With reports surfacing earlier this week that talks between the Habs and Alex Galchenyuk have stalled, there are many who are beginning to get frustrated with the lack of progress. However, it’s way too early to be concerned that a deal hasn’t been reached yet.
As much as it may feel like this has dragged on for a long time, the fact of the matter is that Galchenyuk has only been without a contract for all of three weeks (plus a couple of days). His new agent, Pat Brisson, has only been representing the 21 year old for a month. And, as Brisson is one of the more prominent agents in the league, Galchenyuk is far from the only client on his list to deal with at the moment. (Carl Hagelin and Jonathan Bernier are clients that are also RFA’s while it’s believed that there will be extension talks with Anze Kopitar soon as well.)
Granted, you can make a case that Galchenyuk is pretty much the only thing on Marc Bergevin’s to-do list (depending on whether or not you think they have interest in any of the remaining UFA’s) but that doesn’t mean he should be spending 24 hours a day on this, especially since Brisson certainly can’t. You can also make a case that Bergevin may want to take his time with this deal since it has the potential to restrict or impact any further offseason acquisitions. If he signs a bridge contract, there’s still a bit of money left but if it’s a long-term pact, they will most certainly be done adding to the roster.
While it may seem like this is a rare situation, recent years have seen RFA deals go down to the waning moments before training camp starts or even into camp. Last year, Justin Schultz, Tyson Barrie, Nino Niederreiter, Devante Smith-Pelly, Ryan Ellis, Jaden Schwartz, Cody Eakin, Brendon Dillon, and Ryan Johansen all signed either a couple of weeks before camps began or in the case of the last few, well into the preseason.
(In 2013, some of the September or later RFA signees were Marcus Johansson, Mikkel Boedker, Nazem Kadri, Cody Hodgson, Alex Pietrangelo, Jared Cowen, Derek Stepan, and Cody Franson with again a few of those leaking into training camp and the exhibition season.)
As you can see, quite a few quality young players see their RFA contracts drag out for most of the offseason. Most of these players were in the exact same situation as Galchenyuk too in that it was their first RFA deal meaning that they did not have arbitration eligibility. The lack of leverage makes the threat of a holdout more or less the only card that players like Galchenyuk can play since offer sheets are so few and far between. From a Montreal perspective, we saw that happen with Carey Price back in 2010 and P.K. Subban in early 2013.
Unlike a lot of the above players who signed late the last two offseasons, Galchenyuk is expected to be a franchise cornerstone for the team which adds another wrinkle to the equation. It was a given that most of those ‘holdouts’ the past two summers would get bridge deals but there is the potential of signing the former 3rd overall pick long-term. If so, both sides have to find the right balance of paying for performance versus potential and given Galchenyuk’s play thus far in his career, that’s going to be rather tricky.
While it’s tempting to try to play the blame game, it wouldn’t be right to do so. This isn’t a matter of Bergevin being lazy or cheap (there’s no doubting Galchenyuk will get a sizable raise from the $1.35 M he earned including bonuses last year), Brisson trying to strong-arm the team, or Galchenyuk being too greedy. (And no, this ‘standoff’ isn’t an indictment on Michel Therrien either which I’m sure will somehow become a narrative the longer this takes.) The delay is just part of the negotiating process.
As things stand, it’s nearly two full months before everyone has to report for camp. The fact that there’s no contract really isn’t even newsworthy at this point, especially given that lots of young players see their first RFA deals take into late August or September. (It wouldn’t shock me to see Galchenyuk’s deal take another month or so to get done either.)
This was not going to be a quick signing like some were hoping for or even unrealistically expecting. And that’s perfectly okay. Whether Galchenyuk signs today, tomorrow, or in six weeks really doesn’t matter. What matters in the end is that he’s signed and ready to go on the first day of training camp. If he’s not signed at that time, then it’s time to take notice. But we’re in July, not September, so there’s no need to start panicking any time soon.