David Desharnais Signed to Presidential Term

by Jacob Saltiel
david-desharnais-4

Cheers to you, Marc Bershevin!from 25stanley.com

Bergevin made a smart, low risk move today, signing offense-producing gremlin David Desharnais to a 4-year contract extension. Though financial terms of the deal were not announced, somehow everybody but the Canadiens are reporting that it’s for $3.5 million/season. Watch out, Bergie, there’s a mole!

Pass the Dutchie to the Left-Hand Side

The Canadiens do not play the top-6/bottom-6 forwards so favoured by some teams, most famously the truculent Maple Leafs who went an entire CBA without making the playoffs. With the depth afforded the team by Gallagher, Galchenyuk, the revival (and subsequent disappearance) of Bourque, and the signing of Prust, the Canadiens play 3 solid lines that can score, but more importantly keep puck possession.

While Desharnais isn’t having quite as good a season this year as last, he’s still on pace for scoring more than 20 goals and a little less than 50 points over a full 82-game season. Desharnais’ main hockey skill is his intelligence, and from now until when he’s 31 and the deal expires, there’s no reason to expect a major decline in his numbers. In fact, his current PDO number* is the worst on the team at .974, indicating that he’s probably due for an increase in scoring so long as he keeps putting the puck on net at the same rate.  Bergevin’s indicated that for the next 4 years Desharnais will serve as Pacioretty’s caddy, which so far looks great for the Habs and horrible for every other team in the league that hates getting scored on repeatedly. Consider that P.A. Parenteau, a comparable player who is older, signed for $4m/season as a UFA, and Desharnais’ cap number looks good. Signing Desharnais at such the comparatively cheap cost of $3.5m/year will allow Bergevin to continue to fill out his top-9 forwards and maintain this much more effective model.

Caveat Emptor

Of course, caveat emptor applies, and it would be wrong not to point out Desharnais’ obvious weaknesses: defence and faceoffs. The former is somewhat mitigated by his strong puck possession skills. It doesn’t matter that he’s not a great 1-on-1 defender because he’s more likely to have the puck. The latter issue is a bigger problem. Winning 47.4% of his faceoffs, Desharnais is at best mediocre in this respect. This deficiency means that his line starts with the puck less and can hurt the powerplay particularly. This being Desharnais’ 2nd year in the league, it’s still possible that he puts in a summer’s work on his faceoffs and improves that number, but it’s a weakness in his game. This  is amplified by the fact that Canadiens centres as a whole are poor on faceoffs. Unless Eller improves his faceoff numbers, Bergevin’s next task will be to find a competent 4th line centre that can take important defensive zone faceoffs.

Moves Like Jagger

Bergevin’s made another smart move here, locking up an effective offensive player at a manageable cap number. The worst scenario that one can imagine with this contract is that Desharnais struggles or gets injured. Even if that happens, his cap hit won’t clog up the salary cap and Bergevin can probably trade him even if that happens. Additionally, after the Gainey-Gauthier administration’s bizarre and inneffective strategy of not negotiation with impending UFA’s or RFA’s until the offseason, it’s refreshing to see Bergevin get an early start on his summer homework. As for Desharnais, he doesn’t need to play out of his mind to justify his contract, and so long as produces within the 50-60 point range, this will be a bargain.

***

*The statistic that measures how lucky or unlucky a player is. For a more expansive definition, check here

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