Bergevin Summarizes Habs’ Summer 2019

It’s early… still: September 8. The rookie camp is in full force and youngsters like Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Josh Brooks, Otto Leskinen, Cale Fleury and other Habs’ hopeful are grinding their teeth against the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets’ top prospects. As Joël Bouchard directs the flow, management is looking on, trying to determine which ones of those prospects will be invited to the Canadiens’ main camp starting September 12th.

In the meantime, team General Manager Marc Bergevin is keeping a close eye on many other files, particularly the Restricted Free Agents’ market, as many high quality players are still unsigned. Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Mikko Rantanen, Zach Werenski, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Matthew Tkachuk, Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny, Charlie McAvoy, Ivan Provorov – and the list goes on, are all without contracts.

On a segment of Table d’hôte with Marc Denis on RDS, Bergevin took time in his busy schedule to answer some tough questions with an honesty that has become his trademark. Here are some of the key topics and answers provided by the Canadiens’ GM, when questioned about the teams’ activities since the end of June, after the Draft.

THE OFFER SHEET

With the discussions we had within our staff and with Sebastian Aho‘s agent, we estimated our chances of getting him at 90-95% from the discussions with the player. You don’t submit an offer sheet just to submit one was not the goal. The goal was to get the player. We structured the contract in a way that we thought it would be a strong possibility. The $21 million in the first 11 months or so was the hammer but at the end of the day, they made the decision to match it. If I had to do it over, I’d do it again.

From the discussions with the agent and from within, we felt like going up to the next level would not have made a difference, from $21M to $25M isn’t a big enough difference. As for going to the upper level, the idea of giving up four first round picks wasn’t an option. Maybe we would have gotten him at that price but it would be too pricey.

Sebastian Aho

Bergevin also address a legitimate concern: his relationship with other GMs around the league since that offer sheet.

The relationship with other GMs is fine. Since then, I’ve had discussions with the majority of them and it’s fine. Some GMs told me in their discussions, they said that they understood why we did that, it made sense. It’s in the CBA and available. I have no problems.

REMAINING RFA’s

Is Bergevin contemplating another offer sheet this late in the summer?

We keep a close eye on unsigned RFA’s but as it stands, we’ll have about $6.2 million available and those players will require more than that. You’re not going to get them at $5 million. But we keep a close eye on it.

Is he happy with his summer, his acquisition thus far?

Starting around June 22nd, the window to talk to pending UFA’s so by July 1st, we had a good idea of who would or would not consider Montreal. Some wouldn’t consider it. As you know, when you become UFA, you get to pick your destination and we make the calls but at the end of the day, we’re happy with the players we signed. Chiarot wants to play in Montreal. He was willing to stay in Winnipeg and wanted to play in a Canadian market. I can’t wait to watch him at camp.

ANDREI MARKOV

The Andrei Markov situation has been a regular topic of discussions amongst fans for two years now, since “the General” left to play in the KHL. Bergevin made it clear: he will not be back with the team as a player.

In 2012, Andrei was here. His contract was due and we re-signed him. Two years ago, we made an offer but he chose another direction, the KHL. Since then, things have changed. The player is older and we have taken another direction, going with youth. We have many young guys pushing. The Juulsen, Mete, Brook, Romanov next year. We want to give then a chance. We had success with our youth last year and that’s the direction we want to go. No hard feelings between us and Andrei but this chapter is closed.

I don’t know why people don’t like Bergevin. He’s honest in his answers and I personally feel like some mistake his confidence and sense of humour with arrogance. They cannot be more wrong, again in my opinion. He wears his heart on his sleeve and several people around hockey say that he’s one of the hardest working GMs around the league. Is he done for the summer? Something tells me that he’s not… if the price is right. Go Habs Go!

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Pending Free Agents: Class of 2019

It’s early, the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is just starting and talks about free agents is somewhat premature. Having said that, when your team is eliminated, there isn’t much to look forward to except for their next move, the next big date and that date is about two months away, at the NHL Draft. The next day, teams will be able to talk to pending UFAs and on July 1st, players will be able to announce their choice.

Much can change from now until the actual date but let’s explore the possibilities as they stand today and admittedly, those lists will look somewhat different at that time. Regardless, let’s do the exercise, shall we?

