Marc Bergevin (Photo by TVA Sports)

by Mathieu Chagnon, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Going into the summer, Marc Bergevin had a lot to do to live up to the fans’ expectations. Although the team stacked up 103 points and finished first in the division last season, the lack of offensive production and an early elimination in first round of the playoffs left fans with a bitter taste.

To address last season’s issues Bergevin had to find at least a true number one centre and a partner on the left side of Shea Weber. However, a top line centre was not added and it would appear that no replacement has been found for Andrei Markov.

Alex Radulov, a fan favorite, opted to sign with the Dallas Stars. In addition, Markov and the Canadiens have parted ways. Throughout the summer, there has been plenty of debate on who will be playing on the first pair.

Scanning through social media it appears that fans are seeing red. What is happening in Montreal? What is the plan? The honeymoon with the Canadiens general manager is officially over.

In this piece, I will be providing an overview of who was available for signing, and who is still available to fill holes on the Habs roster.

In terms of unrestricted free agents (UFA), Joe Thornton is the only one would qualify as number one centre. His name began circulating in Montreal around the first of July. Even if it could be argued that Jumbo Joe was able to obtain 50 points last season at 38-years-old, his asking price of $8 million is too much.

In the trade market, Montreal as a destination for Matt Duchene has been talked about since last spring’s trade deadline. The return for Duchene was in the neighborhood of Alex Galchenyuk, Mikhail Sergachev, and a first round pick. Instead, Bergevin kept Galchenyuk along with his first round pick, and obtained Jonathan Drouin in exchange for blue-chip prospect Sergachev.

Right now, John Tavares is the biggest name out there. Tavares has one year remaining on his contract. It is a situation similar to what happened with Steven Stamkos two years ago. This means that Tavares will decide whether or not he wants his future to be in New York. Tavares told NBC Sports, “I’ve enjoyed my time being an Islander and I want that experience to continue.”

The Canadiens could wait for Tavares to enter the free agent market where it is speculated that he could command up to $12 million per season. Or Montreal could prepare a trade proposal.

Another name that could be on the Habs radar is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Although he might be a better fit as a number two centre in Montreal, Nugent-Hopkins would become instantly the number one given the current situation.

In the wake of Leon Draisaitl‘s signing, who will earn an average annual value (AAV) of around $9 million, the Oilers might be willing to part with Nugent-Hopkins. He has four years left on his contract worth $6 million AAV. This is going to give a slim margin for Edmonton. They will have only 13 skaters under contract in 2018-19 with a salary mass around $60M. In addition, they will need to re-sign Ryan Strome ($2.5M), Patrick Maroon ($1.9M), and Darnell Nurse ($863K).

The restricted free agent (RFA) market is not a popular way to add to a team, as it tends to fail most of the time for general manager who initiate an offer sheet. However, there are few names who would have been good options for the Canadiens.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was interesting, before the Canadiens Russian purge (exit of Andrei Markov, Alexander Radulov, Mikhail Sergachev and Nikita Nesterov.) He signed an eight year deal at $7.8 million AAV with Washington, which meant that Montreal would have had to pay more for his services.

Like Kuznetsov, Ryan Johansen, was a good option. However, now that he signed in Nashville at $8 million AAV over the next eight years, he is off the list.

The only player in this category without a contract yet is Leon Draisaitl. Signing him would require an offer sheet of approximately $10 million AAV. He is an exceptional player, and Edmonton general manager Peter Chiarelli knows it.

Now that Chiarelli has disposed the contracts of Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Eberle, it gave him all the room to match any incoming offer sheet. Maybe the opprotunity to acquire four first-round picks would bend his will.

Here is the compensation chart for an offer sheet:

$1,295,571 or less No compensation
$1,295,571 to $1,962,968 Third-round pick
$1,962,968 to $3,925,975 Second-round pick
$3,925,975 to $5,888,960 First and third-round picks
$5,888,960 to $7,851,948 First, second and third-round picks
$7,851,948 to $9,814,935 Two firsts, a second and third-round picks
Over $9,814,935 Four first-round picks

 

On defensive front, there were not many options. Markov was the best left-handed defensemen available, period. The only way to fill the void left by his departure is via a trade. It should be noted that no team has a surplus of first-pair, left-handed defensemen at this time.

Nick Leddy came to surface few weeks ago, but the price for him was Galchenyuk at the very least. Nonetheless, it seems that his value is so low that Islanders general manager Garth Snow didn’t think it was enough, so the discussion must have ended there. That said, it doesn’t mean that negotiations will not come back to life during the season.

There could be other options, and Bergevin has about $8.5 million in cap room to maneuver. This space could help him to acquire a key player but such a move might only occur during the next season.

Alex Galchenyuk is an asset who could still be in play as he has been associated with multiple rumors in the past months. Another player could be Nikita Scherbak, who has watched his fellow Russians leave Montreal. 

Please let me know what you think that Bergevin will do in the coming months. Leave your predictions below in the comments.