The Montreal Canadiens have reached a four-year deal with restricted free agent forward Lars Eller, thus avoiding a salary arbitration hearing previously scheduled for Friday. The deal is worth $14 million for an annual average of $3.5 million according to multiple reports.
The two parties had a wide gulf to make up ahead of arbitration. According to Elliotte Friedman, Eller sought an award of $3.1 million in arbitration, while the Habs were countering with $1.65 million.
Given those terms, it may seem kind of curious that Eller not only walked away with a long-term deal, but he gets it at $400,000 over his reported arbitration ask. That probably has more to do with the fact that the Habs wanted to get a multi-year deal done versus that two-year arbitration award, while also probably having to pay a little extra to buy Eller's first two years of unrestricted free agency eligibility.
“We are very pleased to have agreed upon a long term agreement with Lars Eller,” said Canadians GM Marc Bergevin. “He is an important part of our group of young veterans. He has a tremendous work ethic and a great attitude. He is the type of player you can rely on for his play at both ends of the rink. Lars can play big minutes against the opponents' top players and still be an offensive threat. We are confident he will reach his full potential and become an impact player who will compete at a high level for many years to come.”
Eller has spent the last four seasons with the Habs. He posted 26 points in 77 games last season, but had a break out in the playoffs with 13 points over 17 postseason contests.
The former 13th overall selection of the St. Louis Blues has become a solid two-way presence for the Habs all while showing promise for more production in the future. At 25 years old, he has already appeared in 286 regular season games in the NHL. He has 103 career points.
Eller gets a lot of tough assignments and it shows in his zone starts, with most coming in the defensive zone.
This rate of $3.5 million per season is probably paying Eller more for what he is expected to do relative to what he's done so far, but it's clear he is a key piece of Montreal's present and future. It would seem he's getting slightly above value, but if he grows into the deal, the Habs will be happy to have him for multiple years while eating up some of his UFA years as well.
He has good size at 6-2, 215, on a team that always seems to want to get bigger. Eller also has a physical element to his game and is good in the faceoff circle. As his responsibility grows with his experience, Eller could become a more productive offensive player as well.
Now that Eller is out of the way, the Canadiens can turn their focus solely on P.K. Subban, who has yet to re-sign and is staring down a August 1 arbitration date. Montreal has around $11.5 million left underneath the cap. Subban should command a rather large annual salary, but there's room to clear him under the cap ceiling.