Petry says signing with Montreal is his first choice

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“Personally, I’d love to see him back. I think he compliments our defense corps great and I think that, at his age, good defensemen like that are hard to come by.”

That quote comes courtesy Montreal’s P.K. Subban, speaking at Thursday’s end-of-year media availability about fellow blueliner Jeff Petry.

Petry, a pending UFA who came to Montreal at the trade deadline and showed very well, is thought to be at the top of Habs GM Marc Bergevin’s priority list this summer.

Turns out the Habs are high on Petry’s list, too.

Petry, 27, scored seven points in 19 regular-season games with the Habs while averaging 22:11 TOI per night, then continued that strong effort in the postseason with three points in 12 games, averaging 22:17.

It’s clear Montreal would like him back. D-men Sergei Gonchar and Mike Weaver are also UFAs — not expected to be re-signed — and while Bergevin needs to ink new deals for RFAs Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu, Petry could fit within Montreal’s current cap structure.

But it won’t be easy.

First, there’s a money issue — Petry made $3.075M last season and would likely see a significant raise on the open market. This year’s UFA d-man class isn’t especially deep, and it’d be hard for Petry to ignore the payday Matt Niskanen scored by going to market last summer (seven years, $40.25 million from Washington.)

Petry should also have a number of interested suitors. Chief among them would be the Detroit Red Wings, who have been on a seemingly endless search for a right-shot defenseman (Petry shoots right). What’s more, Petry is a Michigan native, a Michigan State Spartan alumni — where he was teammates with Justin Abdelkader — and the son of ex-MLB pitcher Dan Petry, who helped the Detroit Tigers win the 1984 World Series.