Eggs Bennett 22-22
September 8, 2022
On Wednesday the Montreal Canadiens took care of some important off-season business when they inked recently acquired centreman Kirby Dach to a 4-year contract worth $13.45M for an AAV of $3.3625M.
The deal is solid for both player and team and, perhaps more importantly, it reflects an intentionality and vision that might be hard for Habs fans to take in.
The priority is growth, development and building chemistry.
Early analysis from some pundits was accompanied by head scratching. Why would the Canadiens sign a bridge deal with such a long term? Why would Kirby Dach sign it? The question being asked depended on how much the pundit believed in Kirby Dach.
This contract was not about Kent Hughes confirming his belief in Kirby Dach.
Hughes confirmed that on July 7th when he traded up-and-coming defenceman Alexander Romanov and a pick to the New York Islanders for the 13th overall pick, and then flipped that pick and another to the Chicago Blackhawks to acquire Dach. When asked why he was comfortable giving Dach the deal, Hughes responded they had done their due diligence before the trade – not before the contract. You simply don’t make that deal if your belief in the player is yet to be confirmed.
On Wednesday, Hughes made a commitment to water and fertilize a plot of land to which he had already committed a ton of seed.
When asked why he would sign a contract with that term, Dach’s answer was that four years gives him time to grow and develop and build chemistry with his teammates. Later Hughes said he wanted to give Dach a good runway to develop and reach his potential. That’s the lens you need to look through if you want to understand the Dach deal.
The term on Dach’s contract is not random.
Obviously, you say. A bridge deal that ends one year before team control ends is not accidental, but I’m looking deeper than that.
Do you know anyone else who has a contract that ends in four years?
It’s rather poignant that Hughes acknowledged that it might have been preferable to delay placing Carey Price on LTIR until in-season, which would have brought a little more cap flexibility. In the end, when a cap-clearing trade did not materialize, Hughes decided to move forward with the LTIR rather than create any drama around Kirby Dach entering camp without a contract. Those are my words and not his, but that was the sentiment. The new priority is not managing veterans but developing kids.
Carey Price’s contract ends right along with Dach’s bridge deal. Veterans Brendan Gallagher and Josh Anderson, in the unlikely event that they’re still around, will have one year left on their contracts at that point. Other veterans will be long gone, and a whole new flock of kids will have taken their places on the roster.
Four years is not just the term of Dach’s bridge deal. It’s the turnaround period. In four years from now, HuGo expects to be rebuilt and ready to compete in a serious way.
The risk of this deal aging poorly is very low indeed.
In Kent Hughes’ dreams, Kirby Dach learns to take a draw, develops a shooting fetish, and grows into a top-6 pivot by the end of that 4-year deal. Even if that doesn’t happen, do we really think he’s bringing less than Joel Armia or Paul Byron who both have higher cap hits?
We already know he can kill penalties and is defensively responsible. He’s not going to forget how to skate or lose his vision, or stop making nice passes or setting up net-front. At worse he becomes a middle-six winger, and that contract is fair for that role. If it’s not working out, Hughes has timed it so the contract ends right around the time the Habs are ready to take off again.
There may have been risk in trading for Dach in the first place, but the risk of this contract is next to nil.
In the best deals, both parties leave happy.
The parties ultimately came to terms on a 4-year deal. But Hughes confirmed that two- and three-year offers were made and considered by Dach.
The young centre said he sees this contract as “a restart”, “a little more time to grow and develop”, and an opportunity to “play free and be creative and just use my instincts a little bit more.” That’s a happy camper.
Hughes said that the Montreal Canadiens are not expecting Dach to take the team on his back this fall, but that they’re “comfortable with who Kirby Dach is as a human being, first and foremost, and what his potential is.” Another happy camper.
Two parties leaving happy.
I’ve often wondered how many deals were left on the table under the previous regime because the guy with the final say always wanted to “win” the deal. Hughes said it well – in this deal, “both sides bet on each other a little bit” and both parties can leave feeling good about the deal.
It’s a deal Habs fans can feel good about too, along with what it means for the future of the Montreal Canadiens.