On Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens announced the signing of forward Brendan Gallagher to a six-year contract carrying a $6.5 million annual cap hit.
On Tuesday, Gallagher’s agent was telling reporters that negotiations between his client and the Canadiens had broken off. This was just a few hours ahead of the announcement that Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin inked Tyler Toffoli to a four-year steal. That deal was signed Monday.
So yeah, it’s been a week.
At the core of these negotiations is the concept of leverage. There is, for starters, negative fallout to the league’s finances after the COVID-19 pandemic threw everything and everyone for a loop. Montreal did well to stack the deck, throwing cash at right-winger Josh Anderson for a seven-year deal signed last week.
With the Toffoli deal a bargain and the Anderson deal providing a viable option on the right side, it was time for the Gallagher team to act. Hence Tuesday’s proclamation that negotiations had broken off. Hence the chess move.
Of course, that led to the rather quick signing of a new deal – one that will make Gallagher the highest-paid forward when it kicks in. He has a year to go on his current contract before the salary jump kicks in for 2021-2022.
Ambiguity is the rule of law, with COVID-19 laying out new challenges. Nobody knows what the 2020-2021 season will look like or where it will be, so parting with money isn’t first on most general managers’ lists. Stability matters more, particularly with Seattle taking picks in the expansion draft for 2021.
Gallagher is, without a doubt, a fan favourite in Montreal. Letting him waltz or letting talks absolutely break down would not be a good look for Bergevin or the Canadiens, so speeding up the contract talks and getting a deal done was in the best interest of all involved parties.
And now Bergevin can ride off into the sunset, with his off-season goals already met. He has his backup in Jake Allen, he has his power forward in Anderson, he has scoring support in Toffoli, and he has a big blueliner in Joel Edmundson. Throw Gallagher’s done deal in the mix and you’re looking at a very successful, uh, fall off-season for the Habs.