The NHL’s oldest and most storied franchise versus Gary Bettman‘s newest shiny toy. A team the NHL Commissioner doesn’t need to see win, knowing they’ll make him money, versus one he’s pushing to have success by stacking the odds in their favour since day one. Carey Price versus Marc-André Fleury. Nick Suzuki and Tomas Tatar versus Max Pacioretty. A mostly empty Bell Centre versus a packed T-Mobile Arena. A definite underdog versus a heavy favourite (again). A team with no pressure versus a team expecting to win. Poutine versus medium-rare hamburger. Nightlife versus nightlife. Round three of the Stanley Cup playoffs is set: the Montreal Canadiens versus the Vegas Golden Knights is now a thing.Continue reading “The Habs Invade The Vegas Strip!”
He was a rookie General Manager. Highly sought, but a rookie nonetheless. And he was the choice of not only Geoff Molson, but of former Canadiens’ GM Serge Savard as well, who was hired by Molson as a special consultant to help him find the right guy. Marc Bergevin was it. Known around the league as a great hockey mind and talent evaluator, Bergevin decided to return home, knowing full well that the challenge wouldn’t be easy. The team had just finished 28th out of 30 teams, the bank of quality prospects was non-existent. He had his work cut out for him… but he knew it.
There is a lot of misinformation circulating, most spread by people who are still hot at Bergevin for trading P.K. Subban, let’s admit. So let’s start by addressing some of the “rumours” or plain made-up stories out there, and set the clocks straight, shall we?
In the summer of 2017, Bergevin wanted to re-sign Andrei Markov and they had some talks. The problem is that for the longest time, Markov insisted on a two-year contract while the Canadiens were offering him one year. Players like Niklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Joe Sakic – just to name a few – all signed 1-year deals at the end of their career but Markov seemed to think that he was above that. Had he been represented by an agent, he might have received proper guidance but he waited too long and by the time Markov changed his mind, it was too late. The Canadiens went to plan B and signed Karl Alzner (which they shouldn’t have done in retrospect). Markov’s stubbornness indeed cost the Habs… and himself to reach 1,000 games with the Canadiens.
And the Alexander Radulov story… the Canadiens’ GM did offer Radulov contract extension back in January, but the player wanted to wait in the summer before making up his mind. Again in June, the Canadiens offered him the same contract that Radulov ended up signing with Dallas, but he wanted to wait to July 1st, to gauge the offers, and he wanted $7M from Habs. Facing the same salary cap as any other teams, the Habs didn’t want to pay him that. When Radulov received his offer from the Stars, Bergevin offered to match that offer but Radulov chose the Dallas, likely due to the taxes, and “sold” to fans that the Canadiens’ offer came in too late, that he had accepted the one in Dallas. Having enough of the lies, Bergevin retorqued publicly, something the organization rarely does.
In one of his most underrated achievements, Bergevin picked up Paul Byron off waivers – free! He then re-signed him at $1.1 million per season. If you want to see how valuable Byron is to the Canadiens, here’s a recent article on this blog.
Shea Weber for P.K. Subban: the only reason why this transaction seemed, for a while, to go against Bergevin and the Habs was because of Weber’s injury. Prior to that, they were nose to nose in offensive production, with Weber being more physical and much better defensively. Now that the one nicknamed Man Mountain by Mike Babcock is back healthy, the entire Habs’ team is playing better hockey. Coincidence? I think not. But I’m working on a 3-year recap so stay tuned…
Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev didn’t look so good last year according to many, but lopsided in Habs’ favour this year. With one game left to this season, Drouin is one point shy of his career high. Sergachev plays only 17:55 minutes per game, 1:31 minutes of it being on the powerplay. He has 6 goals and 32 points this season. I still believe it’s a good trade for both teams.
Tomas Tatar/Nick Suzuki/2nd for Max Pacioretty: literally a steal by Bergevin. Pacioretty now has a cap hit of $7M starting next year. Has Tatar (without a NTC) at $500k rebate (paid by Vegas) who has reached the 20-goal plateau this season for the fifth consecutive season. Suzuki is tearing up the OHL and the 2nd in 2019 is the Blue Jackets’ pick.
Max Domi for Alex Galchenyuk: Not really wanting to put Galchenyuk down here, as much as to praise Domi, who has shattered his career-high in points by about 20 points. He has played admirably well at the centre position and leads the Habs in scoring. Highly in Habs’ favour.
Mike Reilly for a 5th? Okay, Reilly has slowed down after a very hot start to the season, but he’s played top-4 minutes most of the season. No matter how you look at it, getting that kind of return for a 5th round pick is unbelievable value. Further, it’s not the Canadiens’ 5th, it’s the Washington Capitals’.
Phillip Danault & 2nd (Alexander Romanov) for pending UFA’s Dale Weise/Tomas Fleishmann: Much like Domi, Danault has beaten his career high in points in 22 fewer games this season. The new father has been the Canadiens’ second line centre while playing against the oppositions’ top forwards. Many “experts” and “fans” were complaining last June that Trevor Timmins took a no-name, Romanov, so soon in the draft. None of them are complaining today as he’s perceived to be one of the NHL’s top prospects.
Josh Gorges for 2nd: That pick was later traded to Chicago to get Andrew Shaw.
