“Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make” ~ Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck, October 1948. Veeck first came up with this quote after his Indians won the World Series without making any trades as other teams had done.
PENTICTON, BC. – Now used as a cliché, the old saying is still very much valid today. How often, in modern NHL, have we seen teams jeopardizing the future of the organization for a chance to win the elusive Stanley Cup? Yet, although several teams overpay at trade deadline each year, or on July first at the opening of the free agents’ market, only one team each year wins the Cup, meaning that the moves have not paid off for the others.
One of the best quotes this year came from non-other than the Canadiens’ General Manager, Marc Bergevin, when he said:
“If you look at history in the NHL, the biggest mistakes are made in early July. Worst contracts, guys who underperform. The biggest mistakes are July 1st. You have to be careful.”
From reading on the web here and there, it seems like a lot of Habs’ fans are upset thinking that Bergevin is ignoring the team’s biggest issue: the lack of scoring. People were/are expecting him to throw big dollars at someone, anyone, in hope to address this need. There is such a level of desperation amongst some of the fan base that names like Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Semin are on some people’s desired list.
That alone is not knowing Marc Bergevin. He has worked very hard to successfully change the culture of this team, to bring back pride in wearing the uniform. Players do want to play in Montreal now, something that hasn’t always been the case. Some were (and still are) laughing at the Habs’ GM when he kept repeating that he wanted character players, but in most cases, that’s what he’s brought in… and the results speak for themselves!
Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Brandon Prust… those guys didn’t want to leave Montreal. They loved the team, the city, the direction this organization was taking. Funny how taxes, language and weather are no factors when the team has a sense of direction, with a GM who is recognized and respected around the league, with a team that has a sense of direction and is winning.
So what is keeping Marc Bergevin from improving on his top-six forwards and address the scoring needs of his team? He did add more depth to the defense. He did sign Jeff Petry, a great addition to Carey Price’s front guard. He did add more depth to the bottom-six forward positions. Heck, there are even a couple of websites, who shall remain nameless, who make a headline to the effect that the Habs “missed out” on a free agents’ signing. Not so much the case if you ask me.
Bergevin has a plan. While some might think that he’s done his shopping, I am convinced that he’s not. If anyone has watched him work since taking over from Pierre Gauthier as the team’s GM, they would know that. Bergevin is not one to overpay. Oh this doesn’t mean that he won’t make mistakes, every GM in the league does. But he also does have a plan and part of his plan is to not stray away from it. Some will find a way to put a negative twist to it, calling him overly conservative but that would be jumping to conclusions without knowing his plan.
Bergevin has at least one, perhaps more players in his target but unlike the GM’s on the other side, he has time working in his favour. You see, Bergevin is watching the Development Camp and he sees that Nikita Scherbak now weighs over 200 lbs. He sees that Mike McCarron has grown another inch and is about 235 lbs. He sees that Charles Hudon is taking great strides in his development. He sees that Mark MacMillan and Daniel Carr are done College and are mature young men. He knows that Sven Andrighetto and Connor Crisp are close to being ready.
If push comes to shove, Bergevin would not be opposed to starting the season with lots of cap space and giving one of those young guys a chance to see what they can do in a scoring role with the big club, like he did with Brendan Gallagher a few years ago. If it fails, it’s a long season and players will be available later on. Remember that he did the same with Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu a year ago, and when he saw that they weren’t ready, he traded for Bryan Allen and Sergei Gonchar.
In my opinion, Bergevin has offers out there but the asking price is still too high for his liking, whether it’s through trades or a UFA signing. The more he waits, the more the pressure is on the other parties. UFAs will want a contract and will realize that they might have to ask for less money or term if they want to find a place play. Other GMs, seeing that Pittsburgh is out of the running when getting Phil Kessel, or signing other UFAs, will have to drop their asking price if they either want to get under the desired salary cap, or address other needs on their team.
Bergevin is sitting in a good spot right now, whether some fans and bloggers agree or not. Don’t let a few negative Nancys tell you otherwise. Guys like Galchenyuk and Gallagher have gained another year experience and are ready to take the next step. Young guns like Scherbak, McCarron and company will be pushing to make the team and stay with the big club. The Habs have cap space and they have assets to trade if or when the right deal comes about.
Several of my followers on Twitter are asking if I think that Bergevin will trade before the season starts? To be honest, I thought that he would have by now. I genuinely thought that his target was Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks. But now that they’ve traded away Brandon Saad, I’m not so sure that they’ll be willing to trade Sharp as well. Or I could be wrong and the asking price for the veteran might be too high for Bergevin’s liking and he’s waiting for the asking price to drop a bit. Time will tell.
I’ve stated in more than one occasion that I personally feel like the Canadiens cannot start the season with Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Lars Eller as their top three centres. It has not worked for how many years now, two of the three disappear when the going gets tough and in the playoffs. They need an improvement at that position. Yes, I would personally like to see Alex Galchenyuk be given a shot at centre but if he does, it creates a hole on left wing.
My personal targets would be, in order:
1. Eric Staal
I don’t know if he’s available. I do know that Ron Francis was meeting with him a few weeks ago to see if Eric wanted to be part of a rebuilt, as he only has one year left to a contract with a cap hit of $8.2 million. At 30 years old, the 6-foot-4-inch centre had a disappointing season with only 54 points in 77 games last year, but he didn’t have much to play with in Carolina either.
2. Patrick Sharp
While his $5.9 million cap hit for the next two years is a bit high, and Sharp’s production has been on the decline, he had lost a lot of playing time to Saad last year and we saw in the playoffs how useful he truly was. Sharp is also only one year away from a 34 goal season and in Montreal, he would be given a top-6 position for sure.
3. Eric Fehr
I’m actually quite surprised that no one has signed Fehr to a new contract, unless he is looking for too much money and/or too much term. The 6-foot-4-inch winger managed 19 goals last season with the Capitals and he is responsible defensively.
None of those may happen and honestly, I’d be fine with that. Immediate help would be good, but not at any price. The NHL has become a young men’s league and at some point, the team’s young offensive talent will need a chance to show what they can do.
Go Habs Go!!!