The Montreal Canadiens issued a qualifying offer to defenseman Mike Reilly yesterday, but he won’t need it. The two sides have agreed to terms on a two-year contract that will carry a $1.5MM average annual value. Reilly will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the deal.
If you were to start a conversation about last season’s Montreal blue line names like Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Victor Mete would obviously come up first. Perhaps a mention of Jordie Benn’s career year, or Karl Alzner’s rapid decline. Eventually though you might get to Reilly, who quietly established himself as a full-time NHL option by playing in 57 games and more than holding his own. The 25-year old defenseman had just 11 points, but averaged nearly 19 minutes a night—easily the highest number of his career.
This contract is a reward for that performance, but also one that gives Reilly an even bigger opportunity. He will have the chance to set himself up for a much more lucrative deal in free agency two years from now if he can continue to grow and develop his game at both ends of the rink. A quiet contributor is exactly what many teams are looking for to lengthen out their defense corps, a purpose Reilly will serve once again this season behind the more well known names listed above.
Arriving in Montreal in exchange for a fifth-round pick, the young defenseman has been one of the many shrewd moves Montreal GM Marc Bergevin has made over the last several seasons to add some depth to his club. The Canadiens now have six defensemen signed to one-way contracts for 2019-20, plus Mete and Noah Juulsen still on their entry-level deals.