Rabid Habs

The Forum: Do We Like The Jeff Petry Signing?

Habs' Jeff Petry

It’s the sporadic summer edition of The Forum. That time of the year when we drop one of these when something big happens. The Canadiens have locked up defenceman Jeff Petry for six seasons at $5.5 million AAV. Are we happy with this news Habs fans?

Kyle (@kyleroussel) – It’s great news. The Habs didn’t have to wait until the start of silly season before locking up the best UFA defenseman available. That Petry signed for pretty much market value is another win for Bergevin. It also likely signals the end for either Emelin, Markov or Gilbert. There’s a lot of money tied up in the back end so our savvy GM will have to work some more magic, and maybe solve some of his scoring woes at the same time!

John (@RabidHabs_CJ) – The signing of Jeff Petry was a strong move and signals a major advantage going forward; players now want to join the core of the Montreal Canadiens. So much as this deal was built on a financial foundation, it also speaks to a desire to play with players such as PK and Price, among the elite at their respective positions.

Not four years ago the Canadiens struggled to attract free agents. Now, Montreal is fast becoming a desired location. The team is entering a period in which they should be among the elite in the Eastern Conference. They have an excellent young core, with all key players 28 and under. The time to win is now and players such as Petry recognize and value this opportunity. Four years ago the Habs would have needed to pay market value plus an additional 10 to 20 percent. Yesterday the Habs signed a pending free agent at a 10-20 percent discount. I can’t understate this point.

I really like the timing of this deal as it now allows Bergevin to trade from a position of strength going into the draft. Our top 5 is set on defence (PK, Beaulieu, Markov, Petry and Pateryn). Emelin and Gilbert are both chips who could, and should, be dealt to help improve payroll flexibility and balance. The defence already looks younger, stronger, balanced and more skillful. Petry is a natural fit with Markov on the second pairing, keeping the General around the 21:00 TOI each game, while allowing Beaulieu to join PK on the top pairing.

In closing, I like this move a lot. I also believe it’s the first of what’s likely to be a flurry of deals as the Habs push to challenge for a Cup now.

Kyle (@kyleroussel) – I agree with John, but first I’d like to see Bergevin publicly state that they are no longer a team “in transition,” and that making the playoffs is the goal.
We all know that the core is in their prime and that the time is now and for the next four years or so. I don’t think the Canadiens as an organization should hide, or obscure that reality. The expectations are going to be there, so they may as well play along instead of lowering the bar.

John (@RabidHabs_CJ) – I wouldn’t hold my breath. That said, I’m not entirely sure that a public declaration is required. Actions speak louder than words. Proof, in my opinion, is in the deals that are made leading up to the regular season. Exiting at least one of Emelin/Gilbert and Desharnais/Plekanec will signal a step forward as it opens larger roles for Beaulieu on defence and Eller/Galchenyuk up front. That, in my opinion, carries significantly more weight than anything Bergevin might say publicly.

Zach (@ZachVanasse) – On the podcast earlier this week, Sean and I had discussed the prospect of bringing Petry back for the 2015-2016 season  and we bandied about some numbers that we’d be comfortable with. To me, $5.5 million seemed like the smart money spot, and low and behold old Bergevin gets Jeff to sign on the dotted line for an AAV of $5.5 million. That is to say, I’m quite happy with how this turned out (and with my powers of prognosticating).

When the news broke on Tuesday that Petry had made the decision to return to Montreal the first thing I thought was (and as has been pointed out above): Holy crap, the Habs are a destination team now. Remember the days when Erik Cole needed 20% more and a year too many in order to consider Montreal? Remember the days when every available player only seemed interested in joining the Red Wings? Behind us, baby!

Consensus is that Petry would have made more had he elected to become a UFA this summer. He chose to take less cash and stay with the Canadiens because he sees the potential in this team (not to mention coming from Edmonton to Montreal for a playoff run probably seemed heavenly) to achieve something special.

Also, Jeff Petry’s wife Julia was clearly delighted and this is a point I think we all too often ignore as we pontificate about where we think players want to play. My girlfriend brings this point up all the time (and doesn’t give two shits about hockey). For all the analyzing we do about potential landing spots for UFAs, rarely do we consider the Wife Factor. We did with Vanek (which proved prophetic), but rarely do we for anyone else. One reason is likely that we don’t really know these guys wives at all, so it’s pretty impossible to know what they might be thinking. My point is, for all the things we factor in when trying to guess where a player is going to land, we’re probably missing one of the most important pieces: where do their wives want to live? Anyone who has a partner knows that the significant other always factors into these decisions in a big way. If Jeff Petry’s wife was really high on Montreal (and who wouldn’t be after living in Edmonton), then I have to believe she plays a big role in him returning to the Habs fold.

And finally, I know that Gilbert and Emelin are now seen as the expendables, but I’d like to throw Andrei Markov into that mix. Markov can net you a real return and – while his regular season was quite remarkable – his playoff performance was completely uninspiring and some of the worst hockey I’ve ever seen him play. At times he was a liability and the man who used to get credit as one of the leading power play quarterbacks in the NHL suddenly found himself quarterbacking a Black Hole power play.>

Considering his age (36), his cap hit ($5.75 million), his 2015 playoff performance, and the value he still represents, I think Markov is the man to move this offseason. And I’d be willing to bet Marc Bergevin is thinking the same thing. From an emotional stand point, I don’t love this. But from a hockey stand point, I think it’s the deal to make.

Sean (@TheONeillFactor) – My gut reaction is that I like the deal – paying Jeff Petry the same amount per year that the Caps are paying Brooks Orpik seems like a winning proposition – but I do feel that there’s a small chance that we could all be bellyaching about this contract in about two seasons’ time. Is it possible that Petry is being slightly overvalued? Are we perhaps looking at his age and skill-set while overlooking his relative lack of production? Maybe.. But if we’re looking at the Habs as a potential Cup winning team, I think having Petry as your #3 defenceman after Subban and Beaulieu seems like the ideal framework.