When the Dust Settles in The Habs’ Dressing Room

DustSettles

To say that this season has been a frustrating one for the Montreal Canadiens and their fans would be a huge understatement. From the best start in the team’s long history to its worst slump ever, from injuries to lack of offense and goaltending, the team has seen it all this year. Unfortunately for all involved, the bad times seem to have outnumbered the good times and fans are like a bunch of hyenas over a rotten pray, eating and regurgitating the same food over and over again.

This year’s trade deadline finally brought a bit of excitement for fans and media alike, who felt like GM Marc Bergevin‘s inaction added to their frustration. Unable to see Bergevin’s work behind the scene, unable to listen in on what other teams wanted in return for players pursued by the Canadiens’ GM, the number of frustrated fans kept on growing. Unfortunately, we live in a society of entitlement, where all you have to do is ask and you shall receive. Thankfully, Bergevin runs his team the way it should be run by respecting his employees, his players and the other teams’ GMs by not divulging private information. That’s doesn’t sit well with those feeling like “they are owed” information, as you can imagine.

Deadline deals

Bergevin had a head start by first agreeing to a 3-year contract extension with speedy Paul Byron, a move that few will argue with. He then proceeded to trade Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann, two of his Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs), to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for former 1st round pick, 23 year old local product Phillip Danault and a 2nd round pick in 2018. Seeing the return much lesser players have brought to sellers on Sunday, Bergevin made out like a king with such return for two guys, let’s admit, are 3rd-4th line players on most team.

On Sunday and Monday, there was much rumbling about the Canadiens being in discussion with the Edmonton Oilers for what was believed to be getting the services of Nail YakupovAlex Galchenyuk‘s former teammate in the OHL. To those who pay attention, it made sense to see Oilers’ GM Peter Chiarelli and Bergevin continuing talks as it was reported that the Zack Kassian for Ben Scrivens deal was much bigger than a one-for-one trade originally but Bergevin was in a hurry at that time to get goaltending help for Mike Condon.

Monday started with a bit of a surprising decision when the team announced that they had claimed tough guy Mike Brown off waivers from the San Jose Sharks, their opponent that night. Brown brings something that has been missing to the Canadiens since the departure of Brandon Prust and Bergevin had been wanting to add a bit of toughness to his line-up for some time.

We have also heard this weekend that the Canadiens’ GM was interested in Columbus Blue Jackets’ Kerby Rychel and it’s no secret that as long as he’s not traded, Bergevin will not give up on trying to bring home Jonathan Drouin. Unfortunately, none of those deals ever materialized and those two young prospects are still with their team, GMs not getting the deal that they felt was good enough to pull the trigger.

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Much like he did two years ago, Bergevin pulled the trigger again at the eleventh hour when, well past the 3 o’clock deadline, news came out that he had traded underwhelming right-winger Devante Smith-Pelly to the New Jersey Devils. In return, the Canadiens added one more local product (although born in Chicago), another former 1st round pick in Stefan Matteau, a 6-foot 2-inches rugged left winger weighing at 220 lbs.

To the trained eye, it’s easy to see the big picture of what Bergevin has done and what he was trying to accomplish. He traded his two UFAs who he was not planning on re-signing this coming summer. He also traded an under-performing forward. What he got in return is as good as any draft picks, if not better. He received a 23-year-old and a 22-year-old French speaking former first round pick, as well as a second round pick. To those who listen to Bergevin speak instead of trying to read things between the lines that isn’t there, he clearly stated that he was looking for assets that would be with the teams for the mid-long term. That’s exactly what he did.

Do yourself a favour and don’t read more in Bergevin than what he states. Expect that he will continue to pursue young dynamic players like Yakupov, Rychel and Drouin amongst others. Expect him to go hard after Steven Stamkos if he’s available this summer. But remember one thing: if he doesn’t move, it’s because he has a good reason, often one that you don’t know, like the asking price being too high, going against his plan to build a contender year in, year out. No five year plan in Bergevin’s dialog.

Habs Trying to Nail Yakupov

Yakupov

The countdown is on and while some teams have started their shopping prior to the NHL trade deadline, others are still trying to gauge the market. It is obviously the case of Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin who, along with three of his most important sidekicks, was taking on the Edmonton Oilers’ game in Los Angeles.

Reports out of TSN (amongst others) came out the next day that the discussions between the Habs and the Oilers have heated up and that they were talking Nail Yakupov. In a season where excitement has been rather rare, it didn’t take much to ignite talks in Montreal of the possibility of reuniting the former first overall pick with his former teammate with the Sarnia Sting, Alex Galchenyuk.

The young Canadiens’ player has set the bar for players from the 2012 NHL draft as the most productive of his class so far, and Yakupov has likely been one of the most disappointing picks from that draft at this point. Both 22 years old, Galchenyuk has put up 58 goals and 140 points in 254 regular season’s games so far, while Yakupov has 47 goals and 103 points in 232 games. This season is nowhere close for the two friends, as Galchenyuk’s 16 goals and 36 points are well ahead of Yakupov’s 15 points with only five goals.

While some Habs’ fans claim that their favourite team is awful at developing players, if the Edmonton Oilers are having difficulties, it’s because they haven’t been able to properly develop their top prospects and Yakupov is no exception. Considering that they have had several first overall picks and have been drafting much higher than the Canadiens, it seems like it’s a bigger issue in the Alberta Capital.

Could a reunion with Galchenyuk and playing on a better all-around team allow Yakupov to finally live up to the expectations placed on a young man selected first overall? It would all depend on his dedication to making it work and if he and his former partner of crime can resurrect the chemistry that saw them as one of the best duo in the CHL back in the days.

On thing is for sure though, while we know that Yakupov’s market value has drastically dropped, he remains a top prospect and it is almost impossible at this point to try to guess what the Oilers would require in return to make it happen.