Canadiens Sign Petry to 6 Yr/$33M Contract; What’s Next?

In Featured by kamal

After what can only be described as a stroke of genius by Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline, and an above-average contribution to help bolster the Canadiens’ blue line in the latter part of the season and the playoffs, it was announced today that Jeff Petry signed a six-year, $33 Million contract to remain with the Habs.

The deal includes a full no-movement, no-trade clause, which has become a standard offering by teams wishing to sign trade deadline acquisition prior to them testing the free agent market come July 1st.

Many assumed that Petry, a native of Detroit, Michigan, wanted to sign with his home town Red Wings, however this year’s playoff run, and the experience of playing with the league’s most storied franchise, seemed to be enough to keep the 6′ 3″, 196 lbs defensemen with “Les Glorieux”.

The signing now solidifies the top four defensemen on the Canadiens’ blue line, with Norris trophy nominee P.K. Subban, veteran Andrei Markov and up and comer Nathan Beaulieu.

The last two spots and the role of the Canadiens’ 7th defenseman are now up for grabs. While Alexei Emelin is still under contract until the 2017-2018 season, many observers believe, given the chatter about the Russian blue liner being dealt during the season, that the Habs may shop him around to try and alleviate themselves of the $4.1 Million cap hit his contract represents. Emelin has not looked anywhere as good as he did prior to injuring his knee against the Bruins on April 6th, 2013.

Emelin would definitely be a player teams would be interested in. His brutal physical assaults on opponents have brought many a Canadiens fan out of their seats, and would be a welcomed addition to any blue line. One team in particular, the Edmonton Oilers, might be a good fit. With the expected selection of Erie Otters’ superstar Connor McDavid in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Oilers will have to part ways with one of their young forwards. Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov have both been rumoured to be trading chips for Edmonton, but that may all change with the arrival of their new GM, Peter Chairelli.

That said, the Canadiens are in a situation that will force them to make some very difficult decisions. Jarred Tinordi, who played the majority of last season with the Habs’ AHL affiliate, nursed a wrist injury for the majority of the season. His 6′ 5″, 218 lbs frame is a much need commodity on the Canadiens’ back end, so the organization cannot afford to make the wrong decision in his case. Tinordi is a restricted free agent, and must be signed to an offer sheet prior to July 1st.

Veteran rearguard Tom Gilbert ran hot and cold all season for the Canadiens. While he showed flashes of why Marc Bergevin signed him in the off-season last year, he also made his share of defensive gaffs in his own zone. The inconsistency in his game may relegate the 32 year-old to the role of 7th defenseman, as was the case with former Hab Mike Weaver, whose game plummeted since he resigned with the club after some fantastic play in the 2013-2014 run to the Eastern Conference finals.

Then, there is Greg Pateryn. For the last two seasons, this analyst fully expected the American-born defenseman to crack the Canadiens’ roster in 2012-2013, only to see get pushed back down to the AHL by the signings of Douglas Murray and the aforementioned Gilbert. In the latter part of last season, the native of Sterling Heights, MI showed he had all the necessary tools, the skills and the mindset to remain with the big club.

Now What?

With the defense accounted for, now the daunting task of adding supplemental scoring is what faces the Canadiens’ brass. While GM Bergevin was unwilling to admit what needed to be done going into next season, it’s all but a foregone conclusion that the Canadiens’ 1st round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Alex Galchenyuk, will need to make the move to centre at the start of next season.

Galchenyuk has spent most of his first three NHL seasons on the left wing, bouncing from linemate to linemate, and restricted to playing up and down the half wall. Having watched quite a bit of his junior career with the Sarnia Sting, it’s obvious that his biggest asset is his ability to use the entire offensive zone to create scoring opportunities. Despite Canadiens’ coach Michel Therrien claiming his young forward needs to improve in his own zone, Galchenyuk finished last season with a +8 rating. He is oftentimes the first forward back in support of his defenseman, unlike some of his teammates who seem disinterested in defending their own zone.

With a move to centre, the Canadiens would now need to address the need for a scoring winger. Granted, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche last off-season in exchange for Daniel Briere to fill that need, but a string of concussion issues kept the veteran right winger from getting his game to where everyone expected it to be.

Many expect the Habs to make a move or two at the 2015 NHL draft in Sunrise, FL, and they may be right, but there is a name on the unrestricted free agent list that is definitely worth dealing a draft pick or two to get the negotiating rights for before the 2015 free agent frenzy begins.

Capitals’ forward Joel Ward, who had 19 goals and 15 assists during the regular season and added another 14 points in the playoffs, can fit the bill nicely in my opinion. His size and physicality, along with his ability to finish from in tight, would be a much needed addition to the Canadiens’ all but non-existent power play. His play along the boards, and ability to separate the puck from defenders would help the likes of Max Pacioretty and Galchnyuk, but allowing them to get into prime shooting areas in anticipation of Ward’s puck retrieval prowess.

It’s going to be a very interesting summer for Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens, and given the long term commitment given already to Jeff Petry, for once, this team will be the aggressor.