Shortly after signing Jeff Petry to an extension last month, Marc Bergevin indicated that Brendan Gallagher was next. Things don’t be appearing to be going too well on that front as talks have broken off for the time being, agent Gerry Johansson confirmed to Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic.
In September, Bergevin had stated that the plan was to make Gallagher Montreal’s highest-paid forward. That mark was held exclusively by Jonathan Drouin before Montreal’s deal for Josh Anderson moved him up to a $5.5 million AAV as well. He also anticipated that a four-year or five-year deal wouldn’t be enough. Accordingly, we have a bit of an idea of what the Canadiens were offering.
Gallagher has been one of Montreal’s top-scoring forwards in recent years, leading the Habs in goals scored in three straight seasons. After picking up 31 and 33 in his previous two campaign, he dipped to 22 in 2019-20, a season that was shortened by injury and the pandemic. If you extrapolate his goal-per-game average over an 82-game season though, he’d have hit 31 so his production hasn’t really tailed off.
What doesn’t help in this case is the state of the market where players are having a hard time getting big money on long-term deals; Anderson is one of the few exceptions among forwards and he was only a restricted free agent. In fact, in terms of the length of a deal, Montreal’s recent signing of Tyler Toffoli made him the first forward to get more than three years among unrestricted free agents (anyone getting longer than that had been either a defenceman or goalie). With limited money going around, teams have more leverage than usual.
It’s the recent acquisitions of Anderson and Toffoli that gives Bergevin more leverage as well. Both are right wingers like Gallagher while Cole Caufield isn’t too far away from getting a look in the NHL as well. After being in a situation where that spot was their weakest before the draft, it’s now a position of strength and the Canadiens could conceivably replace him from within.
Of course, that’s not something that either side wants here. There’s still plenty of time to get a deal done – he’s not a UFA until next offseason which is probably sometime in late July or early August – so there isn’t any immediate cause for concern. Once the market is more established and things start to settle down league-wide on the UFA front, it wouldn’t be surprising to see discussions resume. Meanwhile, with Bergevin’s previous statement that he prefers to work on these one at a time, he could turn his focus to Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar, or Joel Armia if he so desires.