Top Cheese: June 2017 Edition

TopCheese

Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ as they are getting set for the the Free Agents’ Frenzy on July first. Feel free to share on Social Media and post your comments as they are always welcomed.

While some Habs’ fans like calling team GM Marc Bergevin “Bargain Bin” due to his history of getting good deals for bottom-6 forwards and bottom pairing defensemen, they will have to be more creative in their attacks since Bergevin made the two of the biggest trades of the summer two years in a row with the Weber trade last year and the Drouin trade this summer. Perhaps those who have an axe to grind against the organization should look at new and more creative ways and material to find fault if they wish for people to listen to them.

bannièrehabs2

The French side of the media found yet another way, the political one, to blame the Canadiens, Trevor Timmins in particular, for not drafting French Canadian players for a second year in a row. While I will agree about the importance of having local talent on the team, those media members are going to war days only after Bergevin gave top prospect Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin. They also “forgot” to mention that only nine Quebec-born players were drafted in this year’s draft in seven (yes 7) rounds of 31 teams picking! If you want to bark, at least bark at the right tree: Hockey Quebec, the poor boys of the CHL for decades now, fail drastically in comparison to their counterparts in the WHL and the OHL.

bannièrehabs2

 

MarkovSourire
Andrei Markov

Reports out of Montreal came out that Andrei Markov is insistent on a two-year deal. While he did perform well last season, one has to wonder why the 38 year-old is so adamant on those terms at this stage in his career. With his final two contracts, Nicklas Lidstrom signed one-year deals with the Detroit Red Wings. Rob Blake did the same with the LA Kings for his last two contracts. Other Hall of Famers like Scott Niedermayer, Chris Chelios and Joe Sakic, just to name a few, all did the same. What makes Markov so special that he can’t help the team that helped him through his entire career, including through three injury-plagued seasons? It pains me to say this as I would love him to retire as a Habs, but I would personally offer Markov a one-year, $5.5 million contract, take it or leave it.

bannièrehabs2

Much is being said about Alexander Radulov‘s contract demands but the fact remains that those are just rumours and even if they were not, they are simply a starting point for contract negotiations. Having said that, if Radulov’s camp was remotely close to what the Canadiens are willing to offer, he would be signed by now. We must now face the fact that he may not be back with the Canadiens next year unless he brings his demands closer to what the team can live with. Personally, while I would prefer three years, I would go up to four years, $26 million maximum for Radulov. I can’t talk about Radulov’s contract without touching on those so-called experts on Montreal radio who have been claiming that Radulov and Markov had contracts signed prior to the expansion draft. Hoping Habs’ fans learn their lesson by ignoring those so-called insiders and trust the true ones: Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Elliott Friedman.

bannièrehabs2

One of the reasons why Bergevin has to be careful with the money he is handing out to Markov and Radulov is the fact that Carey Price is scheduled for a big raise starting in time for the 2018-19 season. Price is on record saying that he wants to stay, and Bergevin is also on record saying that re-signing him is a priority. But as Bergevin said in a recent interview, it’s difficult to negotiate contracts with other players not knowing how much it will take to re-sign his top player

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 7.03.33 AM

bannièrehabs2

A young man by the name of Josh Wegman wrote a spot on The Score which drew the ire of many Habs’ fans, myself included, when he ranked the Draft for all Atlantic Division teams. He gave the Toronto Maple Leafs, his favourite team, the highest mark of the division and ironically, the Canadiens the worst marks for this year’s draft. The problem is that in the article itself, he recognizes that he has watched video highlights and stats from HockeyDB.com to justify his findings. How can a company like The Score allow this is beyond me as there are many people following those prospects in person who could provide a much better, more accurate and more professional opinion on the topic? One of my followers pointed this out to me:

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 7.05.05 AM

It is important to note for Habs’ fans that just about every Prospects Expert, those who have gone to games to watch those prospects play, have ranked Timmins’ work as amongst the top not only this year, but in the last three summers. Time will tell.

bannièrehabs2

Twice in the last few days since the Jonathan Drouin trade, Marc Bergevin told the media to “expect the unexpected” when asked about trades. Yet, nothing has happened at the time of  writing these lines. Should we read anything into it and if we should, what exactly? We know that rumours have been swirling around Alex Galchenyuk and it was reported on Draft day that as many as 14-15 teams had shown interest in the Canadiens’ young forward. Could it be that Bergevin, not receiving any offers that would help his team get better, decided to keep his trade chip and re-sign him to a shiny new contract, hoping that the departure of Nathan Beaulieu and his negative influence reflects on his performances? It’s very much a possibility folks. As I’ve stated all along, Bergevin isn’t looking at unloading Galchenyuk but if a hockey trade is to be made, one that would improve the Habs, he would pull the trigger. That obviously hasn’t happened… yet.

