Not all moves have to be spectacular to help make an NHL team better. In the Canadiens’ case, GM Marc Bergevin arguably made the biggest splash of the off-season when he traded for young talented forward Jonathan Drouin. So the fact that some fans and media personalities feel a bit underwhelmed by the news of them signing a player to a PTO should come at no surprise.
Having said that, it is not always the biggest moves that bring the most in return. We don’t have to look very far as Bergevin has pulled a rabbit or two out of his hat almost every year since his arrival. Whether it’s trading Raphael Diaz for Dale Weise, who became a key performer for the Canadiens, or picking up a guy like Paul Byron off waivers, he who then became a 20 goals’ scorer, Bergy has a way to bring in key support pieces for close to nothing.
I see those who like to denigrate him stand up right now claiming that he can’t add key pieces, but let me remind you of Vanek, the most sought after UFA, whom he got for nothing (or just about). Let me remind you of Shea Weber. Let me remind you of Alexander Radulov. Let me remind you of Jonathan Drouin. As a matter of fact, Bergevin has won more trades than he’s lost since taking over the franchise.
Few predicted that the Canadiens would offer a contract to the Vanier, Ontario native. As a matter of fact, the team’s depth on defense seemed to be pretty good, aside perhaps for a quality top-pairing guy to play alongside Weber. I mean there will be a lot of NHL experience at camp this year as Weber (841), Streit (784), Alzner (591), Petry (445), Schlemko (360), Benn (315), Gelinas (189), Redmond (130) and Davidson (101) all have over 100 games experience in the NHL, followed by Morrow with 65.
Gelinas was drafted in the second round, 54th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 2009 Draft. He just turned 26 and stands at 6’4″ tall and weighs in at 215 lbs. Smooth skater, great shot, he has a lot of offensive flair but lacks a bit on the defensive side. He could also benefit from using his big body a bit more regularly.
On 91.9 Sports, Jean-Charles Lajoie had a few guests and here’s what they had to say about Gelinas:
“Gelinas is a mobile defenseman with a thunderous shot. We don’t see many shots like his. It’s a good gamble by the Habs.” ~ Antoine Roussel (Dallas Stars)
“Eric has an excellent shot, everyone knows that. I’m hoping he gets a chance to play in Montreal.” ~ François Beauchemin (Anaheim Ducks)
But what did Gelinas have to say about being unable to secure a regular NHL contract, having to settle for a PTO, and why the Canadiens?
“I received several invitations to attend training camps, but the Canadiens’ was the one that made the most sense. I was considering all my options earlier this summer, Europe and the KHL were considered. Of course, the fact that the farm team is in Laval played in the decision if I ever had to go to the AHL.”
After a couple of good seasons in New Jersey, he was traded to the Avalanche back in February 2016 for a third-round draft pick in 2017. And that’s where things really started to unravel for him as he only played in 33 games with Colorado since the trade.
I don’t use excuses in my life, but the opportunities were minimal in Colorado and it was hard to earn my spot. I made the switch to defense late. It has been a long transition and I need to put the pieces together so it clicks.
But he seems to be coming to the Habs’ training camp with a good attitude, knowing that there won’t be many more chances for him to prove that he can play at this level. His goal is to force management.
It will be up to me to show up at camp ready and to force their hand so that they make room for me.
Either way, Bergevin and the Canadiens had nothing to lose by signing him to a PTO. Either he forces them to offer him a contract or they cut him loose and go with what they already have in place. To borrow a tennis expression, the ball is in Gelinas’ court.