There has not been anyone who has wowed even close to as much as Brendan Gallagher has at training camp and in preseason. The 5″8 phenom, despite his diminutive size, has an endless motor and continues to drive the net. In a camp full of underwhelming players (Yemelin, Engqvist) Gallagher has blown away the competition. Yes, his cause has been helped by injuries to Lars Eller, Travis Moen, Ryan White, and most certainly Louis Leblanc. Taking all that into consideration, should he make the big team this year?
Ordinarily, I’d say no. Gallagher is only 19. The Habs are a pretty complete team right now, and Lord knows they don’t need any more 5 feet tall midgets. However, injuries are the key here. Eller, Moen, and White were expected to be in the opening-night lineup in Toronto, but it is looking unlikely that any of them will play for at least the first couple games. And that’s why Gallagher should make this team.
Ideally, in my opinion, Gallagher would play the first 7-9 games, as injuries require, and then be returned to his junior team (Vancouver Giants). The 9 games is key because as long as Gallagher is sent down before then, this year does not count on his contract (which would then mean he would go UFA at 25, a not-so-ideal age if Gallagher is the real deal, as he’ll be about to enter his prime then). In addition, after the 9 NHL games, he cannot be sent back to junior (big thanks to Robert Rice, AKA seriousfan09, for the reminder on that rule.). I know there’s concerns with a) the tiny amount of contracts the Canadiens are allowed to give out (2) since they’re right up against the limit and b) the fact that Gallagher has to be signed by 3 p.m. on Monday. But ultimately, if the Habs want him around, those things will get done.
Gallagher (according to Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette) said that “the best way to develop is to be around the best players”, sentiment that Jacques Martin echoed. I agree with this, and I think the 9 games of experience, where he is actually playing, will do him much good. But how much will he play after everyone returns from injury? Obviously, this is the key question, and I tend to think that it will not be a lot at all given Martin’s favor of older players (which I think would be Travis Moen, in this case). If that is so, then having Gallagher play 9 games and also not having this year count on his contract would be the best case scenario.
Stu Krantz- the Puck Schmuck- is on Twitter. Hit him up @StuKrantz