Gallagher is a tough choice for Canadiens

After a long-than-expected break, the Montreal Canadiens will soon resume their 2021-22 season. COVID-19 protocol pause. Rumours are swirling about every player, including Brendan Gallagher, as the Habs face off against the Boston Bruins, their historic rivals.

Gallagher plays with heart and soul, giving his best every shift. This and his ability consistently to score goals is something that all 32 NHL teams would love for Gallagher to possess.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – FEBRUARY 20: Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) gains control of the puck as Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning (23) chases him. (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Canadiens have two options when it comes to the 29-year-old right-winger’s future, who is at the heart of the organization: do they keep him, or do they trade him?

Trade Gallagher

Jeff Gorton, new executive vice president for hockey operations has not yet indicated if the Canadiens are going to rebuild or if it will be a retooling of the lineup. Owner however Geoff Molson has declared he isn’t afraid of a full rebuild:

“I’m not afraid of that word,” Molson said on Monday when discussing the team’s future. “I think our fans wouldn’t be afraid of that word either.”

– Geoff Molson

Gallagher is currently in the first year on a six-year contract with an average value $6.5 million. The contract also contains a six-team, no-trade list which Gallagher will provide prior to each season. That being said, Gorton’s biggest hurdle to moving him will be Gallagher’s cap hit, his age, and the wear on his body from his style of play. They may find a trading partner if they can overcome those obstacles.

Related: Canadiens need to start rebuilding with fire sale

Teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Gallagher’s hometown, need a player like him. However, they, like most teams, are up against the cap, and they’ll have to match any money coming in with an equal amount going out, which will limit the trade value for the Canadiens. However, perhaps the Habs would be interested in a first-round pick or a high-end prospect in addition to the contract they must take on in return, although the term would have to be shorter than Gallagher’s. In that case, Tyson Barrie, who has two years remaining on his deal at $4.5 million, could be a good fit and would open up space on the Oilers’ blue line for one of their prospects.

Tyson Barrie Edmonton Oilers
Tyson Barrie Edmonton Oilers (Photo: Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Gallagher would want to stay in Montreal, even if the city rebuilds. Gorton will be discussing that with the team’s alternate captain.

“This is my 10th season now, and I have always had a desire to win. I love the team and the city, but I haven’t taken the time to think about what I would do if management announced a major rebuild. That’s a discussion we should have in the future.”

–Brendan Gallagher

Step one would be for him to decide whether he wants to leave. The next step would be to make an offer for a trade. And, for the Canadiens without prospects or picks, no deal would be logical. There is little chance that Gallagher would be part of a trade this season or offseason.

Gallagher Makes a Decision Stay

Gallagher may decide to stay in Montreal, which is the best case scenario. However, it’s also possible there are no takers in a trade offer or that Gorton doesn’t find an acceptable deal. If he stays with the Canadiens he will continue to provide vital veteran leadership to the young core. Not only in the locker room, where he can offer advice on training, diet, and how to approach the game, but also to their approach to it. He is a hard worker who puts in 100% effort every shift. His example is an inspiration to the young core.

Gallagher, a fan favourite, would be a great leader for the team. Being accountable would make him even more beloved by Canadiens fans. The organization hasn’t had a career player for over a generation, a player who bleeds Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge. Saku Koivu was last to be revered, but he left Anaheim Ducks.

It’s important for him to be seen as not just a player but also a member of the community, as Koivu was. Chantal Machabee, the new vice president for communications, understands the importance connecting with fans.

“I want people to know there’s heroes on that team. I want the fans get to know more about the players. I want the fans to realize that those players are not numbers and not statistics; they’re human beings with ups and downs, they’re the best in the world, and they have great personalities. They’re generous, too. They do stuff that people don’t know about, and I want to humanize them, and I know the media needs access to be able to do it.”

Chantal Machabee

A rebuild requires three key elements: assets acquisition, asset development, and support from fans. Trading Gallagher would likely help bring in an asset or two that could be important to the team’s future. However, keeping him, letting him be the face of the franchise, could have a greater impact on the development of the team’s youth and in helping the fanbase connect to the players and better buy into a rebuilding plan. It’s up to Gorton and his management team to decide which option will have the biggest positive impact on the franchise, and it will not be an easy one to make.

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe