With Petry Signed: What Is next for Habs?

There had been some speculation on whether the Montreal Canadiens would re-sign UFA Jeff Petry or let him test the market in July. On Tuesday evening General Manager Marc Bergevin ended the speculation when he announced that the team has agreed to terms on a six-year contract with Petry.

The deal is worth $33 million with an average annual value of $5.5 million per season.

This signing gives the Canadiens top four defensive depth and some pressure off P.K Subban’s and Andrei Markov’s shoulder. Markov might be in the last years of his career, and it helps him to have another defenceman on the team who could take over big minutes. Petry would have become an UFA on July 1, but the Habs didn’t want to let him go test the market because it is believed he would have been offered a better contract by another team.

(Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)
(Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

His cap hit of $5.5 million is quite high though and there would have been cheaper options on the free agent market in July for the Habs. But if they would have been able to sign better quality than Petry is highly doubtful. After the announcement of the signing, fans might call out Bergevin for spending too much on Petry. They fear the Habs don’t have enough money left to add more offence, which they are in desperate need of. They still have to extend contracts with pending RFA’s Nathan Beaulieu, Brian Flynn and Alex Galchenyuk while Torrey Mitchell becomes an UFA.

How is Petry impacting Galchenyuk, Beaulieu and the cap situation?

After locking up Petry, the next two important signings for the Canadiens are Galchenyuk and Beaulieu. Both players are first round picks and made their first steps in the NHL already. Montreal wants to keep both and lock them up but given their status and potential they are seeking solid contracts with the team. Galchenyuk had 46 points this season and was mostly a top-six-forward while Beaulieu had nine points in 64 regular season games. Both players are considered to take on important roles with the team in the future.

Both Galchenyuk as well as Beaulieu showed flashes of their talent and that they fit into the culture of the organization. Although Montreal is in need of a center and the team would like to use Galchenyuk at this position, this didn’t work out the best in the past season and he often was moved to the wing while Plekanec, Desharnais and Eller took the top three center spots. Nonetheless, the Habs are too much in need of offence and goal scoring to risk not signing Galchenyuk, and now that they have signed Petry to a big contract, the cap situation gets tighter.

Alex Galchenyuk
(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

Montreal doesn’t have a lot of money left to re-sign their pending free agents, maybe only five-to-six millions. Given that fact the question is which impact has the Petry signing for Beaulieu and Galchenyuk. Bergevin could offer Galchenyuk a bridge deal which would save them some money now leading to more flexibility in their search for a forward.

A long-term deal though would make them save more money down the road, but makes it harder to acquire offence for the coming season. Or are the Habs able to re-sign both of them without making a trade to free up cap space? It will surely be a challenge for Bergevin, and the more realistic scenario is that they make a trade in order to sign Galchenyuk and Beaulieu. That opens the discussion who they would consider to trade away.


Are Emelin and Gilbert potential trade bait?

One option could be to trade Gilbert or Emelin in return for a forward. Gilbert has one year left on his contract, and will be a UFA after next season. Many fans hoped he would be what Petry is now for the Habs but the 32-year-old did not have the best season and couldn’t meet expectations. Emelin on the other hand brings a physical edge to the game, something the Canadiens are lacking. Therefore, it seems more likely that they try to ship Gilbert even though Emelin’s contract is heavier with three years left and a cap hit of 4.1 million. That being said, he might draw more interest from other teams because of his physical presence.

Right after the contract was extended with Petry, the name Markov was spread out as a potential leaver. The Russian veteran has two more years on his contract and by the time he becomes a Free Agent he is over 38 and will maybe consider retirement. But for now he is a very important player offensively as well as defensively. If Bergevin would trade him away the Habs would definitely miss an important and very experienced guy who cannot (yet) be replaced by Petry. Therefore this option seems to be too risky and not very likely. But fact is the Habs could afford to trade away a defenceman while still retaining a competitive core of Defenders. Plus it would give Beaulieu a more important role within the defender hierarchy and the chance to step up next season.

Can Parenteau step up?

If Montreal decides to keep all their defenders, they might try to trade away a forward who didn’t meet their expectations for bringing in more offence. P.A Parenteau would be one of the players who had a tough last season. He played in only 56 games due to an injury and had 22 points.

When the Habs acquired him last summer they probably expected more than 22 points in the following season. The winger has one year left on his contract which has a cap hit of four million. If he can’t step up next season he will probably not get any contract extension and hits the free agent market next off-season. Therefore, if Bergevin has no confidence in Parenteau anymore he might move him already now in order to avoid losing him in free agency next season.

Parenteau showed in the past that he is able to put up good numbers if he stays healthy, so there will be teams who are interested in adding him. Lars Eller shows a similar situation. He had only 27 points this season, and couldn’t repeat his strong playoffs from last year. He still has three years left with a cap hit of 3.5 million, and could be on the trade block as well. We will find out soon which option the Habs are going for, but it looks like at least one player has to leave Montreal in order to sign Galchenyuk and Beaulieu.