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Canadiens Extend Brendan Gallagher- Analysis

The Montréal Canadiens announced Wednesday that they agreed to a six-year contract extension with forward Brendan Gallagher. The deal, according to the team, carries an average annual value (AAV) of $6.5 million.

The 28-year-old winger netted 22 goals during the pandemic-shortened 2019-2020 season, tying for the team lead with Tomas Tatar. Gallagher added 21 assists, totaling 43 points on the year, giving him three consecutive seasons of 40-plus points.

This is a player Montréal is smart to retain; he can score 20 goals consistently and plays the game in a way that is often connected to playoff success. Gallagher is not afraid to get to the front of the net, and, frankly, a majority of his goals seem to come from in and around the crease. He scores greasy goals- the type of goals that win playoff games. He also plays a physical style that can get under opponents' skin- he's a pest on the ice, for lack of a better term.

The questions I have about this signing have nothing to do with the player, or his importance to the Canadiens. Is this player worth $6.5 million per year on the salary cap? Could they have gotten a deal done for less term?

Looking at comparable contracts that players at the same position have signed, this deal actually falls into line fairly well. The most recent comparison is Chris Kreider, who signed a seven-year extension with the New York Rangers in February. His deal has an identical $6.5 million AAV, and Kreider was also 28 at the time of signing. These players are different, but they both bring value to their teams. Kreider is a power forward who uses his speed to dive the net to score goals. Gallagher is more likely to set up in front of the net and look for tips and rebounds. I think Gallagher is more likely to be an effective player later in the deal than Kreider, who's speed is likely to decline with age.

Another comparable contract worth noting is Evander Kane's seven-year deal with the San Jose Sharks. Kane's deal carries a $7 million AAV, and was signed in 2018, when Kane was 27-years-old. I initially thought Kane has much more value, confirming my thought that the Gallagher deal was an overpay by the Canadiens. However, the numbers tell a different story. Looking at the three seasons prior to signing for each player, Gallagher was the more productive player. Kane scored 20, 28, and 29 goals leading up to his contract with the Sharks, and totaled 132 points in those three years. Gallagher, in the three years prior to this extension, scored 31, 33, and 22 (in a shortened season) goals and totaled 149 points. Kane also only played over 70 games in the final season before signing, while Gallagher played all 82 games twice before playing 59 during the shortened 2019-20 season.

My initial reaction to this deal was that this was an overpay with too much term. Gallagher is a good player, and someone I would want on my team, but I viewed the terms of the contract as fit for a borderline elite winger. Kane is someone who I would have put in that category, but not Gallagher. However, the numbers speak for themselves. Gallagher compares well to both Kreider and Kane, and his style of play should allow him to remain effective into his mid-30s. This could turn out to be a better deal than I thought, but only time will tell.

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