Last week the Montreal Canadiens announced that they had re-upped their primary free agent target, defenseman Jeff Petry, with a 6-year, $33 million dollar contract that included a no trade clause.
The Canadiens acquired Petry at the March trade deadline from Edmonton in order to help solidify their top-four defensive core. The Michigan native had 3 goals and 7 points in 19 regular season games with the Habs and 2 goals and 3 points in an unsuccessful 12 game playoff run.
At the beginning of the season, Petry maintained that he intended to test the free agent market on July 1st but plans changed after he joined the Habs and knew it was the right fit for him and his family:
“Once I started negotiating with the Canadiens, my wife and I made a decision we really strongly wanted to come back,” Petry told the media on a conference call after the signing was announced. “Everything from the day I got there to the playoff run, the environment at the Bell Centre, the players in the locker-room, the organization just being first-class, that all played into it and played a big part in ultimately signing the deal.”
Other factors that helped the 27 year-old blueliner make his decision included goaltender Carey Price and All Star defenseman P.K. Subban. Petry also cited that the Canadiens are close to being a Cup contender as another reason he wanted to stay with a club that “isn’t far off.”
Habs General Manager Marc Bergevin gave up a second-round pick and a conditional fifth-rounder in this year’s NHL draft for Petry, a move wildly considered a steal for the Canadiens, given that Petry’s skills as a strong puck-moving defenseman are valuable. He plays a lot of minutes, reaching as much as 22 minutes a game during the playoffs, and will be welcome fixture on the Habs’ anemic power play moving forward.
As Bergevin noted in a statement, Petry “is a solid defenceman with speed and size who acquired valuable playoff experience this year. His presence gives us a lot of depth at this position.”
Most consider the signing a success with Petry providing the Canadiens with considerable depth at a reasonable cap hit; or, at least, at a lower salary than would be expected on the open market. However, with 40% of the Habs’ cap space tied up in their defense, the Habs now have only roughly $7 million to find a much needed scorer, in addition to resigning two of their top restricted free agents, Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu.
Veteran defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Mike Weaver are both unrestricted free agents and are unlikely to resign, leaving the Habs with just enough bodies to fill out their defense; but even though the salary cap is expected to rise to $71 million in 2015-2016, spending will be tight for Bergevin to improve the team’s roster in the areas most needed.
The upside is that after finishing 2nd overall in the Eastern Conference the team has a solid core signed on for years to come and Petry is a welcome addition.
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