Bergovin spinning the wheel with Canadiens contracts

These are interesting times in Montreal. The news that Brendan Gallagher has signed a massive, six year extension to his contract with the Canadiens signals a potential complete strategy turnaround on the part of general manager Marc Bergevin.

Gallagher is the first – and so far only – player of any note on the squad to move directly from his entry-level contract to such a long term commitment. The deal is believed to average out at around $3.75 million a season. The rationale for Gallagher accepting the deal is cut and dried, but what the move says about the Canadiens’ plans going forwards has got pundits scratching their heads. Does this signal a change of tack?

Up to press, goaltender Carey Price, defenseman P.K. Subban, and forwards Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec have all been signed up on pretty standard two year deals for their second contracts. But the news concerning Gallagher is being interpreted as the sign of a radical change in policy.

Bergevin has acknowledged that long term deals do represent something of a spin of the roulette wheel – it’s like gambling on SuperCasino, you can never wholly account for vagaries of fitness and form – but he has not be afraid to put his money down, and you have to respect his courage in making that call.

At the same time, the future of Alex Galchenyuk, whose contractual position is still undecided, has become a hot talking point. The 20 year old center entered the NHL in the same 2012-2013 season as Gallagher, but whilst his stats may have been slightly inferior to date, there are plenty who argue that he is the man with the greater long term potential. Bergovin assumed the role of GM that same season, so he has been in the perfect place at all points to make an assessment.

Bergovin is having to trade carefully: a friendly salary cap charge on the Gallagher deal gave him the necessary leeway to secure the player’s future for the long-term, but he may not have quite the same freedom when it comes to tying down Galchenyuk.

Even so, some cute wheeling and dealing means that there is still enough budgetary elbow room to make things interesting. Bergevin’s trading of Travis Moen for Sergei Gonchar and Rene Bourque for Bryan Allen freed up some cash as Moen and Bourque each had a year remaining on their contract, while Gonchar and Allen are both defensemen on expiring deals.
The numbers crunch down to give Bergovin something in the order of $6.6 million to play with. That clearly isn’t in the ball park when it comes to matching the Gallagher deal, but it may be enough to offer Galchenyuk something persuasive over a shorter term.

Quite what Bergovin wil be able to offer remains to be seen. A few more spins of the roulette wheel may be necessary before we see precisely how the final numbers turn out. Only then will we be able to declare with any certainty that the Canadiens are changing their strategy.