Well, you can scratch one big free agent’s name off the list. Jeff Petry, who was set to test the waters of Unrestricted Free Agency for the first time in his career, and the Montreal Canadiens agreed to terms on a contract extension worth $33 million over six years, which is a $5.5 million cap hit. The move solidifies the Canadiens’ defensive core for the next couple years, as they now have four defencemen (Subban, Petry, Emelin, and Markov) under contract until the end of the 2016-17 season at a combined cap hit of $22.4 million.
Is this a good deal for the Canadiens? What does this mean for other impending UFA defencemen like Cody Franson and Mike Green? It means they’re gonna get paid.
#canadiens Jeff Petry: 15-16 7M $, 16-17 7M$, 17-18 6M$, 18-19 5M$, 19-20 4M$, 20-21 4M$ (no trade)
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) June 2, 2015
Petry was traded from the Oilers to the Canadiens at the trade deadline and went on to put together a pretty solid showing in his first career playoff run. Petry struggled when he first arrived in Montreal, putting up by far the lowest Corsi For percentage at even strength of his career. In the playoffs, though, he went from having a Corsi For percentage of 42.9, which was very poor in relation to his teammates, to 54.1, which was well above the team average. He’s never really been known as a guy with much offence to his game, but Petry has posted some pretty strong possession numbers on some really, really bad Oilers teams throughout his career.
Petry’s new deal will put him in a pretty impressive class of highly paid defencemen. In fact, the deal will put him in a tie with seven other players for the 19th largest cap hit on any defencemen in the NHL. That group features a pretty interesting array of players, ranging from players who very underpaid, to guys who are very overpaid. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Dan Girardi, James Wisniewski, Nick Leddy, Matt Carle, Tyler Myers, and Brooks Orpik will all head into the 2015-16 season with the same $5.5 million cap hit as Petry.
When you look at that list, it’s difficult to get a gauge on whether the Canadiens overpaid for his services. I mean, it looks like a bargain to have Petry signed to the same deal as lesser players like Matt Carle and James Wisniewski. The players who are better than Petry, like Myers and OEL, are guys who have yet to hit UFA status, so it’s somewhat understandable why their contracts are on par with one another. In contrast, you have a few guys who are in the same ballpark as Petry who signed cheaper UFA deals in the last year like Anton Stralman ($4.5 million) and Marc Methot ($4.9 million). This is the reality of free agency. When every single team in the league has a chance to sign a guy, the player has the leverage, and they’re going to be slightly overpaid. At the end of the summer when everybody else has signed we’ll get a better idea as to whether this was a good deal or not, but as of right now, it looks OK. The deal sure as hell isn’t a bargain, but it isn’t awful either, especially when you look at some of the other guys like Orpik and Carle who are paid the same amount.
So what does this mean for other impending UFAs? Well, this is great for Franson, Sekera and Green, who are the three other guys in the same general value and age bracket as Petry. If Petry, who isn’t really known for his offence, can warrant $5.5 million over six years, these other guys who can produce at a higher clip are probably going to be able to command even more. Like I said before, there are quite a few teams with a lot of money kicking around who really need an upgrade on the blue line. Petry’s deal has proven these guys are in a position to get massive paydays. Because if you’re going to overpay for somebody, overpay on an impact player rather than on a depth player who won’t have as much of an impact on the game.