Marc Bergevin Thinking Big With Cap Space

TavaresHabs

While those having an axe to grind with Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin are all over him for not having improved his team enough during the off-season, only the Habs’ brass know what is really going on behind closed doors. The same culprits, who we constantly see on Twitter taking jabs at the organization any chance they get, are using the fact that Bergevin still has over eight million dollars remaining under the team’s salary cap to further put him down, cap space that no one around the NHL is used to seeing in early September for top spenders.

However, if you take a step back to look at the forest instead of focussing on the tree you’re facing, you will note that there are several unresolved issues involving a few teams around the NHL. For one, Matt Duchene is still a Colorado Avalanche, something few “experts” would have predicted. Then, with the recent signing of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl by the Edmonton Oilers, they are many who think that eventually, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will find another team to play for. And we have explored those possibilities and more in the latest Top Cheese edition. But then again, you have the rumblings about the future of John Tavares with the New York Islanders…

As one of the richest teams in the entire NHL, you can rest assured that the directive not to spend to the cap is not coming from Canadiens’ President and owner Geoff Molson. So this should tell fans and media members that something is up, or the strong potential of something happening is there. GMs usually move to their plan B rather quickly in the off-season as they are building their team. Bergevin didn’t do it, which should tell us that he wants to leave a door open… a big door that is.

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Alex Galchenyuk

A few days ago, on August 28th, former Islanders Mike Bossy, who is still very much connected with the team, said on 91.9 Sports that the Canadiens have offered Alex Galchenyuk to them. Bossy stopped short of saying who else would be included, but if Galchenyuk is involved, common sense dictates that it’s not for a fourth liner or a bottom-two defenseman. What Bossy did say however is that he had heard that Tavares declined a $84 million dollar contract from the Islanders, a contract which would put him in the same category as Carey PriceJonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think that money is the issue between Tavares and the Islanders. On ice, the team had one season when they looked promising, but then lost a few key players to free agency and return to their old selves in the off-season. Further, it is rather unsettling for a star player to not know where to base his home. The Islanders left Long Island to play in Brooklyn… but they now want out of the Barclays Centre. To go where?

If John Tavares was to hit the trade market, you would have 30 other teams interested in his services. There are two huge hurdles however:

  1. Per his limited NTC/NMC, you can knock a list of eight (8) teams to which Tavares won’t accept to be trade to.
  2. Not every good team has the combination of assets to trade (young talented players) and necessary salary cap to re-sign him.

Is it remotely possible that Bergevin has (or has had) serious talks with Snow and has the bases of a possible trade, but is waiting for the Isles’ GM to have one last kick at the can and talk his captain to re-signing? One thing that I know for sure, it’s that Bergevin wouldn’t be leaving that much money on the table for no good reason and that, in spite of what those who hate his gut might claim. The Canadiens currently have $5.5 million dollars more cap space than the Islanders.

Expect the unexpected“…

Tavares, who will be turning 27 on September 20th, is 6-foot 1-inch and tips the scale at 211 lbs. He finished last season with 28 goals and 66 points in 77 games last season with the Islanders.

 

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Who Is Jonathan Drouin?

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Contrarily to what some want you to believe, trading in today’s National Hockey League is far from easy. As a matter of fact, since the implementation of the hard salary cap back in 2005, the number of trades completed have dropped more than half of what they were prior to it. It’s easy to understand why. Teams obviously have to look at the fiscal impact on their team, and they also have to plan ahead, looking at whose contracts will need to be renewed in the foreseeable future. Hockey is a business more than ever and Habs’ fans had a hard reality of it when team General Manager Marc Bergevin had to let lifetime defenseman Andrei Markov walk away to the KHL late this summer.

Getting some young and productive talent at a reasonable cap hit is what will often make the difference in the mid to long term and Bergevin understands that. When he completed yet again one of the biggest trades of the summer in acquiring 22 year-old Jonathan Drouin, in exchange for blue-chip prospect Mikhail Sergachev, the Canadiens’ GM landed a top-end offensive juggernaut for a player who might (or not) become a stud on defense… but there is no denying that he is the one who received the proven asset versus potential.

Immediately after the trade was announced, Bergevin was on the phone negotiating a shiny new contract with Drouin’s agent, Allan Walsh (yes, him), agreeing to a six year, $33 million contract, ensuring that there was no doubt about the commitment between the team and the newly acquired fan favourite.

Who exactly is Drouin?

Jonathan Drouin was born on March 28, 1995 in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec. Few people remember that as a 17 year-old, he failed to make the roster to start the season with Halifax in the QMJHL despite being the second pick in the entry draft, so he had to return to play AAA midget hockey, until he was called up by Halifax December 9, 2011. Drouin made an immediate impact, getting two assists in his first game, including the primary assist on the winning goal. From that point, Drouin proved to be one of the top players in all of junior hockey. As a matter of fact, Drouin was named player of the year in the CHL. He was then chosen with the third pick overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2013 NHL Draft, two spots behind his Halifax linemate Nathan MacKinnon.

Drouin was among the final cuts in his first training camp with the Lightning and was returned to Halifax for another season, where he finished with 108 points in 46 games in 2013-14 and had 41 points in 16 playoff games. He joined the Lightning in the 2014-15 season, playing in 70 games, and enjoyed a breakthrough in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he had 14 points in 17 games, including four goals in the Eastern Conference Final.

Dispute with Tampa Bay

In a much publicized even, Drouin’s dispute with the Lightning drew a lot of negative attention on himself starting in January 2016. It was no secret that there was a relationship issue between Drouin and Lightning coach Jon Cooper, and one day after being reassigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, Walsh issued a statement on behalf of his client. The agent revealed that Drouin had made a trade request back in November, but had kept the matter private. Walsh referred to it as an untenable situation and that it was in everyone’s best interest that Drouin be allowed to move on and play hockey.

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While some people claimed that he was a head-case, others said that he was given bad advice from the people around him. Either way, this wasn’t good news for either the Lightning or the player. But Lighting GM Steve Yzerman stuck to his guns and on January 20, 2016, he suspended him indefinitely without pay for a failure to report to the Crunch’s game against the Toronto Marlies. It’s not until March 8, 2016 that Drouin finally reported to Syracuse for the first time since being suspended. On April 4th, the Lightning called up Drouin from the AHL after a nine-game stint, a stretch in which he recorded nine goals and an assist. The young forward wasted no time making his presence felt as he scored the game-winning goal in his first game back with Tampa Bay.

Impact of the trade for the Habs

No one understands better the need for local talent with the Canadiens than Bergevin and team President Geoff Molson, and getting arguably the best young Quebecois in the entire NHL was a very impactful feat in itself. As we have touched on this very blog back in May, there was no doubt that if Drouin was made available, the Habs would be all in… and they were!

As much as people loved P.K. Subban, Jonathan Drouin will have an even bigger impact. He’s a mature young man, well beyond his age, and he speaks the language of his fans in his home province. Before even putting foot on the ice, he has already been utilized by the organization for many public appearances and marketing events, and fans have responded to him in a very positive manner, making him feel welcome. Of course, what he does on the ice is what will matter most, but judging from what he has already shown in the NHL, at such a young age, the future certainly appear to be bright for both the player and the Canadiens’ organization. Training with team captain Max Pacioretty, Drouin seems to have already found a home in Montreal. Until we get to see him work his magic in a Habs’ uniform, let’s enjoy together a few highlights of what he has done and what’s to come for the fans. After watching this, you will join me in wishing that the season started now! Go Habs Go!