Phillip Danault’s emergence was one of the bright spots for Montreal in 2016-17. With there being one year left on his contract now, Marc Bergevin has to decide whether or not to approach him about an extension.
On the surface, the first thought may be no, especially considering his lack of production during his entry-level contract. There are some reasons why the GM should at least consider pursuing an extension, however.
While no one (other than maybe Danault and his close friends and family) would like to see him on the top line again this coming season, it’s very much a distinct possibility if they decide to keep Alex Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin on the wings. That would put him in line for potentially another 40 point season as he’ll have top wingers with him once again. Two straight years of that type of production will look quite compelling to an arbitrator next offseason.
With that in mind, looking to extend Danault now would be an opportunity to hedge when it comes to his next salary. He’s going to get a raise one way or the other but odds being odds, he’ll get less of one if he were to sign now versus playing on the top line for another year with having arbitration eligibility. Given how the Habs have a lot of money already tied up for 2018-19, possibly getting him a little cheaper by signing him now may not be a bad idea.
Of course, an early extension could backfire as well. If they plan to move him back into the bottom six (with one of Galchenyuk or Drouin shifting over while they hope for Tomas Plekanec to bounce back), they could wind up overpaying in money and term; if Bergevin does look to do an extension, it won’t be just for one year but rather a longer-term deal.
I suspect Bergevin may get Claude Julien’s insight on this with regards to how he sees the centre situation shaping up. If he plans to use Danault in a top six role for the most part, then it may make sense for Bergevin to at least inquire as to what an extension may cost.
It typically isn’t ideal to extend a player coming off a career year but if it looks like Danault is going to have a similar role in 2017-18, it could be an option for the Habs to pursue in the weeks ahead.