With the offseason activity set to pick up shortly, Habs GM Marc Bergevin took care of one big piece of business last week with Jeff Petry’s four-year, $25 million extension. Having had some time to think about the deal, our writers offer up their thoughts.
Terry Costaris: There’s really not much that needs to be said here. What’s there not to like about this move?
Montreal retains a very high-quality defenceman at less than market value, who can be a bridge and mentor for its promising defence prospects four years down the road.
It shows to the hockey community that if an anglophone American loves playing in this market, even giving a hometown discount, then so too might others be attracted to playing for the Habs.
It might also put the kibosh on Max Domi pulling a William Nylander in terms of salary negotiations – if the Canadiens retain him.
The only downside is risk – risk of either injuries or diminishing abilities near the end of Petry’s contract.
Short of having his knees blown out, let’s pretend that Petry drops to a number six defenceman by year four or is not even serviceable. This would be a worst-case scenario barring injuries. Montreal would just have to buy him out and take a two-year cap hit. I personally can’t see this from happening. The odds are at least 60% in Montreal’s favour of Petry remaining in the top four.
You can’t successfully operate a sports franchise if you are risk-averse. Doing nothing, or in this case, letting Petry go, would have been a far greater risk.
If something does go wrong, and fair-weather fans go all “Alzner” on Bergevin, I hope every Hab website shows the near-universal fan support found in their comments sections.
This is the third key move made by Bergevin this offseason and once again, I have to say, I like it a lot.
Allan Katz: It would take quite a pessimist to put down the four-year deal Petry just signed. Let’s look at how Bergevin is designing this team. Barring a surprise trade amongst the top four defenders, the defence is beautifully set up. Petry and Shea Weber are the two high-end talents on the defence; both have a little too much age but are still winning talents. Then they have solid, though not spectacular talents in Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson and Brett Kulak. All three can play some top-four minutes with the proviso that they are the secondary talent in their duo. One of them could easily land up being traded and all three are replaceable.
Then you have the team’s youth. It is in the youth that the two oak trees at the top will be eventually replaced. The immediate talents ready to give it a shot are Alexander Romanov, Victor Mete, Cale Fleury and Noah Juulsen with Josh Brook a longer shot. Following them are intriguing talents Mattias Norlinder, Jayden Struble and Jordan Harris. That is a lot of room for finding a gem and for using one in a trade.
By pinning down Petry and adding two more defensive talents in Edmundson and Allen, Bergevin has basically finished the back end of the team. What this deal does is set up the final part of Bergevin’s offseason work. It is also the toughest since the needs are very simple; scoring ability and size and no one really wants to give away those two attributes. So here’s how the Petry deal helps with all this. Bergevin is going to try to exploit any teams he can find that don’t have Hab money and need help unburdening a few contracts. He might go after a very special high-end talent or two and he needs to show these players that Montreal is ready to go for it. The team needs scorers and scorers like to have other talents take care of defence. This team has that. Petry is an anchor, Weber is an anchor, Carey Price is an anchor. So this is what is called – a good start. It’s going to be very interesting…
Brian La Rose: It’s no real surprise that the Habs prioritized getting Petry done before any of their 2021 UFA forwards. Montreal has some prospects on the right side with some upside but at this point, it’s hard to expect any of them to jump into a top-four role as soon as 2021-22. Getting Petry signed was something that simply had to be done.
I think Bergevin took advantage of what was a bit of a favourable situation for the Habs here. If you think getting money as a free agent is going to be hard now, wait until next summer when even fewer teams have money to spend. Could Petry have earned a bit more on the open market next offseason? It’s possible but with the potential for a limited number of non-capped out suitors, it could also have backfired. This deal gives him security first and foremost at a bit of a raise while Montreal gets a key blueliner locked up at a price that based on current rates, is a little bit below market value. I won’t call it the steal that some have been but it’s a good deal for both sides.
Kevin Leveille: The Habs continue to bolster their blueline for the upcoming season. This time, it was an internal extension to Petry, one that came at a $6.25M cost over the next four years. This is locking up a key second pairing defender, the team’s offensive best, through the rest of his best years since he’ll go from 33 to 37 years of age over the course of this contract. They have him at a very good cap hit as it’s $750k more than he was previously making. This means that even if his production falters in the last year of the deal, he’ll be an easily moveable asset. This is a player that analytics and old school fans alike have come to enjoy watching since his arrival in Montreal from Edmonton. Add to this his improved defensive play since the arrival of Claude Julien and Luke Richardson; I just don’t understand how anybody in the NHL universe could see this as anything but a huge win for the Canadiens. Let this sink in, Petry signed a hometown discounted extension with the Montreal Canadiens for the next four years with the expectations of competing for a Stanley Cup in that window of time. Huge win all around.
Norm Szcyrek: I liked hearing the news of the Petry contract extension. Petry has been a productive blueliner since coming to Montreal, both offensively and defensively. When Weber has been injured, Petry has stepped up admirably to fill in for him in the top pairing. Jeff could have waited until the end of his current contract was closer to start negotiating, to help give him a little leverage. But given the number of other veteran Habs who could potentially become unrestricted free agents, Jeff must have decided he preferred to strike early and stay put. Both the four-year term and salary are reasonable; in a non-pandemic situation, he may have been able to command a few more dollars and an extra season. This move shores up the Habs top four defencemen with solid veterans for the next few seasons, which will also give younger Canadiens defencemen much more time to develop without pressure or extra expectations to move up the ranks.
Dave Woodward: From the team’s perspective, it’s hard to find fault with this deal. Petry shows no signs of slowing down and the term is only four years. While the deal expires five seasons from now (a year remains on his current contract), the cap hit is only $6.25 million, representing only a $750,000 annual raise for a reliable veteran defenceman who has outperformed his current contract. With all the uncertainty in the world right now, one cannot blame Petry for opting for security. But with this contract, the Habs have locked up their 1B defenceman for another five years with a cap hit that leaves extra money for the remaining UFAs whose contracts expire in 2020/21. And if Petry’s performance declines by the deal’s final year, Petry is paid $3 million, making the $6.25 million cap hit attractive for a cash-strapped trade partner who is looking to reach the salary cap floor. This is a very team-friendly deal, a contract that Bergevin is very unlikely to regret.