There had been much debate in recent months over the prospects of the Montreal Canadiens signing Jeff Petry to a contract extension before his contract expired at the end of the 2020-21 season. Indeed the many deliberations revealed the potential pros and cons for Marc Bergevin to weigh while he entered the current offseason.
I thought perhaps he would wait for the developments of a new season and make his decision based on where the Canadiens found themselves in the standings. That was until Friday when Bergevin pulled the trigger and signed Petry to a four-year $25 million contract.
The deal is excellent on both term and money. But for the Canadiens fans who may need more convincing as to the long term benefits of this deal, permit me the opportunity to provide one more reason as to why Petry’s extension will be worth it. In terms of style, Petry would be a fantastic long term role model for Alexander Romanov.
When you look around the league, the trend for defensemen, particularly young ones, is their ability to dominate the game with their skating and skill. Names like Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes ring a bell. You can also include this season’s Norris Trophy winner, Roman Josi.
Or, if you have been watching the playoffs, look at Conn Smythe candidate’s Victor Hedman or Miro Heiskanen. These players impact all facets of the game while eating up huge minutes, yet they never seem to show signs of fatigue.
An Evaluation of Petry and Romanov
Petry — although not quite on the same level as some of the names listed above — is the best example of this type of defensemen on the Canadiens roster. The Canadiens are a team built to play and fast and attack quickly in transition.
He plays this style effectively and contributes both offensively and defensively. He makes a good first pass and helps with quick exits out of the zone, eliminating long shifts of defensive duress. In addition, he is able to make up for positional mistakes with his smooth skating.
Notably, this season he averaged 23:39 in ice time through 71 regular-season games and 25:27 through 10 playoff games. As a result of his heavy workload, he finished with 11 goals and 40 points and once again established that he is a stalwart on the blue line in all situations.
Romanov will not be expected to reach numbers like Petry’s in his first season, but it is expected he will make an impact. He is a player with tremendous mobility, skill and potential, who possesses strong awareness in both the offensive and defensive zones. (from ‘Canadiens’ pipeline filling up with young talent,’ Montreal Gazette, 09/26/2020)
By next season Romanov will be in a position to watch and learn from Petry on a day-to-day basis, in practice and likely in games. This sort of experience is difficult to quantify but players themselves frequently pay homage to veterans who helped them become better players through example.
The Importance of Mobility
Due to the similarities in their styles of play, Petry’s example and preparation could help Romanov adjust to a quicker more physical league. Unlike the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Petry, Romanov is listed as 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, and with the NHL rinks being smaller than the rinks in the KHL, mobility and spatial awareness will be essential for him to be able to stay effective and healthy.
The benefits of mobility and speed for a defenseman are that they can prolong a career and help a player maintain their stamina and longevity within a season. Petry, for example, has only missed two games in the last four seasons. If Romanov can manage to replicate this and stay healthy, his development will happen more smoothly.
Although avoiding injury can be credited to blind luck, it is more than clear that the ability to skate out of trouble and avoid taking big hits on a nightly basis is helpful. Furthermore, it is a fundamental truth to the sport that if you are skating well, the rest of the game becomes a little easier. Just ask Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
With that said, and with league trends suggesting that if you want to win you need defensemen who are both extremely smart and mobile, the extension of Petry coupled with Romanov’s star potential makes the present and the future look bright for the Canadiens. If Romanov can model himself after Petry his development will be a great benefit to his team.