By JD Lagrange – Not too long ago, Brendan Gallagher was loved by everyone. Historically, Canadiens’ fans have always had a soft spot for guys who leave it all on the ice. Steve Bégin was a fan favourite for that reason and before him, Mario Tremblay was for the same reasons. In Gallagher’s case, it became even more so as he was piling up the 30-goals’ seasons, a feat unexpected from a guy selected in the fifth round, 147th overall by Montreal back at the 2010 NHL Draft.
He did most of his scoring while under a very team-friendly contract with a $3.75 million cap hit. And when came time to renegotiate, he had 14 goals in 35 games (33 goals pace over 82 games), and showed no signs of slowing down. That’s when Marc Bergevin decided to reward a player who has given so much to the team by giving him a 6-year, $39 million contract.
But that style of play has taken its toll on the 5-foot 9-inches, 186 lbs body of the 30 year old and he’s been struggling with injuries in recent years. With the number of games he has missed the past three years or so, it would be easy to catalogue the fiesty winger as being injury-prone. However, one would be hard pressed to claim that having his hand broken not once, but twice, by slapshots from Shea Weber were nothing other than bad luck. And further, it was due to his willingness and heart, daring to stand in front of the net with the then Canadiens’ captain booming away.
Last year, the Montreal Canadiens shattered the NHL record by having over 700 man-games lost to injuries and illness. This season will be the second season in a row that the team leads the NHL in this very unfortunate category. And with the parity in this league, losing that many players, key players at that, will be a huge contributor to a team’s success, or lack of thereof.
After the 2021 playoffs’ push, the Canadiens have lost several key players to long-term injuries. In fact, here’s a list and the number of games those players have played, out of the 156 games the Canadiens have had:
|PLAYER||GAMES PLAYED||GAMES MISSED||% GM|
|Shea Weber “C”||0||156||100%|
|Paul Byron “A”||27||129||83%|
|Joel Edmundson “A”||77||79||51%|
|Brendan Gallagher “A”||85||71||46%|
The expression “heart and soul” is overplayed at times in the NHL but it is one that fits the bill at 100 percent when you talk about Gallagher. No one involved in the game of hockey will ever downplay his leadership qualities and what he brings to a dressing room, or to a team. Already a great leader, he has learned from one of the best in Shea Weber as well. And he has had a positive influence on many of the Canadiens’ younger players, including one that sports a nickname after him. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard openly says copying his style after Gally and was nicknamed “Lavallagher”, meaning the Gallagher in Laval.
But now, force is to admit that Gally may never return to his 30-goals production and form. Even after scoring his 200th NHL goal against the Buffalo Sabres last night, with a contract with a cap hit of $6.5 million until the end of the 2026-27 season, there is no way that his production will ever live up to the percentage of the cap that he commands. So what to do with him?
First and foremost, let’s get on thing out of the way, a “possibility” that I’ve read on Twitter. Gallagher’s contract will NOT be bought out! As an image is worth 1,000 words, just look at the following, from Capfriendly.com.
The second option is trading him. That in itself is a long shot at best. For one thing, Gallagher’s contract contains a modified no-trade clause where the player must submit a list of six teams where he won’t accept to be traded to. And if the Canadiens can’t afford to commit $6.5 million long term on him, who could? Maybe some teams wanting to get to the cap floor. But will he want to go there?
There is one – long shot – option… perhaps.
Gallagher was born in Edmonton but his family moved to the British Columbia lower mainland when he was young. That’s where he played a good part of his minor hockey. He also played his junior hockey with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, a team for which he even became captain.
It is unlikely that in a pure hockey trade, the Canucks would consider acquiring Gallagher. But as a leader, as a BC boy giving his all, to teach their young players, he might have some value. But for that to happen, it would have to make sense for them to take on that cap.
It is no secret that Vancouver has been trying to unload a couple of their own contracts, without finding any taker. Every team they’ve spoken to insisted on the Canucks keeping salary for both Brock Boeser and Tyler Myers. Boeser has two more years after this one with a cap hit of $6.65 million and Myers carries a cap hit of $6 million for the same amount of time.
If the Canadiens took one of those contracts, the Canucks might consider taking Gallagher? It’s a long shot but one of the only possibilities that I can see. Otherwise, Gallagher will be in a Habs’ uniform for at least two to three more seasons.