TORONTO — “A thousand times.”
Tomas Plekanec is estimating how often he’ll be asked about his contract status this season, his 12th in a Montreal Canadiens sweater.
July 1 signifies the conclusion of the Czech star’s current six-year deal, which carries a $5 million salary cap hit. And although there may be a few more pivotal negotiations in the NHL this season, the security of the Montreal Canadiens’ No. 1 centre is never a small deal.
With training camp mere days away and no extension talks scheduled, Plekanec believes the ball is firmly in general manager Marc Bergevin’s court.
“It’s not like I can control anything that will happen. Obviously, whatever the GM decides, he’s going to do. If he’s going to pick up the phone and call my agent, we’ll see. For me, all I can control is my game, and I’m going to focus on that,” Plekanec told Sportsnet Tuesday during the NHL player media tour in Toronto.
So, would Plekanec push his agent to initiate the negotiations?
“What? Like asking, ‘I want this. Gimme this’? No, no, no. It’s definitely all up to him. Whatever they decide, whatever they have planned for the future, it’s going to be,” Plekanec said.
“I’m not trying because of my contract year. I try to play the same way every year and be consistent every year.”
Though he’s been a 20-goal guy seven times over, Plekanec says he doesn’t set personal goals beyond consistency, which leads to more ice time, which in turn leads to special-teams assignments.
The veteran’s penalty-killing prowess helped him earn a chunk of Selke Trophy votes last season (he finished 15th in voting), and his power-play contributions aided his first 60-point campaign in five years.
Despite the younger David Desharnais and Alex Galchenyuk threatening his place in the depth chart, the next time Plekanec hits the score sheet, he will enter the 500-Point Club. And by the time a deal is done, it’s quite possible Habs legends Bob Gainey (501), Toe Blake (527) and Guy Carbonneau (547) could all trail Plekanec on the franchise points list.
Over the course of the first five years of his current contract, which began in 2010-11, only frequent linemate Max Pacioretty (255 points) has amassed more points for Montreal than Plekanec’s 245.
“The goals, the points, they call come from the opportunities you’re given,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how many goals we score as long as we win the games.”
Ah, the modern Canadiens’ mantra.
In many ways, Plekanec is a rare throwback: a proven, point-producing centre on a club that has been seeking depth at the position for half a decade. A 32-year-old who has never wavered from the club that drafted him 71st overall in 2001 and the most loyal turtleneck supporter this side of Bazooka Joe’s buddy Mort.
Along with Pacioretty, Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban, Plekanec served as one of four alternate captains for Montreal in 2013-14. He says he’s fine if they go with the same unconventional route this year. He’ll also be content if they switch it up.
The consistent loyalty between player and team—in what we are frequently reminded is a business—is not lost on Plekanec. Though he scored just one goal in 12 playoff games last spring, Bergevin pointed to Plekanec’s “fantastic” regular season in his wrap-up press conference.
“It means a lot,” Plekanec said. “I would’ve never dreamed to play in the NHL, and now 12 years with one team—and a team like Montreal. The team has the most history and the most Stanley Cups. I’m proud of it.”
- Plekanec busied himself this summer by playing a lot of tennis in Montreal. Unfortunately his plans to attend the U.S. Open this month fell through. “I’m a Federer guy,” he says.
- Already a father to three-and-a-half-year-old Matyas, Plekanec and wife Lucie Vondrackova welcomed a second son, Adam, in June. “I sleep by myself now,” Plekanec says. “It’s actually better.”