This past Thursday, the Habs took a big step forward in shaping their defence
corps for several years to come by inking blueliner Alexei Emelin to a four
year, $16.4 million contract with some no-trade protection. Having had
some time to ponder the deal, our writers offer up their thoughts as to whether
or not this was a good contract for the Canadiens.
Matt Dilworth: How good this signing ends up being is
contingent on how well Emelin plays after his injury. If Emelin’s play is close
to how he played before, then Marc Bergevin did the right thing by locking up
the soon-to-be-UFA defenceman. Prior to his arrival in Montreal, the Canadiens’
blueline suffered from the lack of physicality that Emelin can bring on a
regular basis, and his absence would have taken the defence a step backwards.
Emelin defends his teammates, is a steady presence defensively, and has
underrated offensive skills. For these reasons, I guarantee that there would
have been multiple teams interested in Emelin if he hit free agency, so I’m not
surprised that Bergevin took a leap of faith and signed him to a 4-year
contract. Some may think that there is too much risk in signing him for 4
years, but I believe Bergevin is gambling that Emelin will regain his form. If
so, this signing will look like a bargain once the salary cap starts to rise.
Given the circumstances, I can’t deny that there is some risk involved, but I am
happy with the term and price if Emelin returns and remains healthy.
Brian La Rose: I thought this may have come a little bit
cheaper given that Emelin is recovering from a torn knee ligament – a very
serious injury – and the fact he barely has 100 games of NHL experience under
his belt. That said, it’s not an overpayment either, it just won’t go down
as one of Bergevin’s bargain deals like those signed by Lars Eller and Max
Pacioretty. My personal preference would have been to see how he performs
when he comes back given that so many blueliners aren’t the same when they come
back from an ACL tear. But, it is nice to have him locked up since he
fills a very important need for the team and now will do so for the foreseeable
Alex Létourneau: Not sure I understand the logic in locking up a question mark at the price and
term Emelin signed. That’s an awful lot of money put into a guy coming
off a pretty horrific knee injury with no game action to see how it responds. I
have it in writing, on this site, many times that I think he’s a good, solid
defenseman with the upside of hitting you into oblivion, but if that’s the going
rate for defencemen in Montreal, P.K. Subban must be doing his best to conceal
his giddiness over what he’s potentially worth. Is it a good or bad deal? Time
will tell, ultimately, but I would have to think $16.4 million over four years
with trade restrictions (two years with a full NTC, the final two with a limited
NTC) is a steal for Emelin’s camp and a head-scratcher
for Canadiens economists.
Matt Macaskill: The Emelin contract is perfect. It respects the
standard set by Josh Gorges’ $3.9M contract by besting it by only $200,000.
Emelin is an important part of the team with a physical game that is unmatched
by the other Hab defenders, save Douglas Murray who is unlikely to remain with
the club after this season. The four-year term is an encouraging commitment from
a player the team had trouble coercing over from the KHL to North America. While
overall this is a good deal, the price tag will make it more difficult to
re-sign both Andrei Markov and Raphael Diaz in addition to the hefty raise Subban is expected to receive.
With only Emelin and Gorges signed long-term, Bergevin has plenty of options available in shaping his blueline for the
foreseeable future. With a number of talented prospects in Nathan Beaulieu,
Jarred Tinordi, Greg Pateryn, and Magnus Nygren, the Canadiens’ top six
defenders could have a very different look next season. One thing we can be
certain about now is that Emelin will be part of it.
Kevin Meldrum: I believe it is an awesome deal; the term and
the money were right around what I had figured Emelin was worth on the market.
the type of player every team needs to succeed; Montreal misses his style
which was very evident until a couple of games ago when Murray returned from
injury. Emelin was the key UFA in my opinion the Habs needed to sign
because he gives the team
that added element of strong D, PK performance, and steady dependable play with bone
crushing checks that keep the other team honest. Nice work by the Habs front office,
now get your best player signed.
I like the signing for several reasons. Emelin brings a consistent physical
presence that no one else on the Habs defence does. He hits the opposition
frequently, hits hard, and does it cleanly 99% of the time. If I were playing
against him, I would hate to go into the Habs zone with the puck, and that’s a
valuable asset for the Canadiens. He has paired up well with Markov in the
past, and when he gets more ice time with his buddy Andrei to learn the defensive side of the
game he will improve in this area of the game. I feel his offensive game is
average but he has not looked out of place when he’s paired on the 2nd powerplay
unit from time to time. As he matures, he will be a good role model for Tinordi, and that tandem will become an effective shutdown
pairing in the future.
There’s little downside to this signing. I know traditionally a team like the
Habs doesn’t extend an injured player before they return to the ice. Most
every team follows this procedure. The Habs medical and training staff must
feel confident enough with Emelin’s recovery for Bergevin to go forward
with this contract early.