Rabid Habs

Signing Jeff Petry Is Going To Be a Mistake

Habs' Jeff Petry

It has been a couple of days now since the Montreal Canadiens announced that they have re-signed the pending Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) Jeff Petry to a six-year, $33 million contract.

Well, as is the case whenever any sort of breaking news bounces around social media, I am not really the type of person to jump the gun. Instead I prefer to sit back, take my time, perhaps play a few games on NHL15, let the news digest and essentially assess what has happened.

Call it procrastination if you must, and sure you may interpret the timing of this blog as being late to the party but I much prefer to think of it as patience and that good things come from those who wait.

So I am just going to come out and say it. I am frightened albeit prepared to deal with the consequences from the on slot of naysayers, but I am not a fan of this signing whatsoever.

Now before I continue, I absolutely must make a couple of things clear. I think that Jeff Petry is a quality NHL defenseman. I was more than impressed with his puck moving skills, his ability to jump into the rush, his ability to use his 6’3 frame to box opposing forwards out of prime scoring areas and frankly played a lot more physical than I envisioned he would be.

I also believe that Bergevin made the right move in acquiring Petry for a playoff run at the Trade Deadline and that the assets he gave up for those services were more than acceptable.

For the record I think that Petry is an upgrade over Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Tom Gilbert as well but despite all of this, re-signing Petry is in my mind a mistake, and here’s why:

Powerless Play

The Canadiens’ power play was abysmal in the 2014-15 season and into the playoffs. It was without a doubt the Achilles heal of the team which ultimately lead to the Habs being ousted in the playoffs in the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Petry was supposed to be the answer to that dilemma. A puck moving defenseman who would help in all facets of the game. His ability to make quick passes, and skate the puck up the ice. His vision while in the offensive zone and of course another big shot from the point to compensate for teams overpaying on PK Subban.

So where was this? His presence did absolutely nothing for a powerplay that struggled all year long.

The Canadiens were pathetic on the powerplay prior to his arrival and continued their lackluster play once he arrived and for a team which relies heavily on scoring on the man advantage, this is a major concern.

This does not take away from his offensive abilities and his overall play as a member of the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge. He was solid at even strength, but if your role is offense and to help with the man advantage then it’s time to second guess his effectiveness.

Let the Kids Play

There comes a point with the evolution of your hockey team when you simply need to stand up and say “enough is enough”. I am so completely and utterly fed up of hearing that the “kids” aren’t ready.

Not to be vulgar here but it’s time for management to shit or get off the pot. Either you play the kids for half a season and see what they have, or you part ways with them and acquire some assets before their value is at an all time low.

To watch a budding player like PK Subban, Nathan Beaulieu and more recently Jarred Tinordi play in constant fear of being stapled to the bench if they commit a simple error is infuriating. This is even further compounded when supposed veterans who know better have a leash which extends a mile long.

I don’t know about you but the thought of a D core which contains the likes of Subban, Beaulieu, Tinordi and Pateryn is a lot more exciting than what we have been witness to in the past couple of seasons.

And please do not give me an excuse that defense wins championships and veterans are the way to go. To argue that playing an abundance of youth is detrimental to the club is simply a fallacy. Look at the 2014-15 edition of the Anaheim Ducks. Remove grandfather Beauchemin and Stoner and the remaining 4 starting D-men were all 23 years old or younger. They seemed to do alright didn’t they?

Why is it that arguably the best team in the West can play kids but a team like Montreal cannot?

The Habs have some solid depth who need to play to gain confidence and be effective. Beaulieu took leaps and bounds, Tinordi and Pateryn will do the same. We need to let the kids play.

Cap Woes is Me

With the NHL salary cap going up to roughly $71.2 million next season, this essentially translated into a little over $12 million in cap space for the Habs for the 2015-16 before Petry was signed. This amount has now been reduced by $5.5 million a season leaving Marc Bergevin with about $7 million a year to spend.

Typically $7.0 million would be more than enough for a team to do some good but a quick look at the Canadiens’ roster and you’ll discover that that the team must figure out contracts with pending RFA players Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, Brian Flynn, Michael Bournival, Christian Tomas and Alex Galchenyuk who are all slated to be receiving 1-way contracts in the NHL.

Now if I were a betting man I could argue that the aforementioned players would be making roughly a combined $9-10 million a year with the breakdown as follows:

Galchenyuk: $3.5 million

Beaulieu: $2.5 million

Tinordi: $900k

Flynn: $750k

Bournival: $700k

Thomas: $700k

Right now there simply isn’t enough money to go around to sign the current list of Restricted Free Agents (RFA) so how exactly does Bergevin address the most pressing need, a lack of scoring and the lack of size down the middle when he is already faced with cap issues?

The only answer right now is via trade.

Conclusion

Anyway, I know what you are going to say. You think I’ve lost it. How can I sit here and actually argue that retaining Petry would be a mistake? As I pointed out, I like the guy. He’s the 2nd best D-man on the team and will be here for an additional 6 years.

I think my reasoning goes back to something I mentioned in a previous blog, the Habs are just not a contending team yet. They have holes on D, holes on the wing, holes down the middle and I would argue holes behind the bench.

