As a pre-service teacher, I am constantly learning about how to evaluate someone's work and that seeing growth in their work is an important factor when evaluating a student. The same applies to general managers and Marc Bergevin is no exception. His evolution is one of the most insane slopes as it looked like he was not progressing, until something clicked for him and he started making smart moves.
Following his hiring on May 2, 2012, Bergevin promptly re-signed Travis Moen to a four year contract with an AAV of $1.85 million. He also re-signed Alexei Emelin to a 2 year/$2 million contract, re-signed Raphael Diaz to a 2 year/$1.225 contract, and then in free agency he signed Brandon Prust to four year contract with an AAV of $2.5 million, signed Francis Boullion to a contract (a minor move it seemed, but Michel Therrien loves Boullion, so it is never minor with him). Although Bergevin did manage to sign Max Pacioretty to an extension that eventually led Pacioretty to fire his agent, Bergevin's first summer ended with him having failed to have signed PK Subban before the lockout was called and no contract talks could take place between teams and agents. He did make a good trade, sending Erik Cole to the Dallas Stars for Michael Ryder and a third round pick. That was his lone good move that year beyond the Pacioretty extension.
Bergevin's second summer was probably worse than his first. It started off before summer when he inexplicably decided to extended back-up Peter Budaj for two years at over $1 million/year. He also decided to extend Francis Boullion for another year, even with two young defencemen knocking on the door in Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu. Bergevin's offseason was one of the worst performance one could have had for a team that performed as well as the Habs did in the regular season. Bergevin traded for George Parros, signed Danny Briere for two years, and then he signed the
much desired, fan favourite, top pairing defenceman, terrible defenceman known as Douglas Murray for a year. That's right, Bergevin decided to give Douglas Murray actual money to poorly impersonate a NHL defenceman.
Thankfully, after trading Raphael Diaz for fourth liner Dale Weise, Bergevin started making some smart moves. For a nam that seemed to make only safe moves, he took a risk. For a man that seemed to value prospects above all, he traded one. For a man that seemed to only make questionable decisions at best, he made good ones. For once, a GM that showed regression was showing improvement in his thinking. And it all began at the trade deadline.
When the Mike Weaver trade came through, the general reaction was "why"? Bergevin realized that when he traded Raphael Diaz he traded a right-handed shot, leaving Subban as the lone RHD on the team. Trading for Weaver rectified that problem. The other trade he made, the one for Devan Dubnyk, was simply an extra depth move at a position where depth can be vital. The other, other trade though was one that left the hockey world in awe of the Habs and Bergevin. That was the trade for Thomas Vanek. An Islanders reporter had been saying that the Canadiens were in the running for a few days heading into the deadline, but no one believed him...until the trade broke. Marc Bergevin decided to part with one of his prized prospects and traded Sebastian Collberg along with a second round pick, to the New York Islanders for Thomas Vanek. Bergevin finally made a move as bold as his style. Marc Bergevin emphatically showed that he was not to be pigeon-holed. Although the Vanek trade was not a slam-dunk in the playoffs, the change in Bergevin the trade showed was that he was willing to take risks and put his neck out there to try to improve his team.
This off-season started with a wild Bob McKenzie tweet saying that the Habs were looking at trading veteran defenceman Josh Gorges. Bergevin strong-armed him into waiving his no trade clause (NTC) and then traded him to the Buffalo Sabres for a second round pick on July 1. He then turned around and signed fancy stat darling, Tom Gilbert to a 2 year contract with a $2.8 AAV. Bergevin also made his fourth line go back to the old model of eating defensive zone starts with the signing of Manny Maholtra, who also speaks perfect French. Bergevin was able to sign Jiri Sekac, who should be added depth and could be in the NHL this year as a third line winger.
Yes, Bergevin's off-season wasn't perfect. The team is thin at defensively responsible wingers, but if players are deployed properly this should be manageable. The Subban negotiations were not the smoothest thing he has ever done, but he was able to salvage that relationship by paying only a little bit more than what many thought Subban would sign for before going to arbitration. It would have been nice to have signed a player like Radim Vbrata, but he was conservative enough that he was able to sign Lars Eller to a long-term contract and still have more than enough money to sign Subban to his massive contract while still having cap space for a trade later in the season.
Bergevin is not perfect; he still has problems to clean up; namely Travis Moen and the goaltenders, but he has shown amazing growth over the past 7 months. Before the this trade deadline and offseason, I would have given Bergevin a 2/5 because he was making bad move after bad move. After the most recent trade deadline an this offseason, Bergevin has earned a solid 4/5, showing that he can now be called a fully competent GM.
All contract information was taken from CapGeek.