last three seasons.
In addition to being a nuisance in front of the net, Gallagher is also dogged on the puck and is one of the leaders in takeaways in this group of wingers, as seen in the chart below.
Here Marchand proves why he is so difficult to play against, but Gallagher ranks in the top three among these similarly paid wingers over the last three seasons, trailing second-place Mats Zuccarello ($6 million AAV) by just two takeaways.
The combination of high totals of expected goals, Corsi for shots on goal, high danger scoring chances, and takeaways show that Gallagher is one of the top wingers in the league in these categories. But how does his play impact the team overall? For that we look at wins above replacement (WAR).
Aside from Marchand, who is by far the leader in this category, Gallagher is one of the most valuable in how much he impacts his team’s performance as he is in a virtual tie with Hornqvist and New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider ($6.5 million AAV).
Gallagher is either the leader or in the top-five of at least all of these advanced stats categories among wingers with similar contracts which indicates that general manager Marc Bergevin signed the 28-year-old to a very fair deal. These impressive numbers also show that Gallagher is quite undervalued with a $3.75 million cap hit for next season.
While there are concerns that Gallagher will be 35 years old when his new contract is up, and he does have a history of injuries, there is a lot to like about the deal in the short term if he can keep up his current production levels and continue to be the productive agitator that Habs fans and management have come to love.
Ken joins THW having spent the last three years working in hockey operations and analytics. A native of Kitchener-Waterloo, ON, Ken is a graduate of the Sport Management program at Brock University where he served as an Analytics Consultant for the Brock Badgers Men’s Hockey Team during the 2017-18 season, helping the team to an OUA Western Conference Championship and an appearance in the USports Final 8 National Championship.
Following that, he worked as a Video Analyst with hockey analytics company Stathletes, which was founded by Meghan Chayka and former Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka. In this role, Ken analyzed games and compiled analytical data for NHL and CHL clubs.
His most recent role came with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League where he completed a year-long Hockey Operations placement as he finished his Sport Management degree at Brock, the same program that graduated Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas. In Ken’s role with the Otters, he was tasked with being the team’s video coordinator while also assisting with analytics, scouting, and player management. Ken was part of hockey operations staff that helped Erie clinch its first playoff appearance in three seasons.
Prior to graduating with honours from Brock University, Ken graduated with honours from the Radio and Television Broadcasting program at Conestoga College in Kitchener and worked in sports media for 11 years, covering the NHL for Bleacher Report and HockeyBuzz, while also covering the OHL for Rogers.