Jeff Petry hasn’t been around for too long having only been acquired at the trade deadline. However, he made an instant impact with the Canadiens and is poised to land a big deal on the UFA market. Should the Habs be the team to give it to him?
Inside the Numbers
Petry’s reputation suggests he should be getting more points than he does. 2014-15 yielded the second highest point total of his career which sounds nice but only until you realize he posted just 24 points overall, seven of which came with the Habs in 19 games. He did, however, log significant minutes both with Edmonton (20:57/game) and Montreal (22:11/game), ranking in the top-50 league-wide for total icetime by a defenceman.
In the postseason, Petry was Montreal’s most stable defender in the defensive zone though again, his production was low relative to the skills he brings to the table. Despite the struggles of Andrei Markov and the inconsistent efforts from P.K. Subban, Michel Therrien didn’t seem comfortable asking Petry to handle a larger role as his ice time was nearly identical to the regular season (22:16/game).
The numbers that will jump out more to teams are hits and blocks. After joining the Canadiens, he averaged more than two hits per night and 1.7 blocks, a pace that stay-at-home pluggers hit but typically not the smooth skaters like Petry.
Season Stats: 78 GP, 7 goals, 15 assists, 22 points, -28 rating, 42 PIMS, 126 shots
Playoff Stats: 12 GP, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points, +2 rating, 4 PIMS, 27 shots
Argument to keep him
At 27, Petry is just entering the prime of his career and Marc Bergevin should be comfortable enough to give him a long-term pact without worrying about him breaking down by the end. Having another player capable of logging big minutes should help give Michel Therrien the confidence to start reducing Andrei Markov’s minutes. Signing Petry would give Montreal two very strong options on the right side of the blueline which is of particular importance because their prospect depth in that area yields a lot of bottom pairing options but likely no top-4 players.
It’s hard to watch Petry’s game and not think that there’s another level to his offensive game. The skills are there, they just haven’t translated to results yet. With a full year on a good team, there’s some reason for optimism that he can be more of a point producer moving forward.
Argument to let him go
It’s a weak market for UFA defencemen meaning Petry’s likely to get a deal that’s worth a fair bit more than his actual value. He’s a second pairing player who is very likely to get #2 money. As much as there’s room for optimism that he can produce more, he hasn’t over 300+ NHL games; how much more should Bergevin be willing to pay for hope?
What is Montreal’s biggest weakness right now? A lack of consistent goal scoring. Knowing that, is it wise to spend big on another blueliner? Signing Petry would make it highly likely that the Habs would be spending 50% or more of their cap on non-offensive options (goalies and defencemen). Would that money be better spent on trying to find a player or two that will bolster the attack?
Quality free agent blueliners this offseason are few and far between and Petry is likely to be one of the most sought after defencemen if not the most sought after on the market. As a result, he’s going to get well over what his market value would be otherwise.
To try to get a bit of an idea of a market value, I’ve picked three blueliners who have somewhat similar numbers and playing styles to Petry: Dmitry Kulikov ($4.33 M, 24 years old), Paul Martin ($5 million, 34 years old, pending UFA), and Justin Braun ($3.8 million, 28 years old). The average of those three players is around $4.4 million (and that’s with a player who still has RFA eligibility) which is in the neighbourhood of what second pairing players are getting on their new deals.
However, as a top free agent in a soft market, there is going to be a ‘premium’ paid to get Petry. It may only be a few hundred thousand but it’s not crazy to think it could be at or higher than $1 million either; it all depends on who all is trying to sign him and what the other players are doing. That puts his market value anywhere from $4.5 million per year to $5.75 million or so.
Term will also play a role. Given his age and the fact that the other quality blueliners are all several years older, I’d imagine he has a chance of signing the longest deal of any player in free agency. 6-7 years seems likely.
I believe Petry when he says that he wants to re-sign with Montreal. However, I also believe him from earlier in the year when he said he’d be interested in going through the free agency process. If he does go through to the open market, I wouldn’t be too optimistic about the Habs’ chances.
My guess is that Bergevin is willing to do a long-term deal and even pay some sort of premium to do so. However, I suspect there are other teams willing to pay a higher premium than Bergevin.
If Montreal is going to re-sign him, it’s going to be at an amount that many are going to be uncomfortable with. At the end of the day, I think he gets at least six years with an AAV around $5.5 million. Unless there’s a pre-arranged deal to unload some money off the blueline, I have a hard time thinking it will be Bergevin giving Petry that deal as I can’t see the team being comfortable with spending even less on forwards than they did this past year, something that signing him would cause (barring a trade, of course).