Sometime between now and training camp we’ll learn that Alex Galchenyuk has a new contract with the Canadiens. In the absence of an offer sheet from another NHL team or an approach from the KHL, Galchenyuk has only two remaining options. Both of them heavily favour the Canadiens. Coming out of an entry level contract and without arbitrtation rights the options are a multi-year contract of five or six seasons or a two-year “bridge” agreement.
THE CANADIENS POSITION
This contract will be the last time the Canadiens will be in the negotiation drivers’ seat with Galchenyuk and his agent Pat Brisson. If the Habs don’t get him under a five or six year contract at a price that fits, the next time Galchenyuk faces off against them, he will have gained arbitration rights meaning control of his salary can be taken away from the team and placed in the hands of a third party. If a player wants to go that route and his game progresses it becomes a case of either “pay-me-now…or pay-me-later.”
After the P.K. Subban contract circus of last summer is easy to forget what happened prior to the lockout season three years ago. In the summer of 2012 was in Galchenyuk’s current position; an RFA without arbitration rights. Subban apparently wanted a five year deal worth around five million a year. Only a couple of months into his tenure as Canadiens GM, Marc Bergevin took a hard line. Subban held out, missed training camp as well as the first four games of the season before finally settling on a two year deal worth a total of 5.75 million dollars. Six months after the bridge deal was announced Subban won the Norris Trophy. A year later, with arbitration rights, the Canadiens were forced to give Subban 72 million dollars over eight years.
THE REAL GALCHENYUK?
For the Canadiens, the problem is predicting how far Galchenyuk’s undisputed natural talent is going to take him. Starting with his lockout-shortened rookie season his average points-per-game has been 0:56; 0:48 and 0:57. He scored a career high 20 goals last season, but nobody is celebrating it as a breakthrough year. Even so, as a third overall draft pick, the Canadiens might be willing to gamble on his future to the tune of a six year deal at around 4.5 million a season. If there is anything general managers now fear it’s being locked into bad long term contracts. On the risk/reward scale, at the current level of Galchenyuk’s game, anything beyond 4.5 million tilts a contract into “risk” territory that Bergevin probably doesn’t want to enter.
In sports negotiations, the word “comparable” comes up on a regular basis. How does Galchenyuk rate among his peer group. Forwards Tyler Toffoli of the Kings, Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad, Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau and 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov all came out of their entry level contracts last month. Galchenyuk finished his season with 20 goals and 46 points. Zibanejad had the same numbers – 20 goals 46 points. Zibanejad had 23 goals and 49 points. All settled for bridge contracts. Toffoli has signed for two years for 3.25M a season. Zibanejad got 2.65 million a season for his two bridge years. Like Galchenyuk, Huberdeau, who was a third-overall pick the year before Galchenyuk, has yet to sign after scoring 54 points including 15 goals last season. Yakupov, who hasn’t been as productive as the others settled on two years at 2.5 million per season after 14 goals and 33 points.
Brendan Gallagher was in the same contractual situation as Galchenyuk this summer. He decided to forgo a bridge contract and sign a six year deal at an average 3.75 million. I can’t imagine Galchenyuk and his agent accepting a financial deal in that neighbourhood. Like most of the rest of us, Galchenyuk has reason to think there’s will be a breakthrough in the near future. The Canadiens probably would rather wait and hope that breakthrough arrives. The Canadiens are in the driver’s seat right now and odds are they’re going to take a conservative route and settle for a short term deal at around 3 million. Two years from now, Bergevin may be back and be dealing with a player who will be demanding and getting big money.
Or not. That’s up to Galchenyuk.