The Montreal Canadiens Geoff Molson triggered the red-alert protocol, making notable changes by ousting the well-dressed GM Marc Bergevin and the oft draft-failure criticized, Assistant GM, Trevor Timmins, amoung other front-office staff. Changes at the top often signals a myriad of shock waves in any situation; I’ve never seen one where status quo continues within the rest of the organization. So, with 26 games into the 2021-22 season and the team sporting a .230 winning percentage, perhaps one of those forthcoming changes is to trade the popular, gritty, and maturing Brendan Gallagher.
Some Canadiens fans will squawk at the idea of losing perhaps what they consider the heart of the team, who may be on the short, very short list of players to be named captain as the Shea Weber long term injury plays out. The reality is that Gallagher, in his 10th NHL season is generously on pace for a 31-point season with the HABS, which would be amoung his lowest productions in a full NHL season. Gallagher has reached the 30-goal mark twice in his career, the last time in 2018-19 and is on-pace for 12 goals this season, which would be his 2nd lowest total by 2 goals since the 2016 season where he only played 64 games.
There is no doubt that statistics that can’t be measured in goals and assists is heart, soul, and work ethic. There are some players that just make players around them better, stronger, more confident, and inspire leadership qualities. Those are the things that make Brendan Gallagher’s value rise above the perhaps declining scoreboard numbers. He’s the type of player you hate to play against but love to have on your team because you’ll find him in the corners, in front of the net, creating space for other players on the team, drawing the opponents into penalties, and taking it on the chin every single night. It is however the kind of hockey style that is akin to shorter hockey careers because of the wear and tear on the body and he’s already had a few injuries throughout the years. Gallagher can still play that heart and soul role, while adding secondary scoring for a few more years. The question for the Canadiens is if they should utilize those services as they re-build, or cash them in as part of the re-build.
There is a popular opinion on social media and amoung some media faithful that Gallagher should be named the next captain, which would make total sense if the Canadiens weren’t on day 1 of a re-build plan that will optimistically take a minimum of three years to yield encouraging results, making Gallagher 34 years old. With the Canadiens facing a cap crunch, Gallagher’s $6.5 million cap hit through to age 35 by the 2027-28 season deserves some consideration as part of the evaluation to keep or move him. This off-season the HABS declined to match the offer-sheet on Jesperi Kotkaniemi (KK) for $6.1 million. KK is on pace for a 29-point season – only 2 points off Gallagher’s pace at .4 million less. Arguably, he doesn’t bring the other tangibles to the table, but he’s also 10 years younger and averaging about five minutes of ice time less than Gallagher per game. The Gallagher contract seems less appealing when you factor in this comparison along with age, durability, and declining numbers on a Canadiens team that is clearly in a re-build.
Unless the Canadiens plan includes Gallagher having a reduced role and support of similar ilk on a team with legitimate top 6 forwards, keeping him will be a missed opportunity to collect assets now. His value over the next few years will become more on leadership and culture, but that’s an expensive contract for those services, when you consider players similar to Corey Perry who carry a cap-hit of $1 million annually and can bring a similar style of play.
Moving Brendan Gallagher to a contender, while collecting assets might be unpopular amoung the fans, especially those who want to see him wear the “C”, but it would also be a nice in-kind gesture to a guy who has worn the CH proudly and carried the torch to have an opportunity to win something as he approaches the back end of his hockey career. Besides, the idea of trading away another player after he is named captain on the Canadiens just doesn’t seem like it would be a real change in the culture of the team.
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