Brendan Gallagher said he would approach the 2020-21 NHL season with the same mindset, whether or not he’s signed a contract extension with the Montreal Canadiens.The forward would play the final year of his six-year contract next season and could become an unrestricted free agent after it ends. But Gallagher said Thursday that a new contract is “not the biggest worry of mine, or the biggest concern.”
He would be eligible to re-sign with Montreal before next season begins. This season has been paused since March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“It would be great, obviously, one less thing that you have to worry about,” Gallagher said of signing an extension this offseason. “I’ve always been pretty good at blocking out things that are unnecessary stress, and that’s probably one of them. So if it’s able to get settled in the summer, fantastic. If not, I’d have the same mentality that I’d have going into this year: It’s time to play hockey, it’s time to do my job. All that other stuff will take care of itself.
“Once the season starts, that stuff won’t be in my mind, it’s not something that I’d be thinking about, it’d just be about playing and trying to win in Montreal.”
The 27-year-old has played 547 games for Montreal after being selected in the fifth round (No. 147) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
Gallagher has 334 points (173 goals, 161 assists) since making his NHL debut on Jan. 22, 2013. He scored 43 points (22 goals, 21 assists), fourth on the Canadiens, in 59 games this season.
Video: Season Snapshot: Montreal Canadiens
Montreal (31-31-9) is 10 points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff position in the Eastern Conference and made the postseason once in the prior four seasons (2016-17).
“It’s always been about winning to me,” Gallagher said. “Obviously, everyone loves having money, everyone loves being in a good city, those are things that are important. But you have understand what’s most important, and to me that’s winning.
“When you’re in a position where you’re able to decide these (contract) things, those are the decisions you’re going to make. That’s something that obviously I haven’t put a ton of thought in during (this) year, I was just playing.
“Now that there’s a little bit more uncertainty, I don’t really know if you’re coming back (to finish the 2019-20 season) or the next time you’re playing it’s going to be the last year of your contract or what. These are decisions that at some point I’ll have to make, but it’s really about just having priorities, what’s important to you, and to me it’s always been about being a winner.”
Agent Gerry Johannson said he expects negotiations with the Canadiens will take place before Gallagher becomes a free agent.
“I speak to [general manager Marc Bergevin] pretty regularly throughout the whole year,” Johannson said. “I know that Brendan is a priority, but we just haven’t got down to really any discussions because of [the coronavirus]. There are a few deals getting done, but this is trumping all the other business in a big way. I expect that at some point, Marc and I will be talking about Brendan. I think that would be normal. We talk about him regularly all year.”
Linemates Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault also could become unrestricted free agents after next season.
“I can only speak to how I’d feel about the whole situation, I can’t talk for the other guys,” Gallagher said. “For me, it’s about limiting the distractions. Once the season starts, if there’s any form of negotiating going on, I wouldn’t be a part of it, that would be my agents dealing with that.
“If there are offers or deals, great, I’d be informed. (But) in terms of actually putting a lot of thought and letting it become a distraction, I’m pretty confident I’d be able to avoid that. We’re paid to play hockey. That’s what I’ll be doing. Everyone has a job to do, my job isn’t to negotiate. I’ll let my agents do that, and I’ll just worry about trying to hopefully make their jobs easier.”