Leak of stalled Gallagher negotiations puts the brakes on Canadiens celebration


MONTREAL – The timing was not particularly good. Especially not after Marc Bergevin signed Tyler Toffoli to a four-year, $ 17 million contract to fill the last of four off-season needs he prioritized.

Constable Gerry Johannson told reporters contract negotiations between the Montreal Canadiens and his client, Brendan Gallagher, broke down – hours before Toffoli and Bergevin held conference calls Tuesday to discuss how happy they were to be together. reuniting for Monday’s deal – was akin to a brief torrential downpour hitting a family barbecue as cocktails are served and food unwrapped for the grill.

Still, it was a possibility. Especially after the signing of Toffoli.

It’s a contract that describes the negative financial impact of COVID-19 on the NHL’s salary cap, and directly affects Gallagher’s influence in negotiations to secure a fair contract before his current contract expires in 2021.

Add all that to Josh Anderson, 26, who signed a seven-year, $ 38.5 million contract with Montreal last week, and Gallagher’s gun has lost more than one bullet. Admittedly, there is little debate about whether he remains the team’s most important right-winger, but the idea that he is irreplaceable lost its merit when Toffoli followed Anderson into a long-term commitment. term with Canadians.

As for Toffoli’s contract, he took people by surprise. With the annual average being $ 350,000 lower than he earned on the three-year deal, he just came out with definitely raised eyebrows, and a $ 4.25 million hit for a proven goalscorer after a 24-season season. goals also did.

But that did not shock Bergevin.

“We all thought what was going to happen had happened,” he said. “Right now a lot of players don’t have a chair, maybe they’ve overtaken the market, and that’s a reality for all of us. We have to manage it properly. We have a cap that won’t go up in the near future, of course, and it could be longer than expected. GMs therefore need to be smart, and players and agents need to be smart as well. So I think the proof is in the pudding, as they say.

Mmmmm, pudding. We move away.

Toffoli straightened up quickly. It took three and a half days of sitting without a deal, but after some back and forth with the Canadiens, he went for what he wanted most.

“I’m just talking with [agent] Tap [Brisson], our discussion at the start was that I really wanted the longest run I could get, ”the 28-year-old explained. “Throughout my career I’ve always done two or three year contracts, so being able to get a little more tenure, I think, was a little more important to me and my family.

Getting four years turned out to be more important than money or trade protection (his deal doesn’t). And while we consider Toffoli to be 100% authentic when saying the opportunity to line up with one of Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi or Phillip Danault and play for a team that made impressive off-season additions to Anderson, Joel Edmundson and Jake Allen, we’re pretty confident the term has trumped all of this as well.

It’s fair to assume this is what keeps Bergevin and Johannson on different pages regarding Gallagher. Before Anderson and Toffoli joined the squad, Johannson was absolutely right to ask Gallagher for a seven-year deal, much like the one Chris Kreider signed for $ 45.5 million with Rangers. of New York in February.

Kreider will be 29 when his new deal goes into effect, as Gallagher will be when his does, and the two players have on average almost identical production over their respective careers. No two players – or situations – are exactly the same, but it was the closest comparable for Johannson to use in negotiations.

But that was then, and things are more than different now. And that won’t change for at least another offseason.

This is the reality Toffoli accepted when he signed on Monday.

“If there hadn’t been a pandemic, I think things would have been more positive throughout this period,” he said of free will, adding that what should have been there One of the most exciting opportunities of his career has been “stressful”. and something he didn’t think he wanted to relive.

That’s a lot to consider for Gallagher – especially as a right winger who has produced 173 goals and 334 points in 547 games, which isn’t all that different from Toffoli’s 145 goals and 300 points in 525 games.

Here’s something else Gallagher needs to chew on: A deal signed right now could be the best he is able to strike ahead of the 2021-22 season, as his role is likely to diminish for the upcoming one.

Gallagher only scored one power-play goal last season and no matter how average his time is, he’s almost certain to be split between Toffoli and Anderson. And although he will always be counted in a lead role evenly, the depth of the roster will allow Claude Julien to distribute the minutes, which he already enjoys doing more than any other coach in the league.

Julien recently said he wanted his team to play like the New York Islanders – as a four-row, three-pair team that crushes their opponents into the ground – and Bergevin has now given him the assets to execute this effectively. strategy.

None of this is to suggest that Gallagher should sell short and bow to any deal on the table now just to stay in Montreal. He brings certain intangibles to the equation that make him comparable to virtually anyone, and while that doesn’t settle his trading, it is still a factor.

It has been something to hear nearly all of the forward hopefuls crossing the Montreal system since 2013 talk about how they want to emulate Gallagher’s tenacious style and tireless effort. It’s a reputation that may help Gallagher soften some of the market dynamics that have forced some free agents over the past week.

This is also part of the reason why Bergevin said RDS, just over two weeks ago, that he intended to make Gallagher his highest paid striker. This is part of the reason he said TVA Sports it was a top priority to get an extension with Gallagher and that in an ideal world he would one day retire in the Canadiens’ uniform.

But Bergevin also said this on Tuesday, moments before reminding media outlets that he refuses to comment publicly on the status or details of negotiations with his players:

“If a player wants to play with the Montreal Canadiens, he must also adapt to our situation as a cap. We want to pay everyone, but at the end of the day we also want to have a good team on the ice.

“Bringing in the players that we did cost money, and it will eventually affect other players in other positions,” Bergevin added.

This will affect Tomas Tatar, who led the Canadiens in last season’s scoring and is ready for a contract in 2021. Ditto for Joel Armia, who suddenly fell even lower on the priority list as a right winger who, From the next off-season, will compete with Gallagher, Anderson, Toffoli and hopeful Cole Caufield for ice time and dollars.

The Canadiens have just under $ 25 million under their cap for the next offseason and they won’t be able to stop everyone from Tatar, Gallagher, Armia, Allen and Phillip Danault, and ice a winning team – especially with the base players Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen also for offers as restricted free agents.

Gallagher seemed to have a solid grasp of that reality back in September, when he said, thanks to a surgically repaired jaw, that winning was his top priority.

“Money is important,” Gallagher said. “I’m not going to sit here and lie and say it’s not going to be important to me. But that will be enough money, whatever it is. I can live a happy life after hockey and that’s not going to be a problem. I want to enjoy my time and I want to enjoy my experience and I want to have the opportunity to be a winner. And that’s really what you want to be remembered for. So for that next contract, however many years I’m able to sign, you just want to be in a position where you have that opportunity every season.

That opportunity was ripe when Jeff Petry, 32, signed a four-year, $ 25 million extension to remain a key part of the Canadiens’ blue line until 2025. And that was after the addition of ‘Edmundson and Allen, and obviously before Anderson was locked up until after his 33rd birthday and Toffoli until his 32nd.

Bergevin will remind Gallagher of this, and it’s no exaggeration to think that he’ll refuse to commit to giving him a deal that will extend beyond his 33rd birthday. Maybe he already has, hence the breakdown in negotiations at this point.

Who knows? We are speculating, like everyone else now that Johannson has gone public.

We doubt Bergevin was fascinated by the fact that it all became a talking point on Tuesday – a day that was meant to be in which he bowed to a successful offseason.

But the Canadiens general manager has plenty of time to work it out, with Gallagher yet to play the final season of his six-year, $ 22.5 million contract, and a little rain hasn’t ruined the barbecue.

“We have made adjustments, we have made changes, we have recruited players who will help us,” said Bergevin.

And he’s right, it’s been a successful offseason so far.


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