Early this morning reports surfaced that the Montreal Canadiens have agreed to a contract extension with centre David Desharnais. Desharnais was scheduled to become a Restricted Free Agent on July 5th.
The contract is for 4 years, with an AAV (or cap hit) of 3.5 million per season. The contract does not contain any form of “No Trade” or “No Movement” clause.
From my perspective this deal looks like an absolute bargain, considering that the going rate for centres who can score 60+ points in a season is well over $5 million. Some analysts may be concerned with a potential log jam at the centre position for Montreal, with Tomas Plekanec, Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller all also signed through at least the end of next season. From my perspective, you can never have too many players signed to reasonable deals. I believe it is always a good thing to lock up good players for good value, and this contract clearly represents good value for the offensive contributions that Desharnais brings. Any logjams can be solved by converting a centre to wing, or by trading one of those good value contracts for other assets should an issue arise. With this deal GM Marc Bergevin has left himself with plenty of options going forward.
Centring a line with Max Pacioretty, and Habs rookie Brendan Gallagher, Desharnais has 8 goals and 16 points in 27 games this season. Last season, Desharnais scored 16 goals and 60 points playing with Pacioretty and Erik Cole.
Desharnais, 26, is a Quebec City native, and listed at just 5’7″ is one of the shorter players in the NHL. Undrafted despite putting up stellar numbers with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the QMJHL during his junior days, Desharnais took the long route to the NHL.
Coming out of Junior, he signed a minor league contract with the Hamilton Bulldogs prior to the 2007-08 season, and played in the ECHL for the Cincinnati Cyclones where he led the team to the Kelly Cup Championship and won the ECHL Scoring Title, Regular Season MVP, Playoff Scoring Title, and Playoff MVP award.
Desharnais was brought up to the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2007-08 where after a good rookie season in the AHL, he earned a two-way NHL/AHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens. Desharnais played in Hamilton for a total of two and a half seasons. While leading the AHL in points in December 2010, he was finally given his shot in the NHL with the Canadiens and has taken full advantage, working his way up from the press box, to the fourth line, to the top 6, and eventually becoming one of the Habs top offensive players.
Desharnais is more of a play maker than a goal scorer, as he uses great passing skills, good vision, and top notch hockey sense to overcome his small stature. He’s another player proving that bigger isn’t always better in today’s NHL.
With the deal Bergevin has again shown that the policies of the previous Montreal regime under Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey are no longer in place. Their policy had been to avoid giving players contract extensions during the season, waiting until the off-season for all negotiations. This is clearly no longer the case.
The Canadiens are currently in 1st place in the Eastern Conference (tied with the Penguins) and face the Devils tomorrow night at 7:00 pm.
Update: In other Canadiens’ news, the team announced that Michael Ryder is day-to-day with a lower body injury, and will not make the trip to New Jersey. In his place the Habs have recalled winger Michael Blunden of the Hamilton Bulldogs. Ryder joins Raphael Diaz (concussion), Rene Bourque (concussion), and Brandon Prust (shoulder) on the Canadiens’ injured list.
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