Are we closer to the cup with Petry now putting us so tight against the cap that wiggle room is next to impossible without shedding some big salaried players? No, we are not.

The organization needs to realize that the Habs are not cup contenders. They are an average team with borderline perfection in net. They need to realize that to play a veteran over the place of a kid when your team is not a contender is simply counter productive to the future success of your team. The right thing would have been to save the cap space and give experience to the kids.

The question now is what is going to happen?

Ok, I have said what I have had to say. I am now prepared to be chastised. Go.

Follow Bryan on Twitter @BryanWilley78.

6 Comments

  1. Lyle

    June 4, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Great read. Valid point. I just feel there aren’t any more dmen out there to do what Petry does. The other holes can be filled via trade…plekanec,Emelin and Markov all have value to make room for other players coming in or to free up cap space for the remaining rfa we currently have. Target…Thornton,E.Staal.

  2. Matt Godbout

    June 4, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    I understand your view, but you can’t fill holes on the team by not adding anything to it. If petry is now the second best dman on the team, it’s time to move out the players outside the top 6-7. The same goes for the forwards. Sign the rfa’s and start making deals for players that are redundant or just not up to par. The formula isn’t complicated, the core is there and rock solid and that’s the hardest part to get. Now build around it with players that compliment the core as best as possible.

  3. Bryan

    June 4, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Lyle I agree with your comments but here is the issue. MARKOV has a NMC and Emelin has a no trade I believe. There is no chance Markov waives it. So how do you part neither it knowing he’s here for 2 more years. If we didn’t have emelin or markov to me it’s a no brainer but we have too many heaby contracts and too many nhl contracts. I just fear what happens next

  4. Matthew Farokh-Pour

    June 4, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    There was never a chance that Petry would be the antidote for the Habs abysmal PP. Lack of offensive creativity was to blame. Here’s how I see the Habs pp time being used: 25% figuring out how to make the zone entry, 25% time wasted forechecking from using the dump to establish themselves deep in the zone, and then the rest is either spent chasing the puck because they couldn’t maintain possession due to energy being wasted off the dump, or time is wasted trying to feed the puck to the point. If the zone entries were cleaner, and if more offence was generated down low as opposed to relying heavily on the point, pp efficiency would be much better.

    As for letting the young guns flourish, I do not want to see Beaulieu nor Tinordi playing on the right. I’d like to see Beaulieu get some top 4 minutes this upcoming season, but definitely in his natural position. Tinner should be getting top 6 minutes, although his style of play takes a bit longer to hone due to the heavy reliance on physicality and on strong defensive play. Either way, he shouldn’t be on the right. As for Pateryn, I’d definitely like to see him on the main roster. I would not be opposed to moving Gilbert to give him the top 6 spot and freeing up some cap space in the process. So the way I see it, there was a hole on the right side in the top 4 position, and Petry is the perfect fit.

    Nevertheless, good article. Always a pleasure reading some alternative opinions.

  5. Shawn Arsenault

    June 5, 2015 at 10:18 am

    I have to disagree with your opinion on his signing being a mistake. Using your 3 points I will comment on my feelings towards this

    1) Powerless Play
    Saying that Petry was to come in and be the answer to this is a farce. One guy cannot fix a 10 man (2 PP team lines) setup. (Unless your last name is Gretzky, Lemieux or Crosby) There is a larger problem to the powerplay. It has been for 2 seasons and once its fixed through coaching and management, Petry will add to the backend like Subban and Beaulieu will. Like I said, saying 1 person will be the saviour to a section of the game is not a fair assessment.

    2) Let the Kids Play
    Pateryn and Beaulieu were total staples nearing the end of the season. Think about it, no Gonchar or Weaver, The kids are playing. I find people’s opinions on Tinordi are very blurred. Its not about the 1 mistake he made in overtime to allow a goal. Its the 35 mistakes he makes defensively leaving players open because he is trying to check others at the wrong time. This experience will come, but till then, he needs more time in the Farm, maybe be a 7th at best. Petry = 27, Subban = 26, Beaulieu = 22, Pateryn = 24, Emelin = 29….. 5/7 defensemen under 30 and Gilbert is only 32. Don’t you need some experience on the back end?

    3) Cap Woes is Me
    Ok Salary cap can be an issue here. With you I agree. But if you look at the players Bergevin has traded to make cap space, he is DA MAN!!! You can almost guess there will be a move to trade Emelin, maybe Plekanec as Eller is more defensively sound and can fill that role. Besides being a tank on the ice, defensively Emelin’s game has dropped and players are skating around him, clearing up that 4.5 mil would help for sure.

    Overall, if a person is someone that looks into the now, maybe petry is excessive. When you are looking at the long term of the team, and have time to tweak, Petry is a perfect fit. When Markov’s contract expires after this season, if Montreal didn’t sign Petry, how do you fill that hole? Its already filled now and when Markov retires, its a spot that opens permanently for Pateryn or Tinordi. Trade Emelin now and that spot is already there. I believe signing is a win win situation for all

  6. Jeff

    June 8, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Markov has a full NMC until July 1st after that it is a modified clause. Not sure of the particulars, but I would assume it would involve a list of 10 teams he would or wouldn’t go to. My source is generalfanager.com