Marc Bergevin says re-signing defenseman Jeff Petry is a priority.
According to Bergevin, “I like his skating; the way he competes; the way he recovers the puck in our zone like he has a plan when he gets the puck. He’s a player who eats up at least 20 good minutes of ice time and that’s important.”
But we all knew that. Once Petry settled in after the deal that brought him over from Edmonton at the trade deadline, he moved right up the depth chart to the point where it could be argued he was number two behind P.K. Subban.
With that foremost in Bergevin’s mind, he has thirty-two days to get Petry’s name on a multi-year contract before he becomes one of the most coveted of this year’s unrestricted free agent crop. Whereever he lands, Petry is not going to come cheap.
On so many different levels, signing Petry to a long term Canadiens contract will be a massive juggling act.
It starts with with the always pesky salary cap. One thing the Canadiens don’t want to do is sacrifice the future the way the Boston Bruins did two years ago. At the moment they have seventeen players and 58.77 million dollars under contract for next season. We’re told the salary cap will be 71 million. That leaves Bergevin with just over 12 million dollars of cap room and six roster spots to fill.
So we go to our calculators. As restricted free agents, Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu are probably going to take up 5 million of that 12 million. . Bergevin also says he wants to sign unrestricted free agent Torrey Mitchell, probably at between 2 and 2.5 million (He earned 2.4 million last season). That brings the roster up to twenty with somewhere around five million of remaining cap space and still three roster spots to fill. We have to assume that Petry is going to demand over five million a season. As you can see, the math doesn’t add up without some intervention.
One need only look back to last June when Bergevin was able to unload Daniel Briere’s contract to know how creative Bergevin can be. Once again his only hope of clearing space for a Petry contract is once against clearing cap space through a trade. The first name that comes to mind is Alexei Emelin and his 4.1 million dollar annual deal. But Emlin has a total no-trade deal in effect until 2016 which appears to shut the door on that possiblity.
Will Bergevin try to go in a different direction? The sense he gave us during his post-playoff news conference was yes, he is prepared to go the extra mile to get Petry under contract. “I know (Petry’s) strengths. He fits perfect with our team. Obviously, it’s a priority to bring him back to Montreal. We’ll do our best to keep him in Montreal and I think he wants to be here.”
Petry may want to stay in Montreal or, he may not. That remains to be seen. What is obvious, there are ten or twelve teams who would love to pay big money for a puck-moving defenseman of Petry’s calibre if he were to hit free agency on July first.
At the top of that potential list are the Detroit Red Wings. Petry’s father was a starting pitcher and 18 game winner on the 1984 World Series champion Detroit Tigers. Son Jeff was born and grew up in Ann Arbor Michigan. It’s still his off-seaspm home. One of the reasons the Wings have come up Stanley Cup-short over the last half dozen years has been a failure to come up with an offensive blueline threat after the retirements of Niklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalsky. The suspicion is, Ken Holland would open the vault to land Petry.
The Canadiens gave up their 2015 second round draft pick (plus a 2015 fourth-rounder) to Edmonton to land Petry. He was worth it. The added benefit is they own sole negotiation rights right up to noon on July first. That gives plenty of time for Bergevin to get creative with his own roster and salary cap and at the same time persuasive in his talks with Petry.
And Petry? He told reporters “My play is done and now it’s up to what (my agent) is going to do and what they want to negotiate. But I really love Montreal. I love being here and I have a lot of fun playing here. We’ll see what happens.”
Yes we will. Can Bergevin sign him? He faces a minefield which includes his own salary cap, financial competition from other teams and last, but hardly least, where Petry and his family would like to spend their winters over the next five or six years. Predicting the end game is a really tough call.