bannièrehabs2

The Las Vegas Golden Knights picked Alexei Emelin from the Canadiens at the expansion draft, leaving the team a little thin at the blue line, they who are already looking to add someone to play alongside All-Star defenseman Shea Weber. While Bergevin has added some quality depth in acquiring 30 year-old rearguard David Schlemko, I have a feeling like the team has pretty high expectations on another player we tend to forget about. Signed in late April, the Canadiens added Czech Republic native Jakub Jerabek, a 26 year-old offensive defenseman who finished last season with 34 points in 59 games playing for Vityaz Podolsk in the KHL and who likely made Beaulieu expandable. Bergevin shouldn’t have any problem finding a partner for Weber as there are many available. Finding top-6 offensive players is a whole different story though, one that could very haunt the GM.

 

 

Drouin in: What’s Next for the #Habs?

TradeMine

Marc Bergevin has been accused of many things by his detractors since his arrival in Montreal, one of which is being a GM who excels at getting support players but being unable to pull the trigger on big name players. Those using such rhetorics will have to find another song to sing as once again, Bergevin is stealing the spotlight so far this summer for a second year in a row.

Everyone remembers the Shea Weber acquisition (how can we forget, we are reminded regularly by fans of Subban). Fewer seem to remember that Bergevin signed the biggest Unrestricted Free Agent of the summer last year in Alexander Radulov. This year, he and Steve Yzerman pulled the trigger on a trade equaling the Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen trade as Jonathan Drouin and Mikhail Sergachev change teams of allegiance… and you better believe folks, Bergevin is not done!

On May 12th of this year, we discussed the fact that if Drouin was made available, Bergevin would be all over him. It turns out that he really was available and that he is now a Montreal Canadien, even if Tampa Bay is a division rival. The price to pay was steep, as the Habs had to give up their best prospect in the process in Sergachev. But remember folks, you don’t get gold by trading your garbage. This trade will, in my opinion, be good for both teams as the Jones for Johansen is for Columbus and Nashville.

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 4.39.37 AM
Jonathan Drouin looks at the logo on his jersey during his 1st press conference

If you missed it, I strongly encourage you to watch the Canadiens’ post-trade Press Conference. Cool, calm and collected, Drouin looks like a very mature and poised young man who is currently living a dream.

Bergevin is not done

I predicted, back in early April, that Alex Galchenyuk wouldn’t be wearing a Habs’ uniform comes September. The acquisition of Drouin highly increases the chances of that happening as three months later, traditional media are chiming in.

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 6.40.57 AM

Why do I think that? Because the Canadiens still need a top line centre and a good puck moving defenseman to play key minutes alongside Weber, something no one was able to do over the long haul last year. Bergevin is actively looking for a smooth skating, good decision making puck moving defenseman who can better complement Weber’s smart and physical attributes. As you have to give quality to get quality, and that Max Pacioretty is on a team friendly contract and Carey Price‘s contract extension is only a matter of time, Galchenyuk is the next logical high valued asset to obtain what the Canadiens need.

All eyes are on Bergevin and the Canadiens, and the focus seems to be on Colorado’s Matt Duchene and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the time being (and rightfully so) but as the GM said himself during the press conference to expect the unexpected while pointing at Drouin. Bob McKenzie, one of the few insiders with genuine connections, is saying that there is something brewing with the Minnessota Wild, who have four good defensemen but who can only protect three.

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 6.40.44 AM

Jonas Brodin is the prototypical player to have success with a guy like Weber. However, trading Galchenyuk, your best asset, for a defenseman leaves you no ammunition to pull the trigger for a top line centre so if a deal with Minnesota is to be consumed, it might just have to be a bigger deal. The Wild doesn’t have any first or second round picks in the upcoming draft, while the Canadiens have their first, as well as two second rounders. However, they cannot trade the second round pick they received from Washington in the Lars Eller deal as it is a conditional pick in the Drouin deal.

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 5.44.25 AM
Jonas Brodin

Could a combination of Galchenyuk, Beaulieu (less likely to be picked than Brodin) and a prospect like Mike McCarron or a draft pick bring Brodin and, let’s say, a Mikael Granlund? Let’s keep an eye on that one as McKenzie doesn’t speak or write for no reasons.

As you can see, the Canadiens aren’t done dealing. They have a cap to manage with high  salaried Tomas Plekanec and Alexei Emelin as outs if need be, and they have key pending free agents Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov yet to be re-signed. For what it’s worth, both those guys are on record saying that they want to come back and Bergevin has stated that he wants them back. It would be shocking to me if one of them wasn’t wearing a Habs’ uniform next year.