Brendan Gallagher received a big contract extension last season but it certainly looks like his role with the Habs will change for 2021-22. How will that affect his production?
Following the contract squabble that turned out to be nothing of the sort, Gallagher returned to his usual spot on Montreal’s top line alongside Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault. While the Habs got off to a hot start offensively, that line didn’t and as a result, Gallagher’s numbers through the first two months of the season were pedestrian by his standards, just six goals and four assists in 20 games.
Fortunately, he picked up the pace in March and as the calendar flipped to April, he was playing some of his best hockey of the season. Unfortunately, a point shot from Alexander Romanov (not Shea Weber this time) fractured his thumb, ending his season prematurely and weakening Montreal’s already sputtering offence even further. Gallagher managed to get into Laval’s final contest on a conditioning stint but he wasn’t exactly in midseason form when the playoffs began.
With Tatar not on Gallagher’s line for most of the playoffs, the focus for that trio shifted more towards defence and while they had some success on that front, they did next to nothing at the offensive end as Gallagher was basically shut down for the second straight postseason. If you add up the last two playoff runs, he has three goals in 31 games and there’s no way to sugarcoat that; it’s just not good enough. As a result, it was certainly a disappointing end to his season even with the run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Season Stats: 35 GP, 14 goals, 9 assists, 23 points, +10 rating, 16 PIMS, 3 PPG, 2 GWG, 106 shots, 15:01 ATOI, 59.5 CF%
Playoff Stats: 22 GP, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points, even rating, 4 PIMS, 1 PPG, 1 GWG, 52 shots, 14:41 ATOI, 53.8 CF%
5 Year Averages
(The stats for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been extrapolated to an 82-game rate.)
It has been quite a while since Gallagher hasn’t been part of the top forward line at even strength but it looks like that will change as the Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield duo appears to be poised to be the new top line. Could Gallagher fit in with Jesperi Kotkaniemi (if his offer sheet is matched or his replacement otherwise) on what is expected to be the second line? Possibly but I can’t help but wonder if Dominique Ducharme wants to try to have Jake Evans in the spot vacated by Phillip Danault going against top opposition but with enough offensive support to not be pinned in the defensive zone routinely. Gallagher has had success in that type of role so it stands to reason he’d be a strong candidate to play with Evans. In that case, he’s probably looking at a dip in ice time.
In terms of special teams, Gallagher was between the first and second units last season. It should be more of the latter than the former in 2021-22 with Caufield there for a full season plus Mike Hoffman joining the team. He’ll still take a regular shift but a small dip in his power play time seems likely. As for the penalty kill, Gallagher has never been a regular in that regard and there’s little reason to think he’ll start now.
Despite the recent injuries, Gallagher’s per-game production has been fairly steady over the past four years even when you factor in the downtick last season. That consistency certainly has to be appealing from a fantasy perspective and it’s something that Ducharme undoubtedly loves as well.
But how much will a lower projected role change that? Evans has been decent offensively in the minors so there’s still probably some upside for him on that front but if Gallagher is on the ‘checking’ line, it’s hard to see him being at that 30-goal pace again. A big drop-off isn’t a guarantee but with his showing in the playoffs when he was in that role, it has to be considered a distinct possibility when planning for your fantasy draft. I’m also leery of the fact he has missed double-digit games in two straight seasons while playing a style that tends to make him a bit more injury prone as the years progress.
As a volume shooter (and that shouldn’t change even with a lesser role), Gallagher will still carry plenty of extra value for leagues that count shots on goal as a scoring category while points-based pools that put goals worth more than assists will also boost Gallagher’s value. He’s still a quality mid-round pick in larger leagues even with the forecast of a dip in production and worth a late-round flyer in shallower ones.