Montreal’s long list of impact potential unrestricted free agents in the 2021 offseason is well-known. However, they shrunk that list by one on Friday as they announced that Jeff Petry has signed a four-year, $25 million extension that will begin in 2021-22. The deal contains a full no-move clause as well as a 15-team no-trade clause which is the same level of protection that he has in his existing deal.
Over the past five seasons (plus his brief stint in 2014-15 when he was added as a rental player from Edmonton), the 32-year-old has blossomed into a borderline top pairing defenceman with an ability to lead the rush with his speed and puck-moving ability. While Petry still has his bouts of inconsistency away from the puck, he has quietly become one of the more quietly consistent scoring threats from the back end, notching at least 11 goals and 40 points in each of the last three seasons. Along the way, he has also stepped up when Shea Weber has been injured and shown himself to be capable of logging heavy minutes.
It’s these reasons that make it completely unsurprising that GM Marc Bergevin made him a top priority to get an extension done. Yes, it means that they’ll have two guys that are 37 on the back end by the time this contract expires but in the short term, it gives the Canadiens two impact defencemen at a time where they’re looking to get back into legitimate playoff contention (instead of backing in via an expanded format as they wound up doing this season).
It also gives the Habs some certainty when it comes to the right side of their back end. Beyond Weber and Petry, there are a handful of prospects with some upside but question marks regarding their long-term NHL ceiling. Noah Juulsen has missed the better part of two years, Cale Fleury held his own at times this season on the third pairing but that may be his overall upside, and Josh Brook is a long way away from being ready. And after that, there’s basically nothing. With Weber and Petry locked up through 2024-25, it lessens the need to be counting on two or more of those prospects to become full-time regulars in the not-too-distant future.
Of course, as is the case with any other extension handed out between now and next offseason, there will be expansion considerations. Petry could have been a candidate to have been left unprotected had he not been extended (assuming he’d have waived his NMC) but now, he’s an automatic protectee. Weber is likely to land another of those spots so assuming Montreal goes with the 7/3/1 scheme, that leaves only one defensive protection spot open for Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Brett Kulak, Victor Mete, plus Juulsen and Fleury. (It’s safe to say they’ll be losing a defenceman to Seattle…)
However, that particular opportunity cost wasn’t enough to dissuade Bergevin from getting this deal done now. The fourth year could be potentially problematic but at the same time, it also may have kept the cap hit down; the cap hit percentage on this deal is actually slightly lower than his current contract (7.67% vs 7.97%) despite the increase in AAV from $5.5 million to $6.25 million. With several other notables needing new deals for 2021-22 (including Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar, and Phillip Danault among some of the UFAs plus Artturi Lehkonen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi heading up the RFAs), every dollar is going to count so to get Petry signed at only a small raise is particularly notable.
There’s plenty of work to be done still this offseason when it comes to 2020-21 but this move takes a big item off of the to-do list for 2021-22.