The decision to hand Jake Evans a three-year extension may have come as a surprise over the weekend but in the eyes of our writers, the surprise was a pleasant one. Here is our take on the three-year, $5.1 million deal.
Terry Costaris: This is a great signing for both the Habs and Evans. If the Montreal Canadiens have learned anything, it’s that you can never have enough quality centres on your roster. Evans has the potential to be a number two, or at worst, a very, very good number for centre.
As for Evans, he is financially set for the rest of his life. It would take someone 50 years, earning an average of $100,000 a year, to make what this player will rake in these next three years. I realize that for some athletes, this kind of money gets blown in four to five years but I seriously doubt that this highly disciplined player will declare bankruptcy in the future.
There is also no doubt in my mind that this heart and soul player will fail to give it his all game in, game out. And this deal is during his prime years.
The only way that Evans will not be able to fulfill his end of the bargain will be due to his potential vulnerability to concussions – so there definitely is a risk in signing him and why his contract was not higher. If Evans can’t play though, Montreal can put him on LTIR and then utilize those cap savings.
This is a win-win scenario for both Evans and the Habs.
What if Evans adequately replaces Phillip Danault and his $5.5 million a year salary? Wouldn’t this be amazing?! If Evans does, then Marc Bergevin has pulled yet another Max Pacioretty bargain contact out of his GM hat.
Every deal has an element of risk but getting Jake Evans at his prime for only $1.7M a year is a pretty savvy move. I like this deal. I like it a lot.
Allan Katz: It’s hard to have a solid original take on the Jake Evans extension. The money is a fair amount for third line centres. The three years covers some of what would have been free agent years. Evans has always performed above expectations and has consistently improved. So, what this essentially is, is a bet on Evans’ continued improvement. If Jake keeps improving and shows some offensive flashes Bergevin will have a steal on his hands. If ten goals and thirty assists is achieved that will be the start to a solid career.
From Provost to Keane to Jarvis, amongst many others, the Habs (and all teams) need plumbers to not only fit between the skill talents but also show just enough to turn a good team into a potentially elite team. Evans has not proven he’s that man yet. It is obvious the team and the media both believe and like this guy. I’ve followed his career since he was drafted, and it’s impossible not to cheer for him, but there is one elephant in the room that keeps concerning me.
This extension feels like a bit of a band-aid to cover for Ryan Poehling’s less than inspiring career arc. Somehow, when last season ended, I never imagined that Evans would be practically handed the number three centre position. Evans gets full marks for a lot of things but it is the failures of others that allowed this to happen. It’s not like he went on a scoring splurge of any kind and thus demanded the position. There are a lot of “what if’s” to ponder if things had gone differently, but the bottom line, right now, is what will happen this year. We’re not only going to find out but I suspect many fans and members of the media will be cheering on Jake as more is revealed.
Brian La Rose: The Habs spend a lot of money on their bottom six with deals that are at or above market value. At this very moment, Evans could be adding to that group but unlike the others in that category, he has a chance to actually outperform this contract. The third centre spot is his so an increase in points is quite probable and he’s going to get more minutes on the penalty kill as well and if he does well there, there’s a case to make that his deal would have cost more next summer than this.
As Montreal’s young core gets more expensive, they’re going to need cheaper deals in the bottom six than the likes of Joel Armia, Paul Byron, and Artturi Lehkonen. This is a better price point for someone in that role, now we just need to see if Evans is up to the task. I don’t know if the offence comes around to the point where he’s a huge bargain but the Canadiens should still get good value from this deal.
Kevin Leveille: There are only two ways this signing can go. The first happens if Evans continues to progress and be an important centre on the team. Then signing him for $1.7M is an absolute steal, not so much for the money, but more so for the three years as he’ll likely be due a significant raise if this happens. The way this can go bad is that Evans has hit his ceiling or continues to be challenged in the staying healthy department. If that happens, then this remains a value signing and one that can likely be repeated in three years time. So, very little downside to this signing to me. Good get for Bergevin here.
Peter Longo: It’s really a no-lose contract for Bergevin.
In his first season in Montreal, playing 10 to 11 minutes per game, Evans scored 13 points in 47 games. Evans is a speedy, versatile forward, able to play wing and centre and is learning to be an excellent defensive forward. But he’s not an offensive threat. In two years in Laval, he averaged a consistent 0.67 and 0.74 points per game. While this is respectable, it is a bit of a leap to think he will become a +30-point player in the NHL. His ceiling is somewhere between the 3rd and 4th lines on a contending Stanley Cup team.
What is evident when looking at Evans’ hockey career (including four years at college and two years in Laval) is the 25-year-old continually develops and improves. While he may not have a high ceiling, each year he becomes a better player. I think this is what Bergevin had in mind when he inked the contract. He expects Evans to make continual improvements this year and during the three contract years while playing a strong shutdown role and killing penalties.
As it stands now, Bergevin just signed a speedy, defensive, penalty-killing fourth line player to a $1.7M contract. This is not a terrible contract and likely not one you will regret for a 25-year-old entering his prime. If Evans continues to improve and can produce 20 to 30 points, the contract will look good. But based on preseason games, it looks like Evans will get his shot at the third line centre role with much more talented wingers (Mike Hoffman and Brendan Gallagher?). While I think it’s a little bit of a mismatch, if Evans can jump-start his performance into a +30-point producer (while playing a two-way game), this contract will look amazing.
No matter how the future unfolds, it’s a no-lose situation for Bergevin.
Ken MacLeod: Signing Evans to a three-year extension with a $1.7M cap hit was a shrewd piece of business from Bergevin. Before the deal even runs its course, Habs fans might end up looking at it with the same appreciation they had for a similar contract signed by Paul Byron before the 2016-17 season.
The production isn’t there yet for the 25-year-old Toronto native, but Evans’ career progression and what is likely ahead of him this season – quality linemates, increased ice-time and a clearly defined top-nine role — point to a defensively responsible centre with good speed and faceoff abilities who has a decent chance to be a 35-40-point player over all three seasons of this contract.
The signs are there that he can capably fill the role; Evans was a consistent point producer in the NCAA and the AHL, averaging 40 points in each of his final three seasons with Notre Dame and two seasons with Laval. He’s also a much better skater today than when he left university and has added 15-20 pounds to what was once a slight frame.
Evans is an interesting player who has the potential to take full advantage of the Canadiens losing their number two and three centres in the offseason. I fully expect Evans to claim the third-line centre job out of training camp, have a fine season and make the upcoming deal look like a bargain for both sides.