Team needs

Ever since Marc Bergevin traded P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, there has been a huge hole on Weber’s left. You see, Weber plays big minutes against the opposition’s top lines game in, game out and it’s not everyone who can do that. At the top of his game, Andrei Markov was the perfect partner for the one they call Man Mountain but he was getting too old to play top minutes. Victor Mete did okay but he’s not the ideal candidate. Bergevin MUST finally address this gaping hole on his team and if he fails to do so once again, many people, myself included, will be very disappointed in him.

Also, the powerplay was atrocious and it needs some sort of injection. Whether it be a top-end right-handed goals’ scorer or a left-handed pointman (they have Weber and Petry on the right side), Bergevin needs to help his coaching staff by providing them with the necessary tools to fix a powerplay that finished 30th in the NHL with a 13.2% success rate and was too often a momentum killer for the Canadiens last season.

While I personally fully expect that Bergevin’s biggest splash will be through a trade or two as he’s always done, let’s still have a look at the pending unrestricted free agents’ pool this upcoming July first. Granted, it’s early and some of these guys will re-sign with their respective team but as it stands right now, it promises to be an interesting off-season, a buyers’ market if we can say.

Defensemen

The Canadiens’ depth chart on the right side is deep, very deep with quality assets both older and younger. Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Christian Folin, Noah Juulsen, Josh Brook, Cale Fleury and Brett Lernout form a solid depth group on right defense. But on the left, there are numbers but the quality is lacking, particularly at the top end. Victor Mete, Brett Kulak and Mike Reilly are in the NHL and Jordie Benn is, at the time of writing this, a pending UFA. Alexander Romanov is the team’s best hope but he has one year left to his contract in the KHL and he is likely a few years away from having an impact at the NHL level. Gustav Olofsson is interesting and he will be coming back from injury. Scott Walford and Jarret Tyszka are good projects but they too are a few years away.

Having said all of that, here are some of the top pending UFA’s on defense:

Alex Edler has made it clear that he wants to stay in Vancouver and the Canucks would like to have him back. Marc Methot has slowed down the last two years and so has Niklas Kronwall. The most interesting might be Jake Gardiner but according to TSN Insiders, he should fetch between 6-8 million per season for seven years. That’s way too rich for him and I would personally stay away from him. He’s simply not that good. Ben Chiarot might be an interesting gamble but is he really an improvement over what the Habs already have? I think that the best way to get what he wants would be for Bergevin to sacrifice a forward or two to get the right fit and two names come to mind: Anaheim’s Cam Fowler and Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere, both of which can also man the point on the powerplay.

Forwards

At forward, it’s a different story. The Canadiens are deep at that position and so is their depth chart. Max Domi was a very pleasant surprise at centre and unless a Matt Duchene type of players lands in Montreal, he’s likely to stay at that position. But there are currently plenty of very interesting names on that list and Bergevin should have a chance at picking at least one of them… if the price is right.

Of course the two biggest fish are Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene. Panarin apparently wants to play in a big US market but many link Duchene to the Habs because “he grew up a Habs’ fan”. We all know how that works out most times so don’t hold your breath folks. If I’m Bergevin, it doesn’t matter if it’s a centre or a winger, I go after the best player available as Domi could go back to the wing if need be. It’s easier to make a winger out of a centre than the other way around.

Pending RFA’s

I have to touch on that because some feel like offer sheets are a tool that NHL GMs don’t use often enough. As we’ve touched on before, Paul Holmgren explained that offer sheets can be devastating to a GM’s career and that is predominantly why we don’t see them. That and usually, the price is steep, very steep for the more lucrative contract offers.

OFFER SHEET (AVG)COMPENSATION
$1,339,575 or belowNone
Over $1,339,575 to $2,029,593rd
Over $2,029,59 to $4,059,3222nd
Over $4,059,322 to $6,088,9801st, 3rd
Over $6,088,980 to $8,118,6411st, 2nd, 3rd
Over $8,118,641 to $10,148,302(2) 1st, 2nd, 3rd
Over $10,148,302(4) 1st

Still, here’s this year’s list of pending RFA’s:

Some folks see the signing of Nate Thompson and Jordan Weal as a sign that Bergevin will be satisfied with minor signing. That’s either ill intent or ignorant on their part as the Canadiens’ GM has always been one of the most active on the trade front since taking over in Montreal… and it’s only April 27th! You can expect much of the same this upcoming summer. They have a plan and will follow through with it. The future is bring in Montreal. Go Habs Go!