The Montreal Canadiens have played their 28th game in Winnipeg, a 4-2 win over the Jets. This game was not only Carey Price‘s 700th career regular season’s game, but it represented the Habs’ halfway point in this compressed season of 56 games. With his team in fourth place in the North Division trailing the same Jets by only three points, Marc Bergevin had his mid-season press conference today and answered questions from the media. Montreal has a record of 13-8-7 for 33 points so far.
He touched on many topics ranging from injuries, salary cap to prospects but one must admit that he spoke a lot, but really didn’t say much. His answers were true, but rather short and vague, particularly when it comes to his intentions with the upcoming trade deadline. Stating that he has no “dead weight salary” on his roster, he mentioned in several occasions that this could prevent him from making deals at the deadline. He didn’t miss an opportunity to tell media and fans that they wanted him to spend to the cap and that’s the downfall of it.
Asked about his intentions to replace Ben Chiarot, who is believed to be out for six to eight weeks, Bergevin explained that his defenseman is likely out closer to six than to eight weeks, which means that he should be back before season’s end. This means that the Canadiens will have to ensure to have the cap space to put him back on the roster when healthy, preventing the team to find a replacement on the trade market without moving salary.
We have to understand that when a player is on the LTIR, his cap hit doesn’t disappear from the team cap, but the team can spend up to that amount for a replacement player by surpassing the cap if need be, but only for the time that injured player is out. So the Habs could spend up to the equivalent of Chiarot’s $3.5 million while he’s out, but would have to get rid of him or his replacement when he comes back.
Top picks or prospects
Questioned if his top picks or prospects could be made available at trade deadline, Bergevin’s answer was direct. As of last night, the team had approximately $30,000 in cap space, which “doesn’t buy you a meal”, he said jokingly. So trading picks and/or prospects for established players won’t be possible unless salary coming in equals salary going out.
Bergevin did agree with reporters that “hockey deals” instead of just “rentals” would be more plausible given the circumstances. And that’s something Bergevin excels at. But he won’t lose sight of this pandemic’s impact on the NHL.
“Gary Bettman informed us that the salary cap could remain the same for four years. We have to be careful and look at the present, but at the future as well. We have a lot of good young players coming”, said Bergevin.
Caufield and Harris
Bergevin divulged that there have been discussions inside the organisation about the possibility of Cole Caufield and Jordan Harris turning pro, perhaps even joining the team. While he didn’t want to give any details, he did say that the step between NCAA hockey and the NHL is steep, particularly while teams are fighting for a playoffs’ spot later in the season.
Afraid of being fired?
Good on Luc Gélinas of RDS to ask Bergevin about what Stéphane Waite told the media about the GM’s fears of losing his job if Carey Price doesn’t return to form and if the Canadiens don’t make the playoffs. Bergevin’s answer felt genuine as there is. He says not being afraid of being fired. He makes decisions daily for the good of the Montreal Canadiens and if he ends up getting fired as a result, so be it. This sounds like a pretty confident man if you ask me, and while many are coming out of the City’s suage system asking for him to get fired, it seems like the organisation won’t be run by disgruntled fans and media members… and that’s a good thing!
Here’s what I personally read from this short press conference. Bergevin is working behind the scene but he doesn’t want to stir the pot or raise expectations about a possible acquisition. He has never revealed his intentions when it comes to trades or contract negotiations and he’s not about to start today. While what he said is all true, keep in mind that the man will never tell us the entire truth either.
There have been rumours that he has spoke to David Poile in Nashville and I firmly believe that he has. Where those discussions went, I have no idea. Maybe somewhere, maybe nowhere. Bergevin is on record saying that he touches base with all other 30 GMs at least once a week. With trade deadline coming up and some glaring needs on his roster, you can bet your house that he’s working on something. But that doesn’t mean that it will come through. More interesting times ahead once again, Habs’ fans. Go Habs Go!