When the Montreal Canadiens selected Brendan Gallagher in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, there likely weren’t many who expected him to be an every day NHL player. Now, less than three seasons into his career, he’s signed himself a six-year extension worth upwards of $20 million.
The Canadiens announced the deal early Saturday night, with the official terms being a six-year contract extension worth an annual value of $3.75 million, which will be reflected in the cap hit. Simply put, it’s just another example of fantastic work by Montreal GM Marc Bergevin. By inking Gallagher now, he sets the landscape for re-signing his other big restricted free agent, Alex Galchenyuk.
Outside of Montreal, there usually isn’t much talk about the 5-foot-9 pesky forward unless it’s about just that – him being a pest. But Gallagher has carved out quite the spot for himself early in his career, drawing the tough opponents and, for the most part, succeeding against the competition.
In fact, among all Canadiens forwards, no player consistently draws more difficult competition or fares as well as Gallagher does when given the tough minutes. This season alone, he’s taken nearly a third of his starts in the defensive zone, yet is still a positive Corsi player. All this is to say that at less than $4 million per season, Bergevin has himself a steal of a deal for the 22-year-old winger.
Some will look at the 12 points and say that the Canadiens have offered up too much for a guy who won’t be much more than a thorn in the side of opponents, but his production has actually been admirable for a player that wasn’t expected to even have half of this offensive upside.
What’s even better for the Canadiens is that they’ve locked Gallagher up for six seasons while having cap flexibility this season and beyond. The cap hit isn’t bad, but even for those who think Gallagher may be overpaid, just realize that as the cap slowly increases, this deal is only going to take up less of Montreal’s space while giving them the room to make the moves necessary to be a perennial contender, and that’s the best thing.
Tomas Plekanec will be looking for a new deal in 2016-17. Rookie Jiri Sekac will be entering restricted free agency that same season. The next season, David Desharnais will be eligible for unrestricted free agency. And that’s not to mention Gallagher’s deal will still be in effect when Max Pacioretty’s deal is up in 2019-20. You can also throw in role players Brandon Prust, Dale Weise, and P-A Parenteau to that free agent mix. Cap flexibility is going to need to be a must for Montreal, and they’re got more than enough with this deal.
With a lineup that already has one of the game’s most elite goaltenders and defenseman, adding in a shutdown forward gives them a player with almost every tool. Add in scoring – Galchenyuk, when locked up, can provide that in droves along with Max Pacioretty – and a healthy dose of shutdown defense? The Canadiens will be a team that’s competitive for years to come.