Now that the dust from the Jeff Petry/Erik Karlsson trade has settled, it’s time to evaluate some of the options for the Montreal Canadiens going forward.
On the surface, the mere fact that the Canadiens have not mentioned Petry other than in the original press release has led many to believe there’s an impending trade.
Of course, it could very well be that the majority of the Canadiens staff is currently taking some well-deserved vacation time, or that general manager Kent Hughes is not done cooking, but for now, Petry is once again a member of the Canadiens, leaving the team with several possibilities as to his future with the franchise.
Seeing as Petry’s salary already involves a 25 percent retention by the Pittsburgh Penguins, he will only account for $4.689 million of the salary cap, rather than his original $6.25 million salary cap hit.
That alone makes Petry a much more interesting proposal for teams looking to improve their defensive depth.
Add to it the possibility of retaining more salary, and Petry suddenly becomes a very interesting trade chip.
If the Canadiens retain 25 percent of his salary, his value becomes very clear. If they choose to retain 50 percent, suddenly he becomes an incredibly valuable NHL defenceman due to his $2.35 million cap hit.
Now, I can already hear some Canadiens fans scoffing when I mention his value, but let’s be clear: the rumours of Jeff Petry’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
There’s no doubt his numbers under Dominique Ducharme were rough. But that was the case for the entire roster, not just Petry.
Consider this: while coached by Dominique Ducharme, Petry managed to control 49.3 percent of the shots, 41.8 percent of the goals, 46.8 percent of the expected goals, and 45.1 percent of the high-danger chances. Those are terrible numbers by Petry’s standards, and yet, sadly, they were still among the best numbers produced by defencemen during Ducharme’s tenure.
Once Martin St-Louis took the helm, Petry controlled roughly the same amount of shots, though he did enjoy a slight increase (50.2 percent). Beyond the shots, things changed significantly. With Petry on ice, the Habs had a 54.6 percent advantage in goals, a 53.1 percent advantage in expected goals, and a 51.2 percent advantage in high-danger chances.
In fact, the pairing featuring Petry and Bret Kulak was far and away the only efficient duo for Martin St-Louis to close out the 2021-22 season, one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
— NHL (@NHL) October 21, 2022
He’s not the dominant force he once was, and his decision-making is questionable at times, but he still brings a lot to the table when evaluating his on-ice results.
If we’re staying true to the numbers, logically, the Canadiens should not have to retain any money whatsoever when it comes to trading Petry.
Pump And Dump
If for some reason the Montreal Canadiens cannot find any suitors without retaining salary, keeping Petry in the lineup is also a feasible option.
He would improve the team’s game in transition while also providing a solid partner for many of the young defencemen developing on the left side of the ice. In addition, it gives right-handed defencemen such as Justin Barron and Logan Mailloux a little more time to improve upon their weaknesses in a pressure-free environment before their permanent ascension to the NHL.
The greatest benefit, however, would come in the lead-up to the 2024 NHL trade deadline.
By then, his salary cap hit will be inconsequential, essentially ensuring that every single team looking to bolster their blueline prior to the playoffs could afford to add someone Petry to their lineup.
Teams tend to pay a premium for right-handed defencemen, one of the hottest commodities in the NHL.
Hold Onto Petry Indefinitely
In the worst-case scenario, the Montreal Canadiens will not be able to move Petry, which means they will have to keep him in the lineup for longer than expected.
And that’s perfectly fine.
He will surely help players like Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Alex Newhook, and Kirby Dach improve their production, and he’d be able to help shoulder the overall workload with fellow veteran Mike Matheson while also alleviating the pressure on younger defencemen.
Ideally, the Canadiens can quickly come to an agreement with another team that’s willing to pay a decent price to acquire Petry, but if there are no takers they can pivot and play it by ear, giving Hughes more time to work out a potential trade.
And as we’ve seen, historically speaking, that usually leads to a healthy outcome for the franchise.
All Montreal Canadiens statistics via NaturalStatTrick