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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Habs Trying To Land The Big Fish

Tired of hockey cliches? It’s summertime after all, so let’s change it up a bit and why not try using fishing analogies to describe Montreal Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin‘s attempts at luring talent so far? Don’t miss the boat, the conditions are perfect. Rumours are swirling at cross-currents, and there are quite a few good fish to be landed. Big, small, fast, some stinky and some we would love having on our plate. If you’re not hooked yet, keep on reading.

Lesson number one is: You can’t catch fish if you don’t have a line in the water.

Aside from those crazy carp you see on Youtube, fish don’t just jump in the boat. Rest assured, Bergevin seems to have lines all over the place. Up until recently, he still had a big one on the hook in Sebastian Aho, but the forecast showed that a Hurricane could come through and get it off the hook, which has now been confirmed. Knowing that the offer was likely be matched, he has lines in several other spots it seems.

It’s up to the fish to dictate when they’ll get caught. You can’t force it.

The Habs wanted John Tavares last year. He didn’t even want to give them the time of day to meet or talk with them. You may have the best lure, the best equipment, but if the fish won’t bite or is not hungry for what you’re offering, there’s simply nothing you can do to get it into your boat. Montreal has a lot to offer but it’s not for everyone. Ironically, it seems like most players who experience playing for the Canadiens doesn’t want to leave. Just this past weekend, Brian Gionta was telling the media how much he misses Montreal and how he loved playing there. Gionta was at Josh Gorges‘ charity ball tournament in Kelowna and Gorges is another one who never wanted to leave the Canadiens’ organization, even declining a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs before being traded to Buffalo.

If it were easy, it wouldn’t be called fishing. I’d be called catching.

“Just do it” doesn’t mean you’ll succeed. You must work hard, smart, consistently, and keep market need firmly in the forefront, then your “doing it” will pay off. Yet, some fans and media are chastising the Habs every time a top UFA signs elsewhere or a trade involving teams other than the Habs is consumed. Many of them, sitting behind their keyboard in their stained underwear, protected by some usernames and a few Twitter followers or Facebook/Instagram “friends”, laugh at the notion that trading in today’s NHL is hard, pretending to know better. They forget that each time a player is signed, there are currently 30 teams (soon to be 31) that didn’t get him. Oh but that’s a GM’s job, they say. Well as a fan, your job is to cheer and encourage your team… and you’re failing at it too! Yet, it’s a heck of a lot easier to be a fan than trading with real money, real contracts and real players.

The bigger the bait, the bigger the fish.

You can’t land Moby Dick with a worm. If you’re up for catching the big fish, do what’s necessary in your industry to attract them and land them. Unfortunately for Bergevin, while he has perhaps the biggest bait in tons of cap space and a willingness to spent it, there are plenty of other factors going against him. The water is murky from the taxes muddy bottoms where every bottom sucking political government is taking pleasure in chasing the fish away. Worse, you have a bunch of media and so-called “fans” dumping their trash and sewage straight into the St. Lawrence river.

The fishing is always better on the other side of the lake.

Sometimes it seems like no matter where you throw your line, fish doesn’t bite. Yet, you see other fishermen pulling them out… on the other side of the lake. Team A managed to trade for player B. Why couldn’t Bergevin give player C to get him? Simple folks: Team A did not want or need player C, or didn’t think that he had as much upside as player B… in spite of what you think. And guess what? They’re entitled to it, it’s their team, their business. And no, it’s not Bergevin’s fault when that happens. It actually happens to every single team in the NHL.

Something big brewing?

It seems like this summer, Bergevin is a lot more aggressive and from the outside looking in, it certainly looks like he has a plan and he’s following it to a tee. He wants a big name and has already taken several steps to address his team’s needs.

Plan A seemed to have been Matt Duchene but as we know, he chose the Nashville Predators, where Duchene has a house and spends part of his off-season. An avid guitar player, he loves country music and if you’ve ever been to Smashville, it’s an amazing city, one that I would rank well ahead of Montreal, New York and Las Vegas.

Plan B might have been Anders Lee, although there seem to be contradicting reports on that one. The Isles captain never really wanted to leave, it was obvious and he said so himself. Being a UFA, he had to do his homework and see his worth on the market and that provided him with the leverage needed to convince Lou Lamoriello to fork out the dough to get him back.

The announcement of Lee’s signing with the Islanders wasn’t made yet that came the news of the offer sheet to Sebastian Aho, which drew a lot of ink (literally) in the media and between the Hurricanes and Canadiens’ fan bases. The Hurricanes’ owner Tom Dundon has come out with guns blaring stating that it was an exercise of futility, a waste of time for everyone on the part of Bergevin and the Canadiens but don’t be fooled. He didn’t want to spend that kind of money, particularly not most of it in bonuses and half the contract in the first 12 months! That’s the owner who, just a few months ago, didn’t want to pay his GM more than $600,000 when coaches make millions!

Patrik Laine

Rumours seems to be persistent surrounding the Habs and one of the most interesting, in my opinion, is the one where the Jets and Canadiens would be talking trade for 21 year-old Finnish forward Patrik Laine. Coming off a somewhat disappointing season with the Jets (to his standards as he still managed 30 goals), the RFA can’t agree on the terms of a new contract with the Jets who are in a bit of a pickle cap-wise. The team already lost 3 of their top-5 defensemen from last year in Tyler Myers (Canucks), Jacob Trouba (Rangers) and Ben Chiarot (Canadiens) and although they have picked up Neal Pionk from New York, they’re still thin at that position. A cheap NHL ready young defenseman as part of the package would likely have to go, a Victor Mete, Josh Brook or Noah Juulsen, one would think. The Canadiens’ first round pick (still tied up in the Aho offer sheet at the time of writing this) would also likely be involved, as well as a top forward prospect, one would think.

There is plenty of smoke and more often than not, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And Bergevin is still sitting in the middle of the lake, focused on the task ahead even with the wild forest fire around him, in the thick smoke… trying to land his very own big fish. He, Trevor Timmins and Shane Churla have already stolen the Draft by having Cole Caufield land on their lap at number 15. They’re looking at stealing the summer too. Stay tuned Habs’ fans and don’t forget: Good things come to those who wade. Bergevin did land a big Tuna late last summer remember? The season doesn’t start until October 3rd… in Carolina ironically. Go Habs Go!