On top of trying to steer the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup, general manager Marc Bergevin will face big challenges in the new two years as he will be negotiating new contracts for forward Alex Galchenyuk and goalie Carey Price. Both Galchenyuk and Price are key players to any success Montreal has, as NHL teams dream of having players like them. The Habs have to be prepared to meet their demands as low balling either player won’t work.
2017: The Summer of Galchenyuk
The first contract up is Galchenyuk’s next summer. He is a restricted free agent so the team will still control his rights. However, Galchenyuk is eligible for arbitration in 2017, which has the potential to turn ugly if the two parties are far apart in asking price. Coming off of a bridge contract, the next logical step for Galchenyuk is to cash in on a long-term deal. Brendan Gallagher’s six-year $22.5 million deal ($3.75 million per) will likely be used as a comparable but Galchenyuk has priced himself out of that.
Better comparisons for Galchenyuk would be Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg. Scheifele signed for eight years with a $6.1 million cap hit while Forsberg signed for six years at $6 million per. Scheifele and Forsberg have shown more consistency than Galchenyuk so far in their careers but if Galchenyuk can score 30+ goals again this season, he can further justify asking for that kind of money.
Filip Forsberg got done for 6 years at $6M AAV. In case you're wondering about what Alex Galchenyuk will earn on his next contract…
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) June 28, 2016
This season Galchenyuk likely will find himself on the top line with Gallagher and Max Pacioretty. After Galchenyuk ended the season on the top line while scoring 30 goals, head coach Michel Therrien has no excuse not to play him there. Galchenyuk has shown chemistry with Gallagher and Pacioretty and if he fulfills his potential as top line centre this season, the Habs will have to open up the wallet for Galchenyuk.
The Habs have lacked a legitimate top line centre since Vincent Damphousse as players like Saku Koivu and Tomas Plekanec are capable of being top line players but are ultimately better off on the second line. Galchenyuk has been handled with kid gloves since he arrived in Montreal but it’s time for Therrien and the coaching staff to let Galchenyuk be the player he is capable of being.
The addition of associate coach Kirk Muller can only help Galchenyuk in this regard as Muller will be in charge of the forwards. In addition, Galchenyuk’s one-timer to go with Shea Weber’s shot will be two potent power play weapons and Galchenyuk getting more PP time with better players will only help his offensive numbers.
2018: The Price For Price
The next challenging contract will be two years from now with Price. Price will be an unrestricted free agent so the Habs have zero control if Price decides to leave. Price is invaluable to the Habs but if he continues to have issues with his health, it could drive the price down. The highest paid goalie in the league is New York’s Henrik Lundqvist at $8.5 million per with Columbus’s Sergei Bobrovsky in second at $7.4 million.
Superstar goalies typically don’t earn as much as their counterparts at forward or defence but when Price is healthy, he is considered one of the best players in the world. For example, Price could easily ask for a Lundqvist type deal. Career wise, Lundqvist has been more consistent in comparison to Price, though Price’s dominance in recent years has been nothing short of amazing. Both players lack a Stanley Cup but both have an Olympic gold medal and a Vezina trophy. Price has the edge with a Hart Trophy and a Ted Lindsay award to his name.
With the way Price performs for Montreal, the Habs have little choice but to pay up for Price especially if he remains healthy and continues to perform at an exceptionally high level. Price holds all the cards, especially with how Montreal fell apart in his absence. Price is invaluable to Montreal and is one of the most dominant goalies the league has seen in years.
— Eyes on the Prize (@HabsEOTP) July 26, 2016
Opening Up The Wallet
How Bergevin handles these contracts will greatly shape the team’s future. He can’t afford to lose either player as both are imperative to the team’s success. Considering how messy the PK Subban contract negotiations were, Bergevin will have to do his best to avoid that road again. It’s going to cost a lot to keep them in the fold as Galchenyuk continues to develop into a number one centre and Price being considered one of the best players in the world when healthy. The window for Montreal is wide open but having Galchenyuk and Price ensures that window is open a little longer.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Ryerson University. I am a freelance journalist and a Montreal Canadiens writer for The Hockey Writers. I previously wrote for Simcoe.com and Last Word on Sports as well as interned at TSN.