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Why I’m not worried about the Brendan Gallagher contract negotiations

It’s far too early to panic about preliminary contract negotiations.

Montreal Canadiens v Philadelphia Flyers - Game One Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

With the Montreal Canadiens seemingly set in their off-season work after the signing of Tyler Toffoli, the next major piece of business on the docket for Marc Bergevin was getting Brendan Gallagher’s new contract finished. As it stands, the news is that negotiations are not going well, with Gallagher’s agent, Gerry Johannson, saying the talks have stalled and broken off.

I’m not worried about it right now, and I’ll explain why.

Among everything that Marc Bergevin has said and done in his tenure with the Canadiens, he has always been quick to point out how big a piece Gallagher is in the lineup, and this off-season has been no exception. Bergevin discussed his desire to get Gallagher’s new deal done, stating it was among his top priorities. Even with the addition of two new wingers, there’s little reason to doubt that’s the truth.

At the same time, the Canadiens just finished a hectic month of locking down some AHL help, getting their restricted free agents re-signed, then handling a chaotic NHL Draft and free agency. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that Bergevin hasn’t been able to dedicate his full attention to these negotiations while so many other events were occurring. He can shift his full energy into working on an agreeable contract situation for his sparkplug forward.

Secondly, looking at the cap situation for next season, the Canadiens will have just shy of $25 million in cap space. Coming off the books in that season will be Jake Allen, Tomas Tatar, and a lessened Karl Alzner buyout cap hit. With Phillip Danault, Gallagher, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi the big names in need of a contract that off-season, there’s plenty of cap space to get them locked into fair-value deals going forward. Even with significant raises for Danault and Gallagher, there’s still money to get the other free agents on the roster re-signed if they wanted to.

That does factor in Gallagher likely asking for a deal similar to Chris Krieder’s new one in New York, which would carry an average annual value of around $6.5 million, which is a fair ask after playing on one of the NHL’s best bargain deals for six years. No matter which way we cut it, the cap space isn’t going to be the limiting factor.

There’s also the fact Gallagher himself mentioned he wanted to see some pieces kept around because they would help to build a winning team in Montreal.

Since then, Bergevin has locked down Jeff Petry to a long-term extension, brought Joel Edmundson into the picture, and acquired both Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli — though two new competitors at his position probably wasn’t what Gallgher had in mind. This also doesn’t include getting a legitimate NHL backup in Allen to help keep Carey Price at his best. Across the board, Bergevin has markedly improved this Montreal team, and proven to the veterans with expiring deals that he is serious about contending.

If overall improvement was at the top of list of things Gallagher needed to see, then a new deal should just be a matter of hammering out some of the finer points and everyone is happy. Gallagher is still going to wear a letter, and still going to play major minutes even with Anderson and Toffoli arriving.

Above all else is the simple fact that Gallagher is a full season away from free-agent status, and a whole lot can change in that time. If the Canadiens come out and perform well it’s fairly likely that negotiations can restart, run a lot more smoothly, and get a deal done in short order.

The new season hasn’t even begun — it doesn’t even have an opening date yet — so it’s far too early to be truly concerned about Gallagher’s contract talks. It’s not an ideal start, but there is a lot that can play out and change over the next year, on both sides of these talks. It was always going to take some work to get a deal both sides enjoy after Gallagher spent half a decade as one of the most underpaid players in the league, but we’re a long way from the 11th hour.