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!

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The Habs’ Centre of Attention: John Tavares?

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It’s been said over and over again by both Canadiens’ naysayers and fans alike, if there is one consensus amongst everyone, it’s the fact that General Manager Marc Bergevin has failed miserably in addressing his team’s biggest need: some offensive help down the middle, at the centre position. While team President and owner Geoff Molson publicly gave his full support to this lead hockey man, there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that this need cannot be left unresolved comes October, at the start of the 2018-2019 season.

How Bergevin will address this need remains to be seen though. As it stands today, the Canadiens’ depth chart is nothing to write about. As the Alex Galchenyuk experiment has proven futile due to his lack of defensive responsibility, he remains a better option on the wing. The team tried newly acquired winger Jonathan Drouin and it has not proven to be much better, although he did have a strong finish to the season, collecting 12 points in his last 13 games. But his mediocre minus – 27 has him second worst on the team behind Galchenyuk and Jeff Petry, both at minus – 30.

Capitals vs Canadiens
What position will Jonathan Drouin be playing next season?

As natural centres, Phillip Danault is the team’s best option but he’s at best a decent second line centre and cannot be counted on as the team’s number one for a long period of time. Andrew Shaw has played at that position out of necessity but he’s no offensive dynamo either. Claude Julien has experimented with the likes of Jacob De la Rose with mixed results, but can they really rely on a guy whose best NHL production is four goals and 12 points?

In the minors, Daniel Audette has seen time at centre and could be, down the line, an interesting option as he has collected a respectable 13 goals and 29 points in 56 games for the Laval Rockets this season. At 21, I’m not so sure that Bergevin wants to gamble on him carrying the load if the team wishes to get back into contention, and Michael McCarron is, in my humble opinion, better suited on the wing than at centre.

Further in the system, the Habs have decent prospects up the middle but how quickly can the team realistically expect the likes of Ryan Poehling, Joni Ikonen, Will Bitten and Jake Evans to have an impact at the NHL level? The reality is that the team cannot count on anyone from within to provide them with the consistent and necessary help up the middle as a top gun first line centre. So in order to address their need, they will have to look on the outside.

2018 Pending UFA’s

TavaresHabs
How good would John Tavares look in a Habs’ jersey?

It’s been the subject of many discussions and there are a couple of names coming back on a fairly regular basis. If he makes it to free agency, John Tavares will be the most sought after free agent on the market comes July first this summer. There will be a line-up of teams pitching their best stuff to try to lure him to sign with them. Can Carey Price and Shea Weber talk their Team Canada teammate into coming to the fishbowl that is Montreal, particularly after Price’s own wife had to come out on Instagram just a few months ago, to deny some absurd rumours thrown around by the blood thirsty media? Or after team captain Max Pacioretty admitted publicly that the talks in the media has affected not only him, but his family and his son at school? Can that and the money offered by the team be enough to overcome the high taxes, the language barrier for Tavares’ wife and children, and compensate for the fact that the Canadiens are nowhere close to being contenders? Allow me to doubt it, although there is no doubt that Bergevin, Molson and company will do everything in their power to try to sell him on wearing number 91 in bleu, blanc et rouge.

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Source: CapFriendly.com

Another interesting name perhaps on that list would be Quebec born Paul Stastny, son of former Quebec Nordiques Peter. Tyler Bozak is another interesting name but we’re now talking about the equivalent to Danault as a second line centre… beyond that, it’s pretty dim.

By Trade?

Bergevin might have to explore the market via trades in order to address his team’s needs. But what exactly is out there for the taking?

Anze Kopitar (LAK)

Nah, I’m pulling your leg. Why would the Kings trade their best centre, particularly after making the playoffs? There isn’t much the Canadiens could throw at them to convince the Kings to pull the trigger, let’s face it.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM)

For the longest time, I thought that a Nugent-Hopkins and Max Pacioretty trade as the key pieces would be beneficial to both teams… until Oilers’ head coach Todd McLellan experimented with putting RNH on the wing with league MVP Connor McDavid that is. Since then, both players have caught fire and let’s face it, having RNH as a security blanket for centre depth in the event of one of McDavid or Leon Draisaitl getting injured is not a luxury the team can afford to mess with. They will need to unload salary but I would be shocked if Nugent-Hopkins is the one being sacrificed by GM Peter Chiarelli now.

Mason Appleton (WIN)

Who? Appleton is a 22 year-old American centre who is finishing his first pro season in the AHL, having collected 21 goals and 51 points in 61 games. Like Mike Reilly was in Minnesota, the youngster is stuck behind Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault and possibly Statsny if the Jets decide to re-sign him? Could something be worked out around Pacioretty? I think so.

Jack Roslovic (WIN)

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Marc Bergevin and Kevin Cheveldayoff

If not Appleton, perhaps the Jets would consider Roslovic, a 21 year-old centre? 14 points in 31 games in Winnipeg, 35 points in 32 games in the AHL this season. The Jets are extremely deep at that position… including the next one!

Nic Petan (WIN)

Petan is another youngster who is ready to make the step into the NHL and would go a long ways into improving the position of centre for the Canadiens. With 52 points in 51 games in the AHL… Seriously, do the Jets need all three of these guys with what they already have on their NHL roster? I don’t think so. As a matter of fact, I know so.

Dylan Strome (ARI)

Strome is not going to dislodge Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan for the top-2 centres spot on the Coyotes, and Christian Dvorak is a young centre doing a fantastic job in Arizona as well. Nine points in 20 games in Arizona, and 50 points in 47 games in the AHL for Strome, and they do need help on the wing. This team is in such a mess, who knows what they would be willing to pull in order to get a marquee name to market their product?

Doesn’t it look like the Winnipeg Jets are the perfect fit for Bergevin to be looking at for a young centre? And it seems like it will be the case no matter how far they go in the playoffs as they truly are set up down the middle. If I were a betting man, which I’m not, that’s where I’d be focussing and Kevin Cheveldayoff would be getting daily calls. But time will tell. Either way, Marc Bergevin cannot go another off-season without addressing his team’s biggest need. Go Habs Go!