There’s no two ways about it; Shea Weber was the star of the Montreal Canadiens victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. Two classic Weber rockets found their way into the net and made the difference for the Habs in a closer game than they may have liked to find themselves.
So it may seem odd that I want to talk about a different defenseman; Victor Mete.
He may not have found the scoresheet — in fact, he didn’t even register a shot on goal —and it wasn’t even close to his best game of the year. But it seems clear to me that the best thing that Marc Bergevin could do with the young defender is to sign him to a long-term deal before his ELC expires at the end of the year.
Forget that one lacklustre game. As a top player on his team, he’s sitting at an even-strength corsi-for of exactly 50%, a goals-for percentage of 68%, and he’s doing this at just 21 years old. We don’t yet know his ceiling, but we know that he’s been eating minutes usually reserved for defensemen with much more experience, and valiantly so.
Forget a bridge deal. Signing him to one or two years would just give him more time to continue developing his offensive game — which seems painfully likely — and increase the price tag of an eventual long-term signing. You do the long deal before this year closes, and you have an opportunity to get him signed to a sweetheart deal the likes of which we haven’t seen since Brendan Gallagher put pen to paper.
A bridge deal for Bergevin worked against him with P.K. Subban, as he ended up having to fork out top dollar at the tail end. Of course, he traded his way out of that deal, but the lesson remains — saving less than two million against the cap for two years isn’t worth the massive increase you may eventually have to absorb.
With five points so far, Mete is on pace for a career year, and there’s no telling how much better he’ll get at only 21 years of age. He was rushed into the NHL out of necessity, and is already a legitimate top-four puck-moving defenseman. You let him keep developing on a shorter-term deal, and you run the risk of him building a legitimate case for big money.
Bergevin has shown that he has the ability to make these types of shrewd moves, as evidenced by the Gallagher deal that is still paying dividends to this day. Mete can’t ask for serious money right now, so it makes perfect sense to try and get a deal done that sets him and his family up in Montreal for the long haul without breaking the bank for the team.
When I floated this idea to the EOTP staff, my good buddy Scott Matla threw out the idea of a seven-year contract at $3.5 million AAV. To me, that sounds like a steal even right now, and it could only get better as he progresses in his career.
In today’s NHL, where good value contracts are hard to come by, I think the Habs brass needs to see the value of the player they have, and strike while the iron is hot. It wouldn’t be an overpay for what he does right now, so why not lock that in?
If I were Marc Bergevin, I wouldn’t wait another day, I’d be actively on the horn with Mete’s agent trying to get something done.