It was announced a few weeks ago that Marc Bergevin was named as a finalist for the GM of the year award. As confusing as that award may be (Ray Shero was given the award last year, after paying two second-round picks at the deadline for Douglas Murray), you'd be hard pressed to say that Bergevin doesn't deserve some credit for his moves so far at the helm of the Canadiens.
First let's take a look at his free agent signings, arguably the most difficult assignment any GM faces every year.
|UFA||Francis Bouillon||1 year||$1.5M||
|UFA||Colby Armstrong||1 year||$1M||
|UFA||Brandon Prust||4 years||$2.5M|
|UFA||Daniel Brière||2 years||$4.0M|
|UFA||Douglas Murray||1 year||$1.5M|
Bergevin's free agency moves have been few and far between, although it has to be said that there's nothing in that list worth writing home about. Despite a few weak moves, the positive note is that Bergevin did not handicap the team long-term with an awful contract. As sad as it sounds, that's a rare feat in today's NHL, with the temptation of overrated free agents looming large every year.
Trades have definitely been Bergevin's strong point, which is an uncommon triumph when it comes to rookie general managers.
His most questionable moves (Parros, Kristo) are inconsequential in the long term, or too early to call. Much acclaim has been thrown his way due to his performance at the trade deadline, acquiring the high scoring Thomas Vanek, and the underrated defensive stalwart Mike Weaver. The asking price on Vanek was rumoured to be much higher than what Bergevin paid, and even though all signs point to Vanek testing the free agent market, only someone working with the benefit of hindsight would criticize the deal.
The other deadline acquisition was a tremendous value trade. Mike Weaver not only filled a pressing need for a right-handed defenceman, but he added an important veteran presence to an unstable defensive core. We'll delve into Mike Weaver's value as free agency approaches, but let's just say it's the type of underrated deal that most GMs dream about. Low cost, low risk, high reward.
What made Bergevin's trade deadline moves a success was exactly what most fans want to see from their general manager. Bergevin identified two major issues within his roster, and made smart moves in an attempt to fix the problem. As simple as this sounds, these type of reasonable moves are quite rare at the deadline.
The feather in Bergevin's internal signing cap has to be the contract he somehow convinced Max Pacioretty's now ex-agent to sign shortly after Bergevin was named as the new Habs general manager. It's arguably (Tavares!) the best contract in the NHL, and was a fantastic step in the right direction for the rookie GM, as he identified a key piece of his core, and locked him down long term. The same can be said for goaltender Carey Price, although the cap hit isn't as enticing as what we saw for the Pacioretty steal. Regularly I advocate against spending big money on a goalie, but there are always exceptions to the rule, with Price being among the rare few that warrant that type of money.
The biggest knock against Bergevin is probably the curious extension he gave to Alexei Emelin, as the Russian defender rehabbed his torn ACL. The four-year deal was not only poorly timed, but is turning into a bit of a white elephant among the defencemen.
Bergevin's next test will be the mega contract that is soon to come P.K. Subban's way, however as long as he manages to secure the defender for the next six to eight years, no one will complain about the price tag.
He'll also have to navigate around the 35+ mine field known as Andrei Markov, who despite his decline is still an essential part of Montreal's defence. His other major challenge will be possible logjam Montreal faces at centre, with the emergence of future star Alex Galchenyuk.
So far so good
It has to be said that Marc Bergevin has done an adequate job as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. Albeit he definitely has some blemishes on his record, Bergevin has performed well enough to not only earn a nomination as the GM of the year, but win over a fanbase that is notoriously impatient, without mortgaging too much of his team's future assets.
He has surrounded himself with veteran hockey minds, most notably Rick Dudley, and despite some questionable moves following the embarrassing playoff loss to the Senators last year, Bergevin did not make any bad moves that will impair the team in a long term measure.
The other key aspect to Bergevin's reign, which cannot be measured in wins or signings, is the winning attitude he instilled throughout the franchise. Gone is the idea that mediocrity is acceptable, Bergevin is here to build a winner. It's too early to tell whether or not Bergevin's tenure with the Montreal Canadiens will be looked upon as a total success, but as it stands, his first 24 months on the job have been commendable.
Bergevin is still learning, and unfortunately as it stands the Habs seem to be behind the curve when it comes to the use of analytics in evaluating hockey players. Delving into analytics could only be seen as an auspicious move, which is definitely something we can keep an eye on as Bergevin leaves the honeymoon stage of his GM career.