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.
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.
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.
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!