Contract negotiations are not as straight forward as one might think. There is a strategy to it. You ask for more than you want, the other side offers less than what they’re willing to pay. Then, it’s a game of cat and mouse. In pro sports, it will often depend on comparable players in similar situations. Although some comparables are likely overpaid, which management will be quick to point out, others are on team-friendly contracts, with the player’s agent will also bring forward. All in all, the player will often accept a little bit less than what he wanted and the team will often pay a bit more than what they wanted. But when both sides want a deal to be reached, it usually will be.
I am not involved in the contract discussions between the Montreal Canadiens’ management and the Phillip Danault clan, who still has a full season of contract left before potentially becoming an unrestricted free agent. So really, there’s no rush to get anything done at this point. Except that newcomers Joel Edmundson, Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson and Jake Allen all signed contracts this off-season. Further, Danault’s own linemate Brendan Gallagher has signed his name at the bottom of a contract extension, he who also had one year left to his deal.
Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin has said wanting to sign Danault to another contract but that hasn’t happened yet. We’ve heard rumblings that contract talks had stalled between the two parties but unless you have Dori’s memory (from Finding Nemo), you will remember that the same thing was said between Gallagher and the Habs before he signed.
What are the comparables on which Danault’s agent could be basing his negotiations on for them to be unable to reach a deal more rapidly? There are many, to be honest. But for the purpose of this exercise, here are some of the most prominent centres (based on NHL.com) from the 2011 Draft, when Danault was picked by the Chicago Blackhawks.
|NAME||GP||G||A||PTS||+/-||PTS/GP||TOI/GP||PPTOI/GP||SHTOI/GP||FOW%||CAP HIT||EXP. AFTER|
|Mika Zibanejad||548||176||208||384||-28||0.70||17:31||3:40||2:37||49.7%||$5.35M (NMC)||2021-22|
|William Karlsson||410||100||130||230||+65||0.56||16:33||1:57||1:55||47.7%||$5.9M (M-NTC)||2026-27|
|Markus Granlund||335||58||43||101||-40||0.30||14:48||0:04||1:10||40.9%||UFA ($1.3M)||2019-20|
As you see, I have picked 17 centres from that Draft and I went from the top down. Some are UFAs right now, others already have a longer term contract, while most contracts will be due at the same time as Danault or the year after.
So based on the select categories mentioned in that table, here’s where Danault ranks amongst his graduating classmates:
- 15th in GP
- 17th in G
- 9th in A
- 13th in PTS
- 4th in +/-
- 8th in PTS/GP
- 7th in TOI/GP
- 12th in PPTOI/GP
- 2nd in SHTOI/GP
- 2nd in FOW%
The way I see it, Danault is a poor man Sean Couturier. He fills a similar role as Couturier and although he’s a very good player, he’s not as good as the Flyers’ centreman. Perhaps that’s who the Danault clan is basing their negotiations? This is pure speculation on my part.
All bias put aside, we must compare Danault to Ryan Strome, William Karlsson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. And when you start looking at the role that they play, their offensive output, their faceoffs’ abilities and their ice time in all situations, Pageau is likely the closest and fairest comparable to Danault overall.
When Karlsson signed his contract with the Golden Knights, he already had a 43-goals season under his belt. Pageau signed a 6-year contract extension with the Islanders after being traded to them in February. His contract carries a cap hit of $5 million. It is important to note that the Islanders’ centre signed his extension before COVID hit in March. They could not predict back then that the cap would be frozen for the next couple of seasons. Since Pageau signed his extension, many players have signed at rebate due to the lost revenue by the teams employing them.
I don’t know if it’s Bergevin who’s too low or if it’s Danault who’s asking for too much. But it seems like, based on the comparatives and the reality of this pandemic, with a flat cap for who knows how long, we have to stay realistic. Anywhere between $5-6 million for five or six years should get it done. If Bergevin offers less, it’s not right. If Danault asks for more than that, it’s no better. Maybe, just maybe it’s just better for Danault to wait until next year to see what the economic situation is in the league at that time. But then again, it’s a gamble and with pandemics, one never knows. Since the cap is based on league revenues, what if they have to lower it? And then you add the risk of injuries…
The Habs want to keep him. Danault wants to stay. How about we get it done boys! Go Habs Go!