Marc Bergevin (Photo by TVA Sports)

by Blain Potvin, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Over the past few weeks, we have had a keen eye on the busiest time of year for NHL management teams. This year, a wrinkle was added in the form of the NHL Expansion Draft for the newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights.

Marc Bergevin has the summer to add all of the missing ingredients to an already good club. He must find a way to add quality at center, and upgrade scoring to get this team over the top, and into contender status. This seems odd to say of the team that finished seventh overall in the NHL last season.

Last season, the club relied heavily on the NHL’s fourth best defence, allowing just 200 goals against (GA) on their way to winning the Atlantic Division title. As the season wore on, the offence sputtered producing one 35-goal scorer in Max Pacioretty and a 21-goal scorer in Paul Byron. They were the only two players on the roster to crack the 20 goal mark. This left the team at the average of the NHL in offence at 15th with 226 goals for (GF).

Knowing this, Marc Bergevin swung for the fences to kick off this off season. He dealt away the 2016 ninth overall selectionMikhail Sergachev, to Tampa Bay, and received 22 year old Quebec native, Jonathan Drouin, in return.

Drouin signed a six-year 33 million dollar deal ($5.5M AAV). This blockbuster deal instantly upgraded the Canadiens offence by adding a young dynamic playmaker who is also a scoring threat.

Bergevin then signed fan favorite Charles Hudon to a two-year deal worth $650,000 per season. When asked about Hudon’s chance of making the team, Claude Julien stated, “What I can say is he will have every chance in the world to make the team….(Hudon) will have to earn that spot….work for that spot.”

That said, he has his work cut out for him to earn a top nine spot when looking at the depth on left wing. Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Drouin, Artturi Lehkonen, Paul Byron, and Andreas Martinsen all sit above Hudon.

Bergevin’s moves helped address the lack of offence but have to be viewed in context of the departures such as Alex Radulov, Nathan Beaulieu, Mikhail Sergachev and, at time of writing, Andrei Markov.

The Expansion Draft

With the Expansion Draft, Bergevin had to face some difficult choices. It was apparent that Jordie Benn had passed Nathan Beaulieu on the depth chart, meaning the 23-year-old was likely to be targeted by Vegas.

This left Bergevin to get any return for the enigmatic young defenseman, resulting in Beaulieu being traded to Buffalo for a 2017 third round pick (68th-Scott Walford). This move was immediately panned by some in the media, and others on social media.

In the Expansion Draft, the Canadiens lost veteran defenceman Alexei Emelin. Losing the veteran defenceman hurt the Canadiens depth chart on the left side of the blue line, but it provided $4.1M in cap savings.

However, that pain was somewhat alleviated with the addition of David Schlemko. He is a solid bottom pair defenseman capable of playing up the lineup when needed. Schlemko is also mobile and capable of helping the transition game as well as playing on either side.

Prior to the Expansion Draft, had the choice been made to lose Beaulieu in the draft, and trade Emelin for a third round pick, many of those same voices would have been satisfied with the outcome.

The NHL Entry Draft

With the Expansion Draft behind him, Bergevin had to focus on the Entry Draft in which he held five selections in the top 90. Many had high hopes that he would use these assets in trades to land that elusive top six center. However, that trade never came to fruition.

Instead, Bergevin and staff used their picks to select two high potential centers, four quality defensive prospects, and a high quality late pick in a goaltender. It was a draft selection that produced compliments from other professional scouts.

Bergevin has the self-inflicted pressure of adding quality local talent through the draft. However, it is difficult to do so when there is better talent available at his selections. This argument rings somewhat hollow as the Canadiens are stocked with local talent.

Currently, there are 36 players under NHL contracts with the Canadiens. Of those 36, 11 are francophone or Quebecois players. That is nearly one third of the franchise. The Canadiens released their development camp invitees, which includes 13 francophones, accounting for nearly one-third of the roster.

The outcry by the Quebec-based media demanding more local talent always seemed to ignore the addition of Jonathan Drouin, the most talented francophone acquisition since Vincent Damphousse

Free Agency

Bergevin went out on July first and landed a top four mobile, solid shutdown defenseman who can play heavy minutes in Karl Alzner.

With close to 21 million dollars available under the cap on July first to spend, Bergevin budgeted for Galchenyuk and wanted to keep one of, if not both, Andrei Markov and Alex Radulov. Yet salary and term demands caused issues.

Markov, as of the writing of this article has not signed. Bergevin has bolstered the blueline with the additions of defencemen Jakub Jerabek and Joe Morrow  both of whom have  puck-moving abilities. This allows options for Julien to manage some of Markov’s minutes over the course of the long NHL season if he is re-signed. With both sides being comfortable with each other and knowing what each can offer, it is still likely Markov returns for another season.

Radulov signed a five-year $31.25M ($6.25M AAV) from Dallas. Although some say he was offered the same from Montreal, Radulov says not. The final result is Radulov and his 18 goals and 54 points are no longer with Montreal.

Drouin may replace the lost offence coming off a 21 goal and 53 point season, for less of a cap hit. Bergevin also added Ales Hemsky in the hopes he can rekindle his play and provide a top nine talent and offence. The much larger issue of a solid two-way, top-six remains for Bergevin to address.

While Galchenyuk’s future in Montreal is far from certain, his imminent exit is less likely than it was in June. Should coach Julien be able to restore Galchenyuk’s game, and if the 23-year old can do that as a number one centre, Bergevin can be praised for signing his young star to a relatively frugal $14.7 million contract.

All in all, Bergevin has had a busy and productive off-season. He still has much work ahead of him to retain his current roster of restricted and unrestricted free agents (RFA/UFA). However, Bergevin ensured that there will be no need for a goaltender in Montreal for eight more seasons after signing Carey Price to an extension.

The summer is a long period. Fans should try to hold off judging the roster as it is now built in July and wait for the start of training camp. In that time span, Bergevin must find a way to bring in that coveted top six centerman, as well as re-sign Markov or another left handed top four capable defenceman to compliment Shea Weber.

Bergevin has $9.16 million in cap space left to spend.

Will he be creative in his approach? Will he leave fans expecting the unexpected? If he is unable to address the team’s needs early on in the off season, the heat felt by Bergevin will be more than just the sun on his face. It will be the hot flames of the torches all around him with fans and the some members of the media preparing for his exit.

  • Philip Turnbull

    why do you give Druoin the credit for being a high scoring Quebecer..he has done absolutely nothing to deserve that title. he went thru a bevy of host families in Halifax, nothing was good enough for him. When TB returned him to Halifax he was like a pampered crybaby.slamming doors,gates,sticks.not ft to talk to.

    In the fall of 2014, Jonathan Drouin cracks the lineup of the Lightning. He goes on to dress for 70 games, seeing limited ice time but showing flashes of brilliance, finishing with 4 goals and 28 assists for 32 points. However, in the NHL playoffs, spring 2015, Drouin saw action in only six of Tampa Bay’s 26 playoff games as the Lightning lost in the Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks. He had zero goals and zero assists in those six games, and his minus-six rating had Tampa coach Jon Cooper musing before television cameras if the offensive-minded Drouin actually knew there was another net at the other end of the rink. Those post-game remarks by Coach Cooper may have hurt young Jonathan Drouin’s feelings. How dare he be talked about in such a brusque manner

    then asked for a trade. failures to show up for a game in the AHL and gets suspended then 6 1/2 weeks later he asks to come back.
    the rest of the article read as this

    The Tampa Bay feud was over. At least outwardly. Now it’s Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens feud. It’s their turn to grapple with primadona Jonathan Drouin. So, why go out of his way to trade for Jonathan Drouin and immediately sign him to a six-year, $33-mil contract extension at $5.5-mil a year? Because the GM of the Montreal Canadiens is still feeling the heat for last year’s trading of fan favourite P .K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Webber. Moreover, the temperature may have gone up a degree or two since Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge hit the golf course after the first round of this year’s playoffs and the P .K. Preds danced all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Bergevin remains on the hot seat. Despite the fact that P .K. Subban was poison to his teammates in the Habs dressing room. Something had to go, and it obviously wasn’t Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty or the rest of the goddamn team. GM Marc is still feeling the pressure. The same pressure that homeboy Jonathan Drouin will feel the minute he hits the ice at the Bell Centre. I cannot think of any 22-year-old in the NHL less equipped to perform under such intensity, such scrutiny than Jonathan Drouin will attempt to perform under in Montreal, where he’s already being unfairly compared to great Francophone homeboys like Guy Lafleur and Jean Beliveau. I also think that Marc Bergevin will live to rue the day he went fishing for Jonathan Drouin.

    this is pieces from an article in a local magazin down here in Halifax who know Druoin well

    • VetSailor

      wasn’t that from Frank Magazine? and why do you ignore the following season? is it because it doesn’t fit your narrative?

      • Philip Turnbull

        the reason I did not include the following season as one season does not make for a consistent player. he has not been consistent and although he has the capability, he seems to lack maturity and his agent he had then did him no favors as well..it just seems like he is a prima donna and we know what the media is like in Montreal

        • VetSailor

          Oh, sure, that’s why. I’m sure it isn’t because you don’t want it to seem like he matured a bit and then improved as a player, progressing as a 22yo should. And how is he a prima donna? Because he wants to be the best player? Because as a teenager he wanted specific things that he felt made him a better player? And the fact you use Frank Magazine, my god, it’s a tabloid rag.

          • Philip Turnbull

            actually it was an excellent article…but I hope I am wrong but he has to survive the media and I think he is very talented but why would TB trade him if they felt he was that good. obviously there is a problem that they felt even at 22 they could not solve with him. like I said I hope he proves me right but I think he was brought in only because he was French Canadian..only another topic…what ships did you serve on??

          • VetSailor

            there is no such thing as an excellent article when it comes to that tabloid rag. It invents stories using inuendo and rumors.

            as for the trade, TB was a team rich in young forwards that all needed to be signed and not having the cap space to do so but lacking defensive prospects…..Habs had cap space, a need for young offensive stars, and a a few solid defensive prospects.

            I’m sure the trade wasn’t two teams dealing from positions of strength to fill a weakness….nope, that isn’t it at all. No it was all about some invented bullcrap from a Frank Magazine article….that must be it.

            Being Francophone definately helps, the fact he obviously wants to be in Montreal definately helps. The fact he signed long term for less than many of his comparables definately helps. The fact that he is progressing and will improve definately helps. The fact his personality will allow him to thrive in a tough market, definately helps.

            And I served on a dozen different Canadian ships, if you want to know more, ask some of your friends and drop my name

          • RawDogg333

            -“yo bro you know that @YARMEHARTY:disqus bro from that comment on allhabs.net”?
            – “oh yeah you mean the one that bro @philipturnbull:disqus was talking to?
            -“yeah bro, that guy is intense, served on many ships”
            -“no way bro!”
            -“yeah bro”
            -“bro”

            Dream Habs Lineup:
            Gomez-Malhorta-Colby Armstrong
            Douglas Murray-Brent Sopel
            Alex Auld

            Guaranteed 13 cups in 5 years

          • VetSailor

            Yo bro. Great lineup.

  • zak

    Don’t make trades out of desperation…..you always give up too much.

    • VetSailor

      so far so good.