There are lots of uncertainties surrounding the Montreal Canadiens this offseason. Who will they draft, will they make any trades, and what will they do with Jeff Petry? The 32-year-old defenceman has spent the last six seasons with Montreal and has had solid numbers with the club during his tenure. His contract is due to expire at the end of next season, which leaves the Habs in a bit of a dilemma.
This article will go over the pros and cons that would come with the Canadiens re-signing Petry. We’ll look at his stats, his growth, and all the other things he brings to the team. We’ll also look at how long it may take for his position to be filled if the team decides to part ways with him. We’ll start with the pros.
Petry brings a lot of upside to Montreal’s D-core. For starters, he leads the team in points by a defenceman this season. In 71 games played, he managed to score 11 goals and tally 29 assists for 40 points. He has also been a staple on special teams for Montreal, logging both power play and shorthanded time. Petry has totaled 12 power-play points this season and two shorthanded points. It would be very difficult for the Canadiens to lose out on a player who plays in every situation, especially if they don’t get anything in return.
It’s not just this season where Petry has been finding his game. When he left the Edmonton Oilers in the 2014-15 season, his career-high was 25 points. This is a total he surpassed in just his third year with the Habs where he totaled 28 points in 80 games played. From that point forward, Petry has hit the 40-point mark every season, with last season being his best, totaling 46 points in 82 games played.
On top of the things that you can put numbers to, there are also factors that can’t be calculated using numbers. For instance, there’s no numeric value for team chemistry, which Petry has had six years to develop with his Montreal teammates. He also is an active part of helping the community and as a result, has become a beloved part of the Habs organization. Letting a player like Petry walk will have its share of backlash from the fans.
Lastly, and probably most controversially, if Petry is re-signed, he can be traded. If he’s allowed to walk, then Montreal will lose a 40-point defenceman and will get nothing in return. If Montreal decides they can do without him, then trading him would give the Habs some return value, which they can’t get if he’s not signed.
They would be able to save on cap space as well if they traded him for draft picks, as one can never go wrong with having a deep roster in case of injuries. Losing out on both Petry and the potential draft picks he could bring in a trade could deal a blow to the Montreal roster. It is very likely he would have trade protection if he were to re-sign, but if he doesn’t then this is a very viable option.
Where there may be a lot of upside to keeping Petry, there are also a lot of reasons why the Habs shouldn’t re-sign him. The first would be his contract. Back in 2015-16, he signed a six-year deal worth $33 million at an average of $5.5 million per year. This was signed before he ever had a 40-point season, which he’s now done three times since signing that contract. Naturally, when players perform better, they ask for more money, and rightfully so. This is an added cap hit that Montreal may prefer not to have if they want to be competitive in the free-agent market or re-sign their top point scorer Tomas Tatar.
Perhaps the most glaring stat issue for Petry is his plus/minus numbers. Montreal had a negative goal differential this season, and this is something one could argue Petry hasn’t helped to remedy. This season he was a minus-10, and in his career (mostly spent with the Habs), he is a minus-116! If the Canadiens want to improve their goal differential, they can’t afford to have one of their top defencemen being one of the worst on the team in plus/minus.
A lot of the team’s intentions going forward will be showcased during free agent frenzy. If Montreal decides they’re not a team looking to rebuild and instead wants to push for the playoffs (and by extension the Stanley Cup), then they’ll likely try to sign some help. There could very well be a free agent defenceman who is simply better for the Habs than Petry, so his contract and roster spot would prevent that from happening. Sometimes you have to do away with the old and make way for the new, especially if the old isn’t working anymore.
Lastly, keeping him in the lineup could hinder the potential growth of the players in Montreal’s system. Petry is 32 years old, which means he still has years of good hockey left, but he’s no spring chicken anymore. The Habs will still have to re-sign Victor Mete who’s had a solid outing with the Canadiens this season. Other young defencemen in the system who may be ready to join the roster include Alexander Romanov, Cale Fleury, and Gustav Olofsson. Players who are very talented can’t reach their full potential if they’re trapped in the minors for too long.
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Looking at both the pros and cons, I’d personally say there’s a greater upside to re-signing Petry. He brings a lot of blue line offence, he knows the system and city, and he’s built team chemistry. He’ll likely have trade protection, but I don’t feel as though they’d need to go that route as long as they don’t sign him to a long-term deal. Petry has been upping his game since joining the Canadiens, so a three-year deal would most likely be the best course of action.
What do you think? Are there more upsides, or more downsides for the Habs re-signing Jeff Petry? Let us know your thoughts on the comments below.