One of the biggest questions heading into the Montreal Canadiens’ offseason that begins this Saturday, is whether or not Habs general manager Kent Hughes can move defenceman Jeff Petry on the NHL trade market. That’s yet to be seen, but, since interim head coach Martin St. Louis came on board, Petry is making the challenge of moving him much easier for Hughes due to his improved offensive play.
After Petry requested a trade earlier in the season and prior to Hughes coming on, the Montreal Canadiens tried hard to move him prior to the March 21 NHL trade deadline. The rookie general manager even had a potential deal in place for Jeff Petry before deadline, but, for reasons unknown, it fell to the wayside. Hughes did make a point that he wouldn’t take just any offer on the NHL trade market for Petry or any player and that any trade had to make sense for the Canadiens going forward, so Petry remained with the Bleu Blanc Rouge for now.
“We had conversations with a group of teams. As you know, when you’re working on a Trade Deadline, most of the teams looking to acquire that kind of player are close to the Cap,” said Kent Hughes shortly after the NHL Trade Deadline in regards to the difficult task of moving Petry’s contract mid-season. “Acquiring a contract for multiple years at that number becomes a challenge; it’s probably more likely an offseason move. We did have conversations, and there was one team in particular that we thought might materialize and make sense for both clubs, but in the end, Jeff’s here.”
St. Louis’ arrival as head coach has vaulted Petry back up the scoring charts for defencemen since early February, diversifying the way he’s accrued the offence during that span. For a defenceman that many categorized as a powerplay merchant, his even-strength offence in the second half of the season has been elite. These kinds of performances will make it much easier for Hughes to move the veteran blueliner on the NHL trade market as his return to form will prompt rival general managers who are looking to win in the short term to circle back on Petry.
Jeff Petry Back Among Top Offensive Defencemen
Petry has not only risen back to form offensively, but he’s surpassed his offensive scoring pace from years passed since the coaching change and has been one of the most productive players on the team in that span. Petry’s most productive seasons with the Montreal Canadiens came during the last four seasons (2017-2018 to 2020-2021), as the veteran blueliner put up four straight 40-pt seasons during his time with the team. His average points per game during that span was 0.59 while playing an average of 23 minutes per game on much better offensive teams.
Since St. Louis has taken over, Petry has returned to playing 21 minutes per game or more, while potting three goals and 15 assists for 18 points in 28 games, which gives him a 0.64 points-per-game ratio over that time. Over a full season. That would equate to 53 points over a full 82-game season; which would be a career-high. What’s even more intriguing is that 16 of the 18 points he’s accrued have come at even strength, which is outpacing players like John Klingberg, Seth Jones, Noah Dobson and Colton Parayko during that time.
During the same period, only Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Rem Pitlick have outproduced him offensively on the Montreal Canadiens, as the veteran blueliner has easily outproduced forwards like Brendan Gallagher or Josh Anderson during that span, despite limited powerplay time.
*Jeff Petry has entered the chat* pic.twitter.com/bLiuxP3N7f
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 13, 2022
Pros Outweighing the Cons
Jeff Petry’s $6.25M contract, which has another three years left on it after this season and his age, were major impediments to moving him at NHL Trade Deadline. The 34-year-old defenceman’s improved play had only been on display for about ten games at that time, which didn’t do much to alleviate the risk teams were not willing to take on at the time. However, his continued improved play since then will undoubtedly calm the fears of his regression and restore his trade value.
During the offseason, teams will be able to shed salary through expiring contracts and the first buyout period, which begins on July 1. It’ll provide teams looking to add to a competitive roster with the necessary flexibility to incorporate Petry’s contract within their salary structure. The market will not be very ripe with defencemen of Petry’s ilk, as Kris Letang and John Klingberg, both of whom will demand far more than Petry’s $6.25M Cap hit on the long-term. Outside of the above two, the free agency pool for top-4 right-shot defencemen is rather shallow, and that will only stand to benefit Hughes’ leverage in any Petry trade.
Forget having to give up a sweetener to move Petry, the veteran defenceman will now be a hot commodity on the trade market this summer. He may not return the haul he once could, but the idea that Petry has negative value is simply not rooted in reality; teams will see his first half of the season as an aberration, as they do for the rest of the Canadiens roster. If Hughes confirmed to the media on multiple occasions that many teams were interested in Petry leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline, his recent play will likely reinforce that interest leading up to the NHL Draft on July 7.
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) April 17, 2022