The Montreal Canadiens and Tomas Plekanec agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract extension on Friday that will keep him under control until the end of the 2017-18 season. Plekanec is one of Montreal’s most valuable, and underrated assets, so getting him locked up before he has a chance to hit the free agency market is a key victory in ensuring the team remains a contender for the foreseeable future.
Plekanec’s deal, which will kick in at the beginning of the 2016-17 season, has a $6 million cap hit. He’ll be paid $7 million in the first year of the deal, and $5 in the second. The deal also doesn’t include a no-trade or no-movement clause, so the team gets stability at centre for the next couple of years, but maintains a high level of flexibility.
The goal for the Habs long-term is for Alex Galchenyuk to take eventually over the team’s top centre duty. By signing Plekanec for two more years, Galchenyuk will be given more time to ease his way into the role while the Habs still remain a competitive team in the Eastern Conference. When the deal comes to an end in 2018, the Habs surely expect Galchenyuk, who will be 24-years old, to be ready to take on a larger role with the team. By then, Plekanec will be 35-years old, so he can be re-signed at a cheaper cap hit to go along with the lesser role he takes on the team.
Signing Plekanec is also critical for the short-term success of the Canadiens. Over the last six seasons, Plekanec has managed somewhere between 19 and 20 minutes of ice time per game, and he’s never missed significant time due to injury. His offensive production is solid, especially considering he plays in a largely defensive role with the Habs. Last season, he made 55 per cent of his starts in the defensive zone and still managed to score at a 0.73 points per game clip. The 2013-14 season was a down year for Plekanec offensively, as he put up 0.53 points per game, but that’s likely because he started a whopping 61.2 per cent of his shifts in the defensive zone.
The $6 million cap hit will put Plekanec right on par with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brandon Saad, Jordan Eberle, Jordan Staal, and Matt Duchene next season. When Ryan O’Reilly and Bobby Ryan are making over $7 million a year, you really can’t complain about getting Plekanec for $6 million.