Jeff Petry made an immediate impact with the Habs after being acquired at the trade deadline. Now armed with a new long-term deal, what should be expected of him in his first full season with the Canadiens?
Petry didn’t have the best of seasons with the Oilers but then again, the same can be said for just about everyone on Edmonton last year. Despite that and his stated desire to test free agency, he was the best blueliner on the market at the trade deadline. When he got to Montreal, it didn’t take too long before he showed that he could thrive on a good team.
Michel Therrien put Petry to the test quickly, actually giving him a bigger role with the Habs than he had in Edmonton. Although he got off to a bit of a slow start, he steadily picked up his play as he got accustomed to the different defensive system while he showed a surprising offensive touch at the end of the season, going on a six game point streak after being held pointless in his first twelve games with the team).
The postseason is where he really made his mark though. The top pairing of Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban was quite often volatile and as a result, Petry became ‘Mr. Reliable’ for the team. Personally, I thought he was Montreal’s top overall blueliner in the playoffs even though his numbers weren’t anything to write home about.
Marc Bergevin obviously was a fan of Petry’s play as well as in June, the team convinced him to forego free agency, signing him to a six year, $33 million contract with varying levels of no-trade protection. In terms of cap hit ($5.5 M), this tied for the second most expensive contract handed out to any pending UFA defenceman this offseason – Mike Green (DET) came in at $6 M while Andrej Sekera (LA) matched Petry’s cap hit.
Season Stats: 78 GP, 7 goals, 15 assists, 22 points, -28 rating, 42 PIMS, 1 PPG, 0 SHG, 1 GWG, 126 shots, 21:15 TOI
(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are pro-rating all of 2012-13’s numbers over a typical 82-game year. Petry only has four full seasons of NHL experience.)
When you play behind the most expensive defenceman in the league in Subban, top pairing minutes are going to be really hard to come by, at least at even strength. Fortunately for Petry, Therrien trusted him with all sorts of special teams time last year so he’s still going to play more than a typical second pairing defenceman.
One area that I could see a drop in ice time coming is on the power play. During the regular season, he played 1:40 with the man advantage with Montreal; that number jumped to 2:12 per game in the playoffs. If you expect Nathan Beaulieu to get some PP time, there’s a decent chance that will cut into Petry’s time. Markov is still going to see considerable minutes on the power play and Subban is still going to get the lion’s share of the two minutes. In the end, it’s not inconceivable that Petry sees his regular season PP ATOI get cut by as much as 50%.
With Markov slowing down considerably last year and Petry now being around for the long haul, expect there to be a transition of sorts between the two when it comes to who is the #2 blueliner on this team. Markov will almost assuredly start in that role but as the season progresses and he starts to fatigue, Petry should slide into that role without much difficulty.
Petry appears to be a player who looks to have the skills to be much more of an offensive weapon than he actually will be. With Markov and Subban ahead of him and both proven high-end producers, that’s not a bad thing for the Habs although that’s certainly not ideal for fantasy pools for which these articles are written.
Fortunately, Petry does provide some sneaky value in leagues that have a lot of different scoring categories. There were only 23 defencemen last year who had 100 or more hits, shots on goal, and blocked shots. In standard points leagues, pools with those categories takes Petry from a waiver wire defenceman to a decent end-of-roster option. In head-to-head leagues, he could be a second pairing defender as consistent production in those categories is really nice to have on the latter third of a roster.
After four straight seasons of point totals in or around 20 (including the lockout year which pro-rated to 21), it’s safe to put a fairly low ceiling on Petry’s offensive production. The Habs are not a high powered offence and if he doesn’t see a lot of PP time, those numbers just aren’t going to be there. He should come in around that 20 point mark once again but if you’re in a league where hits, blocks, and shots count, you’re going to want him on your roster nonetheless. I’d also expect a huge turnaround in plus/minus, a nice benefit of being on a much more competitive team.