Thomas Vanek & 5th/Sebastian Collberg & 2nd: Vanek was the biggest pending UFA that year and Garth Snow was holding back trying to get the maximum for him. He waited too long and Bergevin pounced like a mountain lion on an unexpected pray. Vanek played outstanding in regular season but disappeared in the playoffs, so Bergevin cut him loose. At that price, he was worth the shot.
Michael Ryder & 3rd (Connor Crisp)/Erik Cole: While this trade won’t go down as remarquable in history, getting Ryder back when Cole’s play was fading rapidly was a good trade. That is when young Brendan Gallagher gave up his number 73 to Ryder, and picked number 11, which he’s still wearing to this date.
Andrew Shaw / 2 x 2nd: As mentioned above, one of the 2nd round picks was acquired in the Josh Gorges trade. When you can turn a fading and banged up Gorges into a proven competitor like Shaw, that’s gold. Shaw is tied with Tatar on the Habs with 0.73 points per game.
Jeff Petry / 2nd & 5th: This might be one of Bergevin’s most underrated trade he’s made. Petry is a very serviceable top-4 who has done a good job under difficult circumstances filling in for Shea Weber last year. This season with one game to go, he has reached a career-high 45 points.
Joel Armia, Steve Mason, 4th, 7th / Simon Bourque: That was a strategic trade. The Canadiens had cap space, the Jets needed to clear some so Bergevin bought out Mason’s contract and got Armia and two picks for a guy that will never see the NHL. Highway robbery.
Kerby Rychel, Rinat Valiev, 2nd (Jacob Olofsson) / Tomas Plekanec, Kyle Baun: While Rychel and Valiev have not panned out, Olofsson is a very good prospect in the Canadiens’ organisation. Plus, they got Plekanec back as a UFA so he could play his 1,000th game with the team that he loves.
Jakub Jerabek (UFA) / 5th: Bergevin had signed Jerabek as a UFA so he didn’t cost him anything. The 5th round pick was the Washington Capitals’ pick, which Bergevin flipped to Minnesota to get Mike Reilly.
Nicolas Deslauriers / Zach Redmond: Deslaurier is a physical fourth liner with grit, a local product who loves being in Montreal. Redmond played three games for the Sabres since the trade.
Jordie Benn / Greg Pateryn, 4th: Benn has had his ups and his downs since being acquired by the Canadiens. He finished his first season with the Habs very strong, which earned him a new contract. Last season, he did not play well mostly due to injuries to Weber, which put everyone in a role they weren’t suited for. But he has bounced back this season playing on the third pairing and killing penalties.
2nd in 2017 (Joni Ikonen), 2nd in 2018 (traded to EDM) / Lars Eller: If people complain about Andrew Shaw costing the Habs two second round picks, they have to be happy that Bergevin received two second round picks for Eller. It’s almost like a Shaw for Eller trade. Then you add Ikonen who is one of the team’s best prospects.
Christian Folin, Dale Weise / David Schlemko, Byron Froese: Weise is thrilled to be back in the Canadiens’ organisation. Schlemko had become an dead weight and Froese is a good AHL player, nothing more. Folin has played some very good hockey alongside Benn down the stretch.
Nate Thompson, 5th round pick / 4th round pick: That’s your typical, annual Kings/Habs trade. Remember the Dwight King trade for a pick? Then the Torrey Mitchell trade getting that same pick back? Thompson has taken some pressure off Phillip Danault for defensive zone faceoffs, winning 55.1% of his faceoffs.
Jordan Weal / Michael Chaput: Another depth move, this time bringing in a quality right-handed faceoffs’ centre (57% with the Habs), Weal has also been a key contributor offensively down the stretch. Don’t be surprised if the pending UFA gets offered a contract this summer.
As you can see, Bergevin has won a vast majority of his transaction and even the one he’s been most criticized about, the Weber / Subban deal is in his favour this season.
While some will get stuck on the Alzner contract, they also forget that he is also the one who signed some of the most one-sided contracts (in the Habs’ favour) in the NHL. Who could get a 30-35 goals scorer – Pacioretty – at $4.5 million per season long term? A 20-goals scorer in Byron at $1.1 million? Perhaps shall we look at another 30-goals’ scorer –Brendan Gallagher – at $3.75 million? Domi at $3.15 million isn’t too shabby either, is it? Or what about Danault at $3.08 million? But let’s focus on Alzner, right?
Now that the Canadiens are officially out of the playoffs, there’s this (same) group of people out there calling for his head because the team missed out for the second year in a row. Yet, Geoff Molson was quite clear last summer when saying that he had accepted Bergevin’s plan, which seems to be to get younger and add an attitude of hating to lose. Molson is a smart and reasonable man. He understands that going through a reset through youth likely meant that the team would miss the playoffs. You can bet that he’s satisfied with the way his GM turned things around, even after narrowly missing the playoffs. Oh I personally would have liked for him to do more at the deadline, but his overall work since last summer has been spectacular. Even his recent depth moves have paid off.
Now he must continue in the same direction this upcoming summer as he did for the past year or so. Trevor Timmins has 10 picks to play with at the upcoming draft and Bergevin MUST find a quality left-handed top-4 defenseman at the very least. Someone in the mold of Cam Fowler or Shayne Gostisbehere, who can also play on the powerplay would be ideal. Either way, the future is very promising in Montreal folks. Go Habs Go!