Montreal, QUEBEC — We’ll never know how much money defenceman Jeff Petry may have garnered as an unrestricted free agent, but it’s unfathomable that it would have been less than the $5.5 million yearly average he’ll receive from the Montreal Canadiens over the next six seasons.
Petry was a month away from being top draw among defencemen slated for unrestricted free agency in July; a pot that was likely to include Andrej Sekara, Mike Green and Cody Franson as consolation prizes.
In 19 regular season games with the Canadiens the 27-year-old proved that his overwhelming career-minus rating (-68) was merely a by-product of 295 games spent with a defensively inept Edmonton Oilers team, and then made himself indispensable by elevating his play in the first 12 post-season games of his NHL career.
But, did Petry consider that he was leaving money on the table to sign with the Canadiens?
"It was something that never really crossed my mind," said Petry on a conference call Tuesday evening. "Once I started negotiating with the Canadiens, my family, my wife and I made a decision that we really strongly wanted to come back, and we’re just happy that a deal could be made rather quickly."
Petry’s quick decision, which he admitted started with brief negotiations a couple of weeks ago that intensified over the last two days, is very much to Montreal’s benefit.
GM Marc Bergevin filled a major need on his team’s blueline in making Petry’s acquisition in exchange for a second-round draft pick and a conditional fifth-rounder (previously acquired in the deal with the Colorado Avalanche that sent Daniel Briere from Montreal for Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau) on March 2.
"We are very happy that Jeff has agreed to remain with the Montreal Canadiens," offered GM Marc Bergevin via press release Tuesday. "He is a solid defenceman with speed and size."
Solid would be a more apt descriptor for a depth defender who can play upwards of 17 minutes per game. The 6-foot-3 Petry scored two goals and an assist in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and smothered the opposition with a 54.1 Corsi For percentage despite averaging 22:16 minutes per game against quality opposition.
Ever a calm and balanced presence in Montreal’s room, Petry seemed unfettered by lofty expectations that may accompany his new lucrative contract. After discussing it with Bergevin Tuesday, he’s well aware that his style of play is what attracted the Canadiens in the first place, and he intends to maintain it moving forward.
"The team isn’t far off (from winning a Stanley Cup)," said Petry. "We had a pretty good run this year, and the year before they had a great run. … You have a world class goalie (Carey Price) and guys like (Max) Pacioretty that can score; I have a feeling that it’s not far off."
There’s no doubt the Canadiens are closer to competing with Petry now inked. The move leaves Bergevin with $4,725,000 of cap space to fill out the rest of his roster and get restricted free agents Alex Galchenyuk, Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi under contract (according to generalfanager.com).