It was announced this morning that Alexei Emelin has joined his teammates for practice wearing a no-contact jersey, but he won't be playing for a while yet, as he's still rehabbing his knee after major surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament that's kept him out since April 6 of last season.
So it was a little bit surprising when the Canadiens released news on twitter that they'd signed Emelin to a four-year extension worth $4.1M per year, $16.4M in total. The contract sticks with a trend for Emelin in that both his contracts since his rookie deals have more than doubled his salary and cap hit. The question is whether he's worth that kind of money.
Fans will remember the defensive implosion that occurred once Emelin went down last season, however those defensive problems were persistent all season, and although they got worse with him out, percentages rolling against the Canadiens had much more to do with it than Emelin's absence.
Emelin does bring a different look to the defense corps though, as he changes the way teams approach Montreal's blueline, causing forwards to pull up more often or dump the puck in for fear of getting nailed, and he's a capable puck mover. These factors can't be ignored, but it's very possible that Bergevin's management team and coaching staff severely overrate the impact of hitting defensemen, evidenced by the Douglas Murray signing.
Emelin is not Murray though, he's a very solid NHL player that I'm sure 30 teams would like to have on their roster, which is bound to drive his price up; but the fact remains that he hasn't exactly proven that he's a top-4 defenseman, even though he played there with Andrei Markov last season.
There's also the risk factor of the surgery he just underwent. Montreal has three other players on the roster who've undergone ACL reconstruction in Alex Galchenyuk, Josh Gorges, and Andrei Markov. Only Markov experienced a recurring injury, and he was significantly slowed by it for a long time, only now beginning to look like his old self at even strength.
Emelin told John Lu of TSN today that he believes he can play by mid-November, but we just won't know the kind of player we're getting until he hits the ice, and even then, it may take the rest of the season for him to be what he once was.
Emelin has unique market value, so it's very tough to question the deal overall, even though it's a lot of money for the player we've seen over the last two seasons. There's also something to be said for Emelin himself signing mid-season instead of testing free agency.
If Emelin can be the player that we've seen at his very best, it's unlikely that anyone will complain about this deal, but that's a big gamble to make. It's a gamble that Marc Bergevin made just last season on David Desharnais, and how has that worked out?
More from Eyes On The Prize:
- Emelin extended
- The EOTP Montreal meetup is set!
- Improving the NHL's "Real Time Stats"
- Varlamov arrested for domestic violence, kidnapping - Thursday Habs Links
- Gallagher and Galchenyuk face off in pumpkin